The myth a new business ‘must’ have a website
This might seem like a surprising thing for a web designer to say that you don’t need a website. Surely I should be advocating that every business must have a website to be taken seriously?
Well I do.
Most of the time.
But then sometimes it’s not appropriate.
Don’t get a website built if you’re completely new
In this article I share when having a website built should be delayed and what to do instead.
When I’m talking to prospective web clients I want to know how long they’ve been in business and whether they’ve actually got any clients.
If you’re a very new business it’s easy to get caught up in the myth (or business advice) that you can’t trade unless you’ve got a website up and running.
Getting a website built can be expensive. There’s a huge array of various price brackets of web designers and quality from build yourself (which costs time to learn how) to a cheap designer (equals poor design) to the top end (equals expensive) and somewhere in the middle.
So it makes sense that you spend your time and money wisely. Because a poorly designed website that looks ‘Lidl’ may not attract the kind of ‘John Lewis’ clients you were hoping for.
Not served a client yet
If you’ve not yet served a client with your new service or product, then it’s like sticking your finger in the wind and seeing what sticks.
When you finally do get a client and work with them, you optimise, tweak and change your offering to suit what you’ve discovered works.
Which means in less than a year, you’ll want to change your website.
More expense tweaking it.
Not clear on who your ideal client is
If you haven’t yet served a client it might be because you’re not that clear on who your ideal client is.
When you’re new in business, you’re hungry for work.
Any type of work!
And you accept less than ideal clients who turn out to be a nightmare.
So you’ll want to change your website again to make it clear who you do serve.
Again, in less than a year!
We all love testimonials and reviews. If you’re making any purchase that’s not throw away money, we pay attention to testimonials and reviews.
Testimonials are an essential piece of any website.
If potential clients check out your website and see you’ve got no testimonials (because you haven’t served any clients yet), that gives off big red signals!
Which leaves you vulnerable to nightmare clients who want to take advantage of your newbie status and repels the potential ‘good’ clients.
And when you do get some client testimonials, they’ll need adding to your website.
Within a year.
Cheap Websites Cost you More
Getting ‘something’ up there can cost you more in the long run.
I can’t tell you how many small business owners I speak to who have fallen so out of love with their first website because it no longer ‘feels’ like them or reflects what they do.
And mostly because they weren’t really clear about who they served and their offering.
So my advice if you’re a new business? Wait until you’ve got some paying clients and you’ve become clearer about your ideal client and how you serve them.
But how to get that first client without a website?
First off, if you’ve never offered this kind of service before, forget about online programmes where you need hundreds to pay a low price.
Trust me, it takes as much time and effort to sell a £100 product or service to as it does to sell a £10,000 product or service.
You still have to create sales documents or proposals, you still need to talk to prospects to convince them to buy and whether the price tag is £100 or £10,000 – it’s the same amount of time.
So, focus on one or two big one-to-one client sales first.
Online Presence Without a Website
There are a multitude of ways of being online to get clients that you can test out services and offerings, gain clients, earn some money and testimonials and get closer to being website-ready.
Here are just a few ideas.
You can’t be in business without some sort of presence in social media. Some platforms are more suited to certain types of business.
Facebook have 2 billion users. In 2015 the world population was 7.3 billion, which means that more than a quarter of the population are on Facebook!
LinkedIn is good for B2B. These are the places you can have a very effective profile at zero cost, other than your time to set it up correctly.
It’s quick and easy to tweak and refine and track the effectiveness. Perfect testing ground!
Ok, so it’s not online presence, but it’s still hugely important.
In-person networking is great for businesses new and old. You can build up real relationships and have a band of people who get what you do, referring their contacts to you.
It’s great for testing out different pitches to see what works.
Pick and choose your groups by trying a few out to find that one that resonates with you. Look out for businesses who don’t necessarily compete with you but have similar client profiles to who you’re targeting.
For example as a web designer, I like collaborating with photographers, logo designers, business coaches and copy writers as those aren’t services I provide myself but we have similar clients who are small business owners.
You don’t need a website to promote events you may be running.
There are online tools like Eventbrite and Constant Contact whose platforms make it very easy to set up, manage and take payment for events and don’t cost a lot.
You don’t need a e-commerce website to sell online!
You can sell items through sites like Ebay. You can test out different products, how they’re displayed, the text and see what works very easily.
Then when you’ve got a formula that works (and you’ve sold enough) you can graduate to an etsy type website or commission an e-commerce website build.
So you’ve had a sales conversation with a prospect and you want to send them to a web page with more information – it doesn’t have to be a web page!
Create a boilerplate/template proposal document in Word or Powerpoint, save it as a PDF and send that to them.
Personalise it, with their company name on it, to win bonus points!
This you can easily tweak and hey, guess what! That’s copy for your web designer when you are web-ready!
Email List Building
You don’t need to build a website before building a website (I created a course on how to build a lead gathering and nurture system here).
In fact, building a list has to be the most important thing you do, whether you’re marketing online or offline.
It’s a way of keeping in touch with your contacts so that you are forefront of your contacts minds when they’re ready to have your service or product or refer you to someone in their circle who needs you.
You own your list, not the social media platform you might be using.
Instead of storing all the business cards you collect at networking events, have a system in place that gets their permission to be included in your list. But make sure you’re not guilty of the bad practice of just indiscriminately adding people to your list (read more about that here).
You can look professional and quickly glean information about whether a particular product or service will be work from checking your email stats. Again, more useful information to hand over to your web designer when you’re web-ready!
So there you have it. If you’ve yet to get any clients, then get clients first before spending time and money on building a website that will be redundant before the year’s out. Do your testing on the free and low-cost platforms and get really clear on who you serve and what you offer.
That way when you come to speak to a web designer like me 😉 you’ll end up with a super website that reflects who you really are and what you’re about that also attracts the right kinds of clients, not a poor site that you’ll fall out of love within a year.
Does this resonate? Have you rushed to get a website built at any cost, then regretted it later? I’d love to hear your experience of what you learned. Leave a comment below.