How to do Launch Your Startup’s Website
This is the 45th post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.
If we are operating a B2B startup, our website still reigns supreme as among the most important marketing communication channels. It is the most visible public display of our messaging, story and products. Furthermore, the website is typically the primary gateway to engaging with our inbound marketing content, typically through a linked blog. Not surprisingly, building a website is often at the top of the early stage marketing to-do list. It is also one of the more challenging, time-consuming and expensive endeavors.
There are many online resources outlining how to design and develop a website, from being mobile-first to creating content that is optimized for search engines. This post will instead focus on the strategic approach a marketer should take in launching a website, and some pitfalls to avoid:
1. Prepare the fundamentals
Prior to building a website, we need our messaging, positioning and story solidly outlined. Our website will simply be repeating the same core story over and over again, in text and graphics. Once we have it defined, making the website is a lot easier.
It is also helpful, though not required, to have our marketing automation system and CRM selected so we can consider how it might integrate into our website. Hubspot has many components (e.g. landing pages, blog, call-to-action buttons) that tie closely into the website.
2. Select a domain and web hosting
If we are selling a SaaS product, we likely already have a web domain and server. The engineering team should be able to set up a directory on that server that will host the marketing website. If not, consider a service like hostgator.com to get the ability to host the website online. We can also purchase domain names through HostGator as well.
3. Focus on design, not functionality
In today’s landscape, we rely on our website to portray our business’ credibility. The design needs to be top-notch, easy to understand and visually appealing. If a designer is not already on the team, consider hiring a contractor to spend time creating the look and feel, graphics and full page layouts. This is not an area to cheap out on… a quality looking website is critical to making the rest of our inbound strategy work well. I recommend budgeting $5–10K for an independent contractor designer/developer to help get it launched.
4. Research and find inspiration
The good news about making a website is that there are already thousands upon thousands of them, and many are very well designed. Spend time looking through other websites in the industry, both competitors and partners. Make a list of the best aspects of each one, and use that list to create a style unique to your business.
5. A/B test and re-test
Getting design and content right is tricky. Plan to make multiple versions of key pages (e.g. home page) and use an A/B testing tool to serve different pages randomly and test metrics. We should be looking at click-throughs, time-spent, abandonment and the path the user takes from the home page to the rest of the site.
6. Save perfecting the content for last
If we try to write great content from the beginning, we’ll be stuck at the beginning forever. Instead, use placeholder text to help get the right look and feel up as a draft. The design often serves as inspiration to help craft content, and then corresponding graphics to help tell that content’s story.
7. Avoid fancy content management systems
For the first marketing website, I recommend coding it in straight and simple HTML and CSS. No content management systems, no funky programming languages. As long as it is mobile responsive (i.e. resizes to fit on desktop and mobile screens), that’s all we need. Typically the Demand Gen or Product Marketing Manager (or in some cases team lead) is overseeing the website, and all of those roles should have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS so they can modify the site. Initially, we’ll need to leverage either the company’s internal engineering team or a contract front-end developer to code the site.
8. Ensure it’s easy to modify
Expect that we’ll need to re-do the website several times, often even in the first few months. The more the site is built in a modular way (i.e. sections that are easy to swap in and out), the better we will be set up to scale as the business needs change. Our messaging will evolve, we’ll want to highlight new products and retire ineffective ones, so the ability for the marketing team (not a contractor!) to edit the website is critical. While some might say this contradicts #7 above, the marketing team should have folks that are HTML/CSS literate and not rely on a WYSIWYG editor.
9. Don’t skip the details
Finally, pay close attention to the details. Check and re-check for typos. User-test the navigation. Check links and buttons to make sure everything leads to the right page. A startup can quickly lose credibility when a prospective customer clicks a link and ends up with a “Not Found” error on the site.
Ultimately, building a website is a great learning process for an early startup marketer. It needs to be treated as a constantly changing component of our online assets, just like our social media properties. With each update, it’ll be a bit easier for the marketing team to anticipate and execute on making the website match the brand’s growth.