10 must-reads when starting a small business

You’ve got a brilliant business idea and you’re keen to get started. You’re pumped. Excited. You know you need a business plan before jumping in head-first, right? Heed this advice when fleshing out that part of the plan you’ve loosely entitled “Start a website and get online”

 

smooth out the small business roller coaster ride
Starting a small business is like riding an intense roller coaster. [Image thanks to HubSpot slideshare]

Jump aboard the small business online marketing rollercoaster and get started with these 10 steps:

 

1. Pick a name.

Maybe you already have a business name in your head, but have you checked the availability of its matching domain name (your www address)?

 

Read How to Choose a Good Website Domain Name to see:

  • Whether you will need a .com or a .com.au domain
  • Some tools to help you choose a domain name
  • What name types to avoid
  • Where to obtain a domain name and what it will cost

 

2. Decide where to Host your website.

A website hosting provider should be chosen with care, rather than just taking the cheapest or easiest (ie. the one in the flashing ad when you bought your domain name in step 1).

 

Read The Importance of Web Hosting – The Basics to find out about:

  • Web hosting performance requirements and warnings
  • How much space you’ll need
  • Whether you’ll need hosting in Australia or overseas
  • What restrictions and limitations to look out for
  • The cost of web hosting

 

3. Choose a colour scheme for your website.

Whether or not you’ve already picked colours for your brand, there are good reasons to choose colour carefully for your website.

 

Read All the colours of the World Wide Web for advice on:

  • Colour branding – what makes sense for your industry?
  • How many colours should you combine?
  • Ensuring contrast for readability, so you don’t exclude visually-impaired or colour-blind viewers
  • The differences between colour for print and colour for the web

 

4. Optimise for Search Engines – start your SEO up-front.

Even before you build a website, you need to be researching your target market and what search terms they might use to find your business. SEO needs to be taken into account when writing all the content on your new website – from choosing headlines to planning what text to include on each page.

 

Read DIY SEO for Small Business Websites to discover:

  • 4 basic fundamentals of good SEO
  • How to create good quality content
  • Keywords that make sense for your business
  • Image optimisation techniques
  • Building quality links, the right way

 

5. Find out about Content Management Systems (CMS).

Sure, it’s important to keep your website up to date and with fresh content, but be realistic about the time and skills you have available to do so. Some things are worthwhile outsourcing.

 

Decide whether or not you should use a CMS by reading The Pitfalls of Content Management Systems which covers:

  • The traps of Doing It Yourself
  • 3 things to consider about using a CMS
  • The difference between a CMS and a Blog
  • 5 questions to ask your web designer about the CMS

 

6. Find a good web designer.

As a small business, it’s a good idea to choose a web designer who understands small business themselves. With the right person, you could find a real business ally to help develop your online presence, rather than someone who leaves you with a “build it and hope they come” lemon.

 

Learn how to avoid a bad experience in How to find a Good Website Designer for your Small Business:

  • Find someone you “click” with, who cares about your success
  • Confirm that their skills match your requirements
  • Examine their contract, including the fineprint
  • Understand what can be done within your budget

 

7. Give your Web Designer a clear Brief.

Once you’ve found that good website designer, make sure you clarify your needs to avoid delays and budget blowouts.

 

Read Why Web Design needs more than a Brief Brief to understand:

  • That a brief is best when it’s interactive and collaborative
  • What to include in a website design brief
  • How to prioritise must-haves over nice-to-haves
  • What to ask if you don’t know enough to prepare a full brief

 

8. Find and Optimise Images for your Website.

A website without images is pretty dull, but a website with poor images is a turn-off.

 

Before you supply your own images or source them online, make sure you read How to Source Website Images like a Pro to:

 

9. Add Social Media to the mix.

Some businesses get their Facebook page running even before their website is done. Others add Facebook (or Twitter, or Pinterest, or LinkedIn, or Google+…) as the next step in their online marketing arsenal.

 

Either way, plan to integrate them using the tips in Connecting your Website and Social Media:

  • See why it’s important to connect your website and social channels
  • Be clear on what you should (and shouldn’t) connect
  • Understand the difference between Follow links and Sharing links
  • Learn how to add social links to your website (and vice versa)

 

10. Explore additional methods of Online Marketing.

Besides your website and social media pages, what other forms of online marketing can you use to grow your business? If you want to delve further into blogging, videos and podcasting, mobile marketing, online publicity and more, then it’s time to turn to the experts.

 

Where to get Help with Online Marketing guides you to a great book “It’s That Easy! Online Marketing 3.0” which:

  • Has been named as one of Australia’s 100 most innovative products or services in the Anthill Magazine ‘SMART 100’ Index
  • Provides 18 chapters from 18 leading experts, each covering their own specialty
  • Includes hundreds of dollars of extra value exclusively for readers
  • Can be yours for just $12 for the digital version (for Kindle, iPad or PDF)

 

I hope you’ve found these articles helpful. Once you’ve done your research, you can confidently take things one step at a time, knowing that you’re less likely to trip yourself up along the way…

 

My whole aim with the RHD blog is to share practical advice that real-world small business operators can put into practice. If I can help you at any step of the way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Author: RobynRHD

I'm a small business web design specialist with interests in social media and other online marketing methods. As my blog intro states: "Steering small businesses in the right direction with what I hope is practical, realistic advice and useful tips, amidst the constantly changing noise and hype. I'd like to help you sort out what you really need and how to go about it." I'm a proud Aussie, living in Sydney, and an avid fan of Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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