Missing The Forest (your business) for the Trees (your website)

The proper amount of effort to put into all things web-related has come up in conversation quite a bit lately. I was recently talking with my dad about a friend of his who doesn’t put much effort into his website and how that may hurt his business. On the other hand, is it possible to put too much effort into your website? Can that hurt your business too?

Focusing too much on your website? You could be missing the forest for the trees.
Focusing too much on your website? You could be missing the forest for the trees.
Absolutely! The Web is everywhere. All of our customers use the web to start their businesses with us. (And we’re honored!) But that doesn’t mean that, as a new business owner, you should be dumping your resources into your company’s web presence.

There are countless companies out there anxious to take your money to give you a quick, easy website. When you add up the costs of a domain, hosting, and even the most basic template-based website service you’re likely looking at committing to hundreds of dollars worth of expenses. Now consider the time that you’re throwing at these tactics—it takes lots of time to develop your website, even using WordPress or a similar service.

Aside from your website proper, there are Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Linked-In, advertising options, Craigslist—STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP!

It’s not that these things are bad—they’re definitely not—it’s just that there’s a slippery slope here that can lead small business owners to lose sight of their core business by getting bogged down with all-things-web. It starts with an evening at the computer, which leads to a day spent writing content for your website, and then it’s been a week and you’re still tweaking things and during all of that time what have you really done to help your business grow?

Putting your company online will not make your business great. It can help, but it’s not the be-all, end-all solution. For small businesses, word of mouth is likely still the best way to get discovered. For almost all businesses it holds true that past customers are your best future customers (worthy of a separate post).

My recommendation is to figure out the right measure of Web for your business and to really set some boundaries. Maybe set some mileposts along the way (when I get five clients, I’ll hire someone to do my website). With the possible exception of web developers, your website only offers a limited peak inside your business and what makes you great and should not consume more of your resources than such a limited peak warrants.

Once you decide to dive in, be smart about it too! It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some simple steps to setting up a good website for a reasonable price:

  • Get a good domain! If your business is Sally’s Sea Shells, try for sallysseashells.com. Many domains are still unregistered and can be snatched up for $15 or less.
  • Find a trustworthy developer. They don’t have to be the top of the line—finding a student on Craigslist can work wonders. You just want someone comfortable with setting up your hosting and installing things directly to the server.
  • Install a CMS, or Content Management System, such as WordPress or Joomla. These will let you leverage a template for a quick start to your website without having to invest in a designer.
  • Use a widget to allow customers to share your website socially, through Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and more. Let your customers do the work for you!

Good luck!

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