Before You Spend Money on a New Website, Read This!

We want to talk to you about wedding planners. We know, you thought this was an article about building your website! It is, we promise, just keep reading. Leah ran a wedding photography studio for her first business and, working in the wedding industry, I noticed that the weddings with good planners cost less, run more smoothly, impress guests and are just way more fun. Why? Because a wedding planner anticipates the problems their clients don’t and they know where it really pays to spend your budget and where you can skimp without much impact. In the business world, a marketing consultant can help you make the same strategic decisions to maximize your marketing investment and help you avoid all those rookie mistakes!

Mistakes are ok – we learn from mistakes. But they can also be expensive. My most expensive mistake with my first business was my beautiful and not-so-functional website. It looked great, but my analytics showed that it wasn’t giving me any return on my investment. I could’ve used some planning help to avoid that pitfall.

When you’re just getting your business started, it’s fun to start thinking of cool, creative names and pretty website ideas. You hire a web designer (and you cringe a little to spend the money, but it’s necessary, so you do) and you tell them all your awesome and inspired plans and they make you that sleek, beautiful website that you’ve been dreaming of. You’re so excited! And your friends and family go to your website and they tell you how cool and unique it looks and you breathe deeply, sit back and wait for the waves of financial success to wash over you.

But then after a few months or a year, you realize that there are all these ways in which your pretty website isn’t working for you. Yeah, it looks super nifty, but does it actually attract your target market (and not just you and your friends and family)? Does it convert traffic into leads? Does it bring new customers, from outside your personal network, to your business? Does it encourage browsers to dig deeper, learn more, follow your social media, engage with your company?

So before you go build that site you’ve been dreaming of, do your research and work with someone knowledgeable (that may be a great web designer or it may include a marketing strategist) about what exactly you want your website to accomplish. Be realistic: your website will be more effective as part of a larger internet marketing strategy. I promise the extra investment of time and funds will actually save your business money in the long run and provide a much higher return on website investment.

So what are the things to think about before contracting your web designer?

  1. Have you done your market research and know who your target market is? Do you know what problems they need solved and what aesthetics/design elements/tone will appeal to them? Do you know what language will attract them and how to describe your products and services in an appealing way? Have you thought about how your website fits into your marketing plan and what you want it to accomplish?
  2. What do you want people to do once they get to your website? Do you want them to call or email you? Book you? Follow you on Facebook? Sign up for your newsletter? How can you get them to do this?
  3. How and on what kind of devices will your customers use your site? How user friendly does your site need to be?
  4. If your site gets lots of traffic, but doesn’t convert that traffic to leads, then it’s not helping to grow your business. How will you optimize your conversion rate?
  5. How will customers find your website? What do your potential customers type into their Google search when looking for a company like yours? Is there a way to build your website so that it’s easier for your customers to find?
  6. How will you know if your website is successful? What metric will you use to measure your website’s success and how will you make tweaks and changes to your website to improve its effectiveness?

Ok, so that might have felt more like twenty things to consider! But hopefully you get the idea – if you have answers to all these questions before you build your site, it will be more likely to turn your hard work and monetary investment into revenue and more likely to keep working for your business in the long term.

About the author: Scott Stern is the founder and chief strategist and Leah Stern is the chief creative officer of Red Stripe Strategy, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm for small businesses.