By Carole Bennett
You’ve decided to make the big leap into starting your own business. Congratulations! I’m sure you’re reading up on all the things that a smart business founder does; business plans, financial structure, marketing, the works. One critical factor that touches on many of these areas is your web presence; branding, customer interaction, marketing, and of course, the budget to build one.
One of the most tedious traumas a business can go through is switching out or upgrading their web presence, because it’s no longer sufficient for their business needs. In order to avoid that heartache, business disruption and expense, here are 5 factors to consider in order to ensure your website will grow with your business.
What’s Your Business Focus?
Are you a retail business, planning to focus on an e-commerce solution? Are you a services provider, who needs to have an interactive presence to reach out to potential clients? Or are you building a consultancy, where you’ll be working with many team members, who many not all be in the same geographical region?
Your business focus will determine many of your online business needs. A services provider may want to provide a forum for better customer service and interaction; a retailer looking for an e-commerce solution will want to decide if she wants to go with a less expensive online service with limited flexibility in design and scalability, or spend more up front in order to have the capacity to provide a robust, customized experience for her clientele as she expands her business.
How Will You Interact With Your Customers?
Even a business that relies on personal interaction with their customers will need to consider how their clientele will interact with them online. Will you limit your interaction to comments at the end of blog entries and a “Contact Us” form, or do you intend to integrate your website with a significant social media presence? Is your target market B2B (business-to-business), B2C (business-to-consumer), or a mixture thereof? Will a C2C (customer-to-customer) community be a part of your business and marketing plan? Do you plan to send out monthly newsletters, or provide “members-only” subscription features?
How Do You Plan To Grow?
Ideally, every company plans to grow, become more profitable, and provide a service to clientele while providing a profit for the company itself. However, growth can look different for different business models. Growth may include expansion of territory, increase in employees, or additional product lines. Depending on how you plan for your business to grow, your website may need to have the capability of adding additional functionality or business complexity on-the-fly.
Will You Have A Physical Presence?
A company that grows to have multiple locations may find that each of its locations should have an individual web presence, due to cultural or geographic concerns. A website that can add on additional sub-domains without additional structural development will save time, money and frustration, and allow employees of each location to retain a common point of contact for logging into backend services. In addition, the ability to apply a regionally-appropriate UI design will present an opportunity to appeal to the location’s target demographic – always a plus when physical presence is a factor.
How Will You Work With Your Team?
A company with geographically dispersed team members will need a robust rights and roles management system, with the ability to assign workflows for content, dedicated areas for project management vs. client previews, and document sharing capabilities. The ability to connect the website with other business software (Quickbooks, MS Project, Intuit, or custom in-house software) is also an element to keep in mind.
If you’ve taken the time to consider all these factors before you consult with an online services professional, you’re far more likely to get exactly what works for you now, as well as five years from now, without a complete renovation of your online presence. That way, you can focus on your business growth, and your website with grow right along with it.
Carole Bennett is the founder and primary voice of IndigoTea. As a professional IT consultant, Carole has provided solutions for companies as diverse as Verizon, Frito-Lay, Capital One Auto Finance, and Zales Jewelers, parlaying a unique talent for acting as a translator between the worlds of business challenges and technology solutions. After nearly two decades of experience in providing business and technology solutions in the corporate space, Carole chose to dedicate her wealth of experience towards creating outstanding results for her small business clientele. She considers her skills gained from simultaneously managing a fire performance troupe, raising a family, and working as a full-time IT consultant excellent preparation for her current career incarnation as the driving force behind IndigoTea Small Business Solutions. “Fire-breathing redhead on a mission” is not just a metaphorical description!