3 Reasons Why Having a Website Pre-launch Helps your Startup Grow
A startup’s first website doesn’t need to be complicated or costly:
While you’re in that critical pre-launch business development stage your startup still needs a live website. This is because while you’ve gotten yourself out the door and you’re talking to potential customers, you need an online brand presence to help you network and connect with potential customers. This first website doesn’t need to be super high tech or expensive. Its purpose is to help you start building a strong identity for your brand even before you’re fully up and running.
1. Having a website builds credibility for your business:
As you’re putting pre-launch feelers out to test the market need for your product or service, having a website helps you build your startup’s credibility. It is your online business card. Think about this: as you’re emailing other people asking for business development meetings its likely they’ll check to see if you have an online presence. If you don’t, they might not think you’re serious. But if you send them a link to your live website inside your email signature details, this helps potential customers and partners know that your startup is the real deal.
If you’re still in development and required to register as a company but haven’t yet there are ways to word this. In general using a combination of phrases like ‘beta’ or ‘doing business as’ or ‘registering address’ signal you’re in the process of launching and there’s at lot more to come. Your lawyer can help you get it right.
Remember, this initial website doesn’t need to be complex it needs to be clean. Followers of the Lean Startup movement will be familiar with the concept of launching something as a Minimum Viable Product (MPV), but you can apply this tactic to your first website too. Your first website needs to be:
* clean and professional,
* mobile optimized/reactive,
2. Going online lets potential customers find you:
While you’re busy setting-up your business having a simple live starter website also lets potential customers, partners and collaborators find you. A good product or service will have market demand and people will be searching for you — so let them find you. Additionally, if you’re selling anything from a physical address people walking by will see something new is coming. Curious passersby can find you online and learn when to come back and buy.
Let me give you an example. A PhD scientist in Cambridge invented a medical devise then began exploring how to commercialize her technology. I advised her to launch a website and put her startup on Twitter. Being online enabled the former CEO of a global healthcare giant to find her and contact her. He loved what she was doing and offered to join her board. She replied “absolutely! I haven’t build the board yet, but you are definitely on it!” After joining Twitter she discovered she had a competitor she didn’t even know existed. Having a website in your pre-launch days will help you get off to a running start when you do open your doors.
3. A website is the foundation for your digital marketing activities:
You’re going to tell your brand story through your website and other digital marketing channels. Before you launch its likely you’re just using a website. But once you’re ready to open, you’ll be integrating marketing activities to get customers to buy from you and keep them coming back for more. The digital channels you deploy will depend on your business. Many of these digital marketing activities are incorporated through the website and they can be deployed even from a very minimal starter site. If you’re offering a professional service, you might be using LinkedIn, Twitter, Newsletters (direct e-mail marketing), online bookings and Google Analytics all from a simple affordable first MVP website.
Even one-stop-shop website builders will allow you to integrate these digital marketing activities:
* Newsletter / e-mail marketing functions like MailChimp
* Online bookings
* Event sign-ups
* Google Analytics.
Trying to get a talented developer for a startup bargain could potentially delay your launch so that you get stuck into a ‘failure to launch’ situation. This is the worst possible place to be stuck. New businesses don’t need to suffer losses at the beginning so keep it simple at the start if your type of business allows. You’ll be able to afford an excellent developer to evolve your website once you have paying customers and you know your business is viable.
If you don’t want to spend your budget building a website before you know just what exactly your business is about, there are one-stop-shop website providers that offer sites that can grow with you. Many will offer the most basic site for free and then the price goes up depending on the functionality you require. Some great builders I’ve worked with that offer free starter sites include:
Failure to launch — avoid this killer situation:
Here’s an illustration from a founder I previous worked with. Eleonora* was in the process of launching a regional professional services company when she commissioned a very talented developer. Her job was small and it was clear her developer considered her a low priority. So low 18 months after commissioning her website, Eleonora was still waiting for it. Her contract stated that it should be delivered within 30 days — but that never happened.
Here’s the problem: her professional services startup needed to be online to show her credibility and generate leads but it wasn’t. She expected that most of her clients would come from in-bound inquires but without having a live site she wasn’t able to get anyone asking her for her service. She was barely getting any business. When the website did launch it was so poorly done it distracted from the quality of her own designs. Eleonora knew she could not use it for long.
At this point she asked me for some crisis management assistance. We moved her onto a Weebly site which allowed her to have well written copy that clearly explained her brand and services. She was also able to upload beautiful images to display her portfolio and add to that portfolio as she completed more jobs. Her starter site also had some critical features:
* it was fully mobile optimized,
* had a contact form,
* displayed Google maps so people could find her office,
* integrated key social media accounts.
Eleonora had this starter website live for a year. It helped her grow her business and get into position to be able to hire another developer for a larger fee who could deliver a site that would showcase her services the way her bigger business needed to be presented. That little Weebly site received over 20,000 hits during its 12 months of operation. The majority of her commissions came from regional people who found her from a Google search. Remember, people in her region were Eleonora’s ideal customer segment.
Every day your startup isn’t online you’re potentially loosing business. You don’t have to wait ages for an expensive site to finish development to get online. You can always evolve the website to grow with you. A simple starter site will help you launch your business and begin making money now.
Quick trick: If you’re really pressed for startup cash, that’s still not an excuse for remaining offline. Look for domain registration bargains and then put your domain on a forward to a free Weebly or WordPress site. If your budget is that tight you can get online, roughly this way, for as little as $5 — $15 USD depending on the registrar you chose. But do keep in mind that forwarding a domain impacts your SEO and it won’t be very good. This will remedy once you can afford to upgrade to a hosted website. Still if you just need to be online for credibility as you research and test your idea, this quick fix should still do the trick. You can share your startup’s web address with people and they will be able to see your brand messaging and tell that you’re a serious entrepreneur.
*Names have been changed.
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Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter