How A Website Helps All Kinds Of Young Companies Grow
A startup’s first website doesn’t need to be complicated or costly:
While you’re in that critical pre-launch business development stage your future unicorn still needs a live website. This is because while you’ve gotten yourself out there and you’re talking to potential customers, you need an online brand presence to help you network and connect with potential customers.
Below are three reasons that explain how a first website doesn’t need to be super high tech or expensive. Its purpose is to help you start building a strong identity for your brand even before you’re fully up and running. You’ll also find some resources for cost effective, fast and easy ‘DIY’ website development.
1. Having a website builds credibility for your business:
As you’re putting pre-launch feelers out to test the market need for your product or service, having a website helps you build your startup’s credibility. It is your online business card. Think about this: as you’re emailing other people asking for business development meetings its likely they’ll check to see if you have an online presence. If you don’t, they might not think you’re serious. But if you send them a link to your live website inside your email signature details, this helps potential customers and partners know that your startup is the real deal.
If you’re still in development and required to register as a company but haven’t yet there are ways to word this. In general using a combination of phrases like ‘beta’ or ‘doing business as’ or ‘registering address’ signal you’re in the process of launching and there’s at lot more to come. Your lawyer can help you get it right.
Remember, this initial website doesn’t need to be complex it needs to be clean. Followers of the Lean Startup movement will be familiar with the concept of launching something as a Minimum Viable Product (MPV), but you can apply this tactic to your first website too. Your first website needs to be:
* clean and professional
* mobile optimized/reactive
2. Going online lets potential customers find you:
While you’re busy setting-up your business having a simple live starter website also lets potential customers, partners and collaborators find you. A good product or service will have market demand and people will be searching for you — so let them find you. Additionally, if you’re selling anything from a physical address people walking by will see something new is coming. Curious passersby can find you online and learn when to come back and buy.
Let me give you an example. A research scientist in Cambridge invented a medical device then began exploring how to commercialize her technology. I advised her to launch a website and put her newly forming startup on Twitter. Being online enabled the former CEO of a global healthcare giant to find her and contact her. He loved what she was doing and offered to join her board. She replied “absolutely! I haven’t build the board yet, but you are definitely on it!” After joining Twitter she discovered she had a competitor she didn’t even know existed. Having a website in your pre-launch days will help you get off to a running start when you do open your doors.
3. A website is the foundation for your digital marketing activities:
You’re going to tell your brand story through your website and other digital marketing channels. Before you launch its likely you’re just using a website. But once you’re ready to open, you’ll be integrating marketing activities to get customers to buy from you and keep them coming back for more. The digital channels you deploy will depend on your business. Many of these digital marketing activities are incorporated through the website and they can be deployed even from a very minimal starter site. If you’re offering a professional service, you might be using LinkedIn, Twitter, Newsletters (direct e-mail marketing), online bookings and Google Analytics all from a simple affordable first MVP website.
Even one-stop-shop website builders will allow you to integrate these digital marketing activities:
* Newsletter / e-mail marketing functions like MailChimp
* Online bookings
* Event sign-ups
* Google Analytics.
Trying to get a superstar developer for a startup bargain could potentially delay your launch so that you get stuck into a ‘failure to launch’ situation. This is the worst possible place to be stuck. New businesses don’t need to suffer losses at the beginning so keep it simple at the start if your type of business allows. You’ll be able to afford an excellent developer to evolve your website once you have paying customers and you know your business is viable.
If you don’t want to spend your budget building a website before you know just what exactly your business is about, there are one-stop-shop website providers that offer sites that can grow with you. Many will offer the most basic site for free and then the price goes up depending on the functionality you require including adding-on domain registration costs. Some great builders I’ve worked with that offer free starter sites include:
Google Domains also offers an affordable starter domain package to get companies running with a custom domain plus an optional choice of website builder service from their partners including Blogger, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly and Wix.
If you’re really pressed for startup cash, that’s still not an excuse for remaining offline. Look for domain registration bargains and then put your domain on a forward to a free Weebly or WordPress site. If your budget is that tight you can get online, roughly this way, for as little as $5 — $15 USD depending on the registrar you chose. But do keep in mind that forwarding a domain impacts your SEO and it won’t be very good. This will remedy once you can afford to upgrade to a hosted website. Still if you just need to be online for credibility as you research and test your idea, this quick fix should still do the trick. You can share your startup’s web address with people and they will be able to see your brand messaging and tell that you’re a serious entrepreneur with a growing business.
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Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter