“Have a website built” they say, “you’ll make a fortune! Give up your day job and retire early just spending a few hours a week building up your online business.”
So, you have a wonderful new website, looking pretty – but why is the business not coming in?
“This is very different from running a shop”
Well, whilst a bricks-and-mortar store can be seen by passers-by, an online store is invisible at launch because nobody knows it is there. It will be drowned out, silenced by the noise of the millions upon millions of other websites out there all desperately clamouring for attention.
Top of Google? Think again!
Don’t expect to be found through Google or Bing search for some time either. Organic SEO takes time and a very good consultant. The more widely available your product or service, the longer this will take. Competitors will have been at this for years and will do anything to protect their income-generating positions at the top of the Google rankings for particular keywords.
But, it is not all doom and gloom. Here’s my advice for marketing your website before, during and after launch.
Do Some Market Research!
First things first before you spend any time or money on your new website. Ask these questions…
1) “Does anybody want to buy what I am selling?”
Don’t just put this question to yourself – put it to family, friends and total strangers. Lots and lots of total strangers would be best. You may think you have the latest imported wonder-gadget or a new brilliant service idea – but does anybody else think the same? Simply put, just because something is your passion does not guarantee that you can or will make any money from it.
2) “Who else is selling it, and how?”
Your product or service may already exist in the marketplace and be very popular. Look at who else is selling it, and how they are selling it. Can you undercut them and still make a profit? Can you offer a better service for the same price or even a little higher? Is there a gap in your local market?
One of my longest-standing clients has a saying about business success. This is a multi-millionaire with homes in 4 countries who now only works one day a week. He says – “To start with, you either have to sell something spectacular, or sell something in a spectacular fashion. If you can do both, even better.”
Make a Business Plan!
The majority of new online business failures are due to the lack of a simple business plan. Ask any business consultant. Take the time to take some advice. Your local Council will no doubt run a free small business start-up scheme – check it out. If you want to approach a lender for a start-up loan, they will insist on one.
Most reputable web development firms will want to see a sound business plan for a new venture before they take any money off you. Here at CGain I would rather not be associated with business failures, rather just with success stories. It would do my reputation no good at all if website after website simply failed to generate leads or bring in sales simply because the product, service or marketing strategy was basically garbage.
Make Sure Your Website Is Compliant
Choose your web developer carefully! Before you start spending time and money on promoting your new website, make sure it is going to be user-friendly and compliant with Google Guidelines.
Like every other business owner out there, I receive a dozen or so spam emails every week trying to sell me web design and/or SEO services. Sometimes I check the senders out… Very very few of them practice what they preach and a quick scan of their own website reveals shoddy work, poor SEO infrastructure and a lack of basic knowledge. Not unexpected – after all, if they were any good, they would be turning jobs away rather than resorting to spamming for work!
You only have one chance to make a first impression. If your new website looks unnattractive, is slow or difficult to use then all your efforts to drive traffic will be in vain.
Likewise, if your new website does not tick the boxes of all the Google Guidelines you will struggle to achieve decent ranking positions in search. Check out this article I wrote on the subject.
Driving Traffic to Your New Website
For your website to generate leads and/or sales, it has to attract visitors – and it will not do this by itself, it will need help.
This can be leafleting, tele-marketing, newspaper or local publication adverts, networking clubs, sponsorship, posters in local stores, a market stall, a posh launch event or a maildrop. Test and measure as many different methods as you can afford – then scale up and continue with the ones that work. Consider using Coupon Codes attached to Special Offers so that you can identify exactly which methods are successful.
Google Adwords is my favourite method of online marketing for startup clients. When done correctly this can have instant results. You can set a daily budget and with the help of Google Analytics you can track your success expertly.
Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others can be excellent methods of bringing in business. Depending on your offering you should expect to be spending some money. Set a budget and test each platform if necessary to establish a winning formula.
Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon can be excellent platforms for selling physical things. Expect to pay a commission of 12-18% though. When you do sell something, make sure you include in the package a Coupon for your website to encourage the Marketplace shopper to come direct next time.
Online Advertising on other websites can also bring success depending on your offering. You can set this up with individual websites or do it through Google Adwords relatively cheaply.
Email Marketing is a tried and trusted method of driving business. Done correctly of course. I’m not talking about spamming here, but the building up of an interested list of clients and potential clients. Your new website should have a newsletter sign-up form, perhaps with an inducement to register.
Organic SEO strategy should be implemented immediately but only with the advice and help of an expert in the subject. I have written some tips here.
Chris Giles is the owner of CGain Web Design & SEO, based in Blackpool, Lancashire, UK. Following studies at University College of North Wales, Bangor, he began building websites in the early 1990’s. Prior to running his own business he was involved in the running of the marketing departments of 4 multi-million turnover companies*.
Whilst specialising in web development and SEO, Chris firmly believes in a holistic and common-sense approach to business marketing.
*Only 3 of those companies were into 7 figures before he joined…