In my work as a web consultant, I meet many business professionals and entrepreneurs who are coming to me at a critical time for their business development. Many are starting a new business or a new spinoff of an existing business. Others have been established for some time but have come to a point where they need to begin marketing for the first time. Others are looking to redefine their image.
Whatever the case, the process of creating a new website often forces business leaders to contemplate critical questions.
In some cases it is easier if the client can wrestle with these questions before attempting to direct the design of a new website. In other cases, the site design must go hand-in-hand with other changes in branding.
#1: Business Name
As obvious as this seems, many sole proprietors, consultants and small businesses find it easier to choose a domain name than an actual business name. (Ideally the two are the same, but it is not always possible.)
In many cases, the availability of a domain name drives the choices for the business name. This is fine, since you don’t want a domain name unrelated to your business name. However, it will delay other steps in the business launching process, since registering your business name with the state should be one of your first steps.
The ideal process would be to consult with your web designer to find out their preferred hosting and domain company, purchase the domain name you want, and come back to the web designer after a month or so when you have set up your company name and had time to think clearly about your products and services.
Very few startups or sole proprietor service come to me with a logo in hand.
When they do, I can choose the colors, look and feel of their website to match their logo.
On the other hand, the discussion that naturally occurs about how the website should look often leads to ideas for a logo. There’s nothing wrong with creating a logo that is inspired by a website design or theme, as long as it is true to the identity of your business and you aren’t being pushed in one direction by a designer who wants to use a particular template he or she reuses frequently.
One more caveat: If you create a homemade logo, make sure it is what you really want to use for the next year or two before you give it to your web designer to integrate into your site. It isn’t hard to find a graphic designer who will put together something professional for less than $1,000, or even less than $500 in some cases.
#3: Email Marketing
Email marketing and email newsletters are often a critical communication tool for businesses. When I design a website, I prefer to link the blog and contact form to an email marketing platform. I can easily create a checkbox on the contact form which, when checked, will automatically subscribe the visitor to the company’s email list. I can also create a newsletter template that matches the website and imports the latest blog posts (via an RSS feed from the company’s blog) into a weekly or monthly newsletter. (My favorite tool for this is MailChimp.)
Even if you aren’t sure whether you can handle putting out a regular newsletter, it’s better to begin collecting email addresses on your site now.
Take advantage of technological advances that allow you to post to your blog every once in a while and have your blog posts become your newsletter automatically!
#4: Social Media
Often the first time a client thinks about their intentions with social media is when I ask which social media icons they would like to include on their site. It looks nice to have a Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube button at the top, but if you haven’t created a Facebook Business Page, a LinkedIn Company Profile nor any company videos, it’s better to leave these off.
If possible, go ahead and create these profiles (or ask your web consultant to do it for you, with SEO keywords in mind) before your website launches, so that your cute little icons can link to something meaningful that will help your business.
#5: Your business identity vs your personal identity
If you are purchasing a new domain name, or working with your website, you have an opportunity to revise your email addresses. There is nothing less professional than someone representing themselves as the CEO of their company, but corresponding with clients using an email address like this: OldHarry5@hotmail.com.
If you own your domain name, you can set up email at that domain name. With my favorite webhost, BlueHost, email boxes at your domain are free with hosting.
Even better, ask your web designer for help (or a referral to someone who can help) to setup your desktop mail program (Outlook, MacMail, etc.) and your phone so that your new, professional email address is immediately accessible. Many clients create a great email address at their domain name, but fail to login and use it regularly because they are in the habit of using their free webmail. In most cases, you can have both mailboxes come into your computer so all your messages are in one place.