Thursday, March 31, 2016

Don't waste money building a small business website that won't be found

Are you an entrepreneurs planning to start up a new small business and perhaps you've been thinking about developing your website? 

Well if so, make sure that you avoid a common mistake made by many budding entrepreneurs. They burn with a fierce passion to bring their product or service to market - but all too often suffer from the damaging misconception that their website will be the driver of a multitude of enquiries and sales that will fuel the growth of their new business.
small business websites

Yes, a website does have that potential. But usually only if the website design is integrated within a broader internet marketing strategy and is built on sound principles of SEO (search engine optimisation). 

Don’t fall for the trap of believing “If you build it, they will come”. This is simply not true. There are thousands of websites of small businesses in Australia that do not make it to either the first, second or even third page of Google for the search terms they desire.

"There’s no point spending a couple of thousand dollars of your limited start-up capital on building a website that won’t be found!"
I met with Ajax McKerral, the founder of Nuttify. His business specialises in the design and development of visible Wordpress websites and has recently been very successful in winning substantial contracts with local government. Ajax advises his clients on how best to harness social media to make it easy for their target market to find, like and share their content. He shares some of his experience ....

1. So Ajax, what was your motivation in starting up your own business – and what was the thinking behind the selection of Nuttify as the business name?

I have been building websites for various purposes since 1997. This was back in the day when all we had was HTML. It involved a lot of duplication and manual work to create a website. The first website I built was for a band I played in at  the time. 

Fast forward a decade, and I had just returned from London where I was fortunate enough to have worked as the Digital Projects Manager for the London Symphony Orchestra. I did a couple of micro sites for them while there, as well as working on a range of technology related projects across the main stage concerts, community and education.

Upon returning to Australia I began consulting to large arts organisations on their online education strategies, and ran some large projects with a range of stakeholders such as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, 

As for the name "Nuttify" - it is a good 3 syllable .com name that was available at the time I was searching for domain names. I thought "hmmm, 'nuttify' - it's like 'notify' - it could be a messaging service like Twitter." 

Then I chose to use if for the web development business when I switched from consulting. It is short, catchy (like Spotify), and can be defined how we want it to be - because there is no definition or preconceptions. Over time, our tagline has changed and is now "Champion Websites".

2. What do you personally find most rewarding about running your own business?

The most rewarding thing about running my own business is being in control, well, mostly in control, of the direction that the business, and my life takes. I love creating elegant solutions for difficult problems. And this sums up business pretty well, as business is really solving one problem after another. I also like building the business systems, and particularly realising them in code / websites, or integrating various services to achieve business outcomes.

3. What are some of the frustrations and challenges?

My frustrations and challenges are common to many small business owners: hiring and training the right team members, cash flow, making enough quality sales. I'm a very ambitious person and always want to be doing more, and moving faster. So I set high goals and expectations - so I then have to deal with the frustration of trying to reach them!

4. What have you found are some of the most common mistakes small business owners make when they build their own websites?

The most common mistake from my experience,  that small business owners quite often make with their websites include -
  • "Build it and they will come" - as you correctly mentioned before. You need a strategy and marketing plan to drive traffic to your website.
  • Assume that their website is about them. Your website is NOT about you, or your business. It is about how you solve your customers' problems. People use the Internet to find information and solve problems. If you are not providing value through your content, then people will just bounce off your site.
  • Build a website and not touch it for 3 years. Websites need care and feeding, like puppies. People  have short attention spans online and if you are not offering new content regularly, then they will become bored, and perhaps stop visiting your site.
  • Not publishing regular new content. Google ranks you higher in search results if you have a regular stream of new content on your blog. It's really important to have systems in place that enable the regular creation of new content that provides value to your web site visitors.
  • Not planning for a new build or refresh effectively. A web designer/ developer can only do so much for you in creating a Champion Website. You need to develop a strategy and prepare all of the content before launching in to a new development. I have written an eBook on 5 Easy Steps for Planning your Champion Website that helps business owners plan and preapre to build a new website
5. Can you share some of the strategies you use to ensure the websites you build “get found” by the right people?

Getting found on Google is not rocket science. It is about developing a strategy to develop the content that people are looking for. There are heaps of free resources online to learn about SEO, but my firm conviction is that the essential kernel of SEO is this: "Always be giving value". Generate lots of high quality content that helps your users solve their problems. When you have this, SEO becomes easy. The second part is to know the keywords that your customers are searching for you with - and generate high quality content around those keywords. Some good resources to learn about SEO are:
6. Besides running Nuttify, there are other innovative business projects in which you are involved...... In this age of “disruption” where rapid technological change has become the norm – what advice would you offer to budding entrepreneurs? ........ The harsh and sometimes brutal reality of attempting to commercialise a “great idea” requires considerable resilience, have you found?

Yes, resilience is absolutely essential. 

The project that we are working on is a new App and Platform called Mobilizr. Mobilizr is about bringing people together around events and activities. This could be coffee with friends, or a dance party, or a march or demonstration. We are planning to be the Instragram of events. By which I mean, Instagram was a better photo sharing app than Facebook's photos functionality. We aim to be a better events organiser than Facebook events. Version 1 of Mobilizr is nearing launch and I'll let you know when it is available in the App store (Mobilizr website coming soon - )

To build the App we are taking the Lean Startup methodology- which is to create a minimum viable product, or MVP. With an MVP we can go to market with the basics of what we think people want, and then test the market with real users. Our users will provide feedback into what works, what doesn't work and what features they want. With their feedback we can build the features that will make the product champion and easy to use. A must for any app to scale rapidly and acquire a large amount of users.

The key to this approach is not to go for perfect - but to go for - "it just works". Make sure it works to a minimum standard, and then get feedback from real users. You can then iterate improvements to the product over time. You can spend an enormous amount of time and money building something no one wants. So it's better to build the least amount that you need to and then find out if anyone actually wants it. The best resource for learning more about this approach can be found at the Lean Start Up website by Eric Reis.

7. Any final tips to share?

I would say - never give up. It's tempting to throw in the towel sometimes, when it all seems too hard. but we need to pick our selves up and just focus on solving one problem at a time. Eventually we'll get through them and reach our goals.

Many thanks to Ajax for sharing so generously his experiences and business tips.

About the interviewer
Brian CarrollBrian Carroll is the founder of the corporate training company, Performance Development He is a psychologist by background and has more than 20 years experience working  in the field of management development. His passion is to help people develop the mindset and skills they need to achieve their full potential.