This is the sixth and final installment of our Business Basics series - designed to get your new business up and running quickly and efficiently while laying a strong foundation for future success and growth. Today, we're talking web - what are the essential first steps you need to take to get your business online?
Finally, we’ve reached the web portion of setting your business up for success. Your website is one of the most exciting and powerful tools at your disposal to grow your business - but it can also be the most challenging and expensive portion of any business. With that in mind, we recommend a three-step approach to getting your business online quickly and elegantly.
Step One: Exist
Your first objective when starting a web presence for your new business should be simply to exist. Select a domain name (use a .com and your business name, when possible) and get it registered. Use this link to register it for 99 cents at GoDaddy.com. You’ll also need hosting. We highly recommend WPEngine, but lots of our clients get started with Bluehost or GoDaddy as well. Get set up with basic business email, either through your hosting provider (see more in the next step), or using a speciality service like Zoho Mail (free) or Google Apps for Work (not free, but quite amazing).
While you’re at it, sign up for a free MailChimp account - you’ll need it in Step Two. Go ahead and reserve your chosen name on all the major social media platforms (we’d say Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram), but at this point don’t feel like you need to focus on every single one; we suggest choosing one or two to start your audience building - particularly Instagram or Twitter.
Step Two: Landing Page
Once you’ve staked out your corner of the internet, you’ll want to put up a landing page to greet visitors who are interested in learning more about your business. I could describe a landing page to you, but I decided it would just be easier to show you, so here’s a sample one. You can hire a designer to build it (our pricing starts at $150), or use a software like LeadPages to do this. Either way, be sure to link it to your email list, so you can keep in touch with those who are interested. You can also add social media links here, if you’d like. At this point, you are officially live and legit on the internet, so it’s fair game to start using your website url on your collateral and marketing materials.
Step Three: Full Website
Finally, as you’re ready, it’s time to start investing in a full website for your business. For most applications, we recommend a Wordpress website because they’re incredibly easy to update, maintain and extend. Wordpress makes a great platform to add on any functionality you might need, whether it’s an online store, blog, membership site or more (more about it here). It’s worth it to spend some time thinking about your long-term hopes and dreams for your website, because it can affect the bones of your site, even if you’re not ready to implement feature just yet. Semi-custom Wordpress websites can also be a phenomenal option for businesses of all sizes (more about those here). Download our checklist to plan all the pages and features you’ll need in your dream website.
As much as we love big, juicy, exciting web projects here, I encourage you to start with reasonable website development goals and work in stages. Things change quickly on the internet, and so start with a modest but nimble website that has the capacity to grow and expand with your business, rather than delaying your project or mortgaging the farm to pay for the dream website all at once. A good designer, developer or project manager can help you break your major goals into manageable pieces.