Given the ubiquitous nature of the Internet these days, I’ve become a firm believer in investing in a website early on in the process of opening a business. I think it comes right after setting up the computer in the spare bedroom! (That’s where most entrepreneurs set up shop on day one, isn’t it?) and creating a brochure. It’s the first place people look for answers about your company and the first place you have an opportunity to tell your story.
I’m going to keep these comments short because there are plenty of great resources on building websites, and I’m assuming that you’ve defined your brand and defined your story. There’s no better place to define your story that with a brand-driven, dynamic website.
Find a web pro – Yes, you could get your nephew to build your website, but I’m concerned they will be at soccer practice the next time you need to troubleshoot why a PDF is not uploading. And I’m sure he won’t have the experience necessary to choose the best programming language for your content needs. Besides, you need to be intimately involved in the development of your site to ensure that it is driven by the brand, not by the latest fads.
Demand a content management tool – Keeping a site dynamic will require regular updates, so you need a tool that is easy to use. My firm builds a content management tool into every site to encourage clients to keep the content updated. There’s no quicker way to a stale website than relying on your web programmer to make a page edit or add new content. That costs money and time.
Consider a blog – Blogs are nothing more than websites with user-friendly interfaces that speed the updating and management of content. Mike Sansone is a strong advocate of blogs because they’re fresher than (cob)web sites.
Make time for content updates – The content won’t update itself, so schedule time weekly to review other related websites and to update the content on your website. As you expand your staff, recruit and hire someone with some writing ability and a desire to work on the web.
Again, blogmeister Mike suggests using using RSS feeds from other sites to populate news on a page via a RSS to HTML script (like this one) and incorporating RSS feeds themselves (here’s one service). Remember, you can also re-purpose content from other media, such as white papers or speeches or news releases (in PDF form), for use on the website. And include useful links to like-minded or related websites.
Use your website as a foundation – If you build an easy-to-use website and make managing it a priority, your website should always be the most up-to-date information source for your audiences. When you make a product change, add new distribution or introduce a new service, put the information on your website first. It takes days to print a new brochure or product sheet, design a new add or issue a news release, but only seconds to launch a new section of a website.
Finally, one word of advice: Like with good printing, good design and other marketing tasks, if you can’t afford the time to keep your site updated, you can’t afford to go into business.
Next up: brochure basics