Rushing to Launch?
It happens to all of us…
We get that creative drive…
…settle on the next great niche…
…and can’t WAIT to get our web site up to broadcast to the world we’re “open for business!”
Why this could be a HUGE mistake!
- Yes, you need a web site!
- Yes, you want to get online to fill that niche before someone beats you to it
- Yes, you want to start getting paying clients
Don’t rush it!
I’ve seen many freelancers and small business owners alike fall into this trap. Excitement takes over and reason goes out the window!
This “rush-to-online” mindset takes different forms, of course, and for different reasons…In some ways, it reminds me of kids on Christmas morning…You know…they just can’t wait to tear open all those packages under the tree…then in 15 minutes, it’s all over...
Of course, getting your web site up and running will take longer than 15 minutes, and once it’s up – hopefully – your excitement won’t wane like kids on Christmas morning. But, the analogy is useful nonetheless.
While the kids are just sacrificing extending momentary excitement however, your business web site is a much more serious and important endeavor. It’s your “portal to the world” – the first glimpse of YOU prospective clients and customers will ever see…and the saying may be well-worn but is sage advice:
You only get one chance to make a great first impression!
In this case, when committing to such an important business investment — in both time and resources — it is crucial to reign in all that excitement and TAKE YOUR TIME to make sure it’s done “right!”
Of course, what’s “right” will be unique for every person and business. But one thing is certain: you won’t “get it right” by rushing headlong into getting online in “15 minutes” or even three days…or 3 weeks or months!
Building a web site is a process, and like any process, there are key steps that must be in place…and usually in a very specific order. Over years of working with freelancers and small business owners — and building web sites for myself — I’ve developed a very methodical process, refined over the years. It is flexible enough to work for any business need, while providing the disciplined structure such a process requires.
Let’s take a look at the first steps involved in this process… (Hint: it all starts with Planning!)
I’ll have more articles focused on subsequent steps in this process.
This is the foundation of the entire web site project…As the saying goes,
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
- You wouldn’t build a house without first knowing the lot size, how many bedrooms, how much you can afford…
- You wouldn’t go on a business trip without knowing your itinerary or how and when you need to travel there…
- You wouldn’t call a business meeting without having an Agenda…
Convinced? Good! Now, here’s what to consider in your plan…
1. Clearly understand your industry and your niche
You must have a general understanding of your industry, in a broad sense. For your niche, you must have detailed, comprehensive, intimate knowledge:
- Conventional or accepted ways of conducting business
- Who your audience is
- “What “voice” is considered “the norm” (photographers are different from landscapers who are just as different as graphic artists)
- Who is your major competition
2. Site Aesthetics
You must have an excellent sense of the overall “tone” of other web sites in your industry/niche. It’s good to differentiate yourself, to a certain extent. But you still want to fit in, generally, in the expectations of clients/customers in your industry.
For instance, taking an example from the Real Estate industry:…
If you want to sell your house, painting the exterior walls purple & orange in a traditional neighborhood is not going to help…as any Realtor will tell you! It’s too much of a difference. In this example, you would do much better by having the best-groomed front landscape on the block, with lush green lawns and neatly manicured flowerbeds.
In business, there are huge differences across industries as to “what is acceptable” For example, compare a cutting edge interior design company and a widget manufacturing company. The former stresses a very “artsy” unconventional approach to design, with flamboyant colors and textures. But the same approach for the manufacturing company would at least raise eyebrows among your vendors and potential customers, if not questioning your credibility as a serious player in the industry (“Why would this company waste all this money on such a frivolous design? Their prices must be way out of line, just to pay for this extravagant site.“)
Researching your site aesthetics may seem daunting, but a simple Google search for your top competitors (which you DID complete in step 1. above, right?…) will quickly reveal typical layout, colors, navigation (menu items), etc.
What exactly are you going to put on your site…and WHY?
- Will you have articles that inform?
- Tutorials that teach?
- Downloadable content that guides?
- Will you have some method of collecting visitor’s emails, such as a “Subscribe” button to a monthly Newsletter?
- Will you encourage visitor feedback, either in a prominent & easy-to-reach contact form or in Reader Comments…or both?
Will your site be “all about SALES” and promoting what YOU can do for THEM?
- Your Services / Products
- A form to request a quote
- Lots of hype-y sales pages
Now…there’s nothing wrong with including some of the latter content on your site. After all, I’m assuming you’re in business to have clients and bring in revenue. BUT, if you ONLY hype how awesome you are and the “miracles” you can do for your clients, that’s not going to go over very well.
A far better approach is to let your site visitors (prospects) get to know you first:
- Write meaningful content as suggested above.
- Create a sense that you know what you’re talking about.
- Let readers get to know your personality through your site content — really useful content, not just sales hype.
- You’ll also be establishing yourself as an expert in your niche.
THEN, your site visitors will be much more receptive to your sales pages and actually WANT to know how you can help them.
4. Navigation (Menus…or “How your visitors are going to get around your site”)
You know your site intimately (at least, I HOPE you do!). But, remember that to your first-time site visitor — who could “land” on many different pages of your site (thanks to our friendly search engines) — they must be able to tell within seconds just what your site is all about.
Clarity and simplicity are crucial for the first-time site visitor. This applies to your content and especially to your navigation or menu system.