Get a Website to Overcome Tough Economy

By Rich Sloan
Co-Founder, StartupNation
Don’t have a website yet? Get one! Your online presence can help you achieve the following in short order:

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· Expand access to potential customers

· Provide greater convenience to customers

· Build stronger relationships with current customers

· Generate significant revenue to supplement or even replace the old school, brick-and-mortar approach to your business.

A year ago at StartupNation there was an outcry among our visitors calling for an easy step-by-step process to create a website, so, shazam!, we created 11 Steps Anyone Can Use to Create a Successful Website. It’s real, practical advice you can follow and use in as much or as little detail as you’re seeking.

But here are some quick-hitting tips for a fast read:

Reserve a domain name – make it easy to spell and easy to remember. Personally, I like website names that are descriptive, too. Good example: www.sailingschool.com. This name is crystal clear in terms of what you’re after and what you get when you go to the site and it’s easy to recall.

Determine if you’ll go with a pro or build it yourself. Respecting what your greatest talents are—and are not—is the key to making sure you succeed. If orchestrating the launch of your website is not your strength, delegate it or outsource it. You can get quotes from website designers through StartupNation’s vendor matching service. More on that below.

Make it really easy to navigate. The homepage should have your contact information, a clear description of what you do and offer, and should provide navigation buttons that move people directly to the stuff they’re seeking without having to fish around a lot. The navigation should be persistent throughout the site, too.

Have a clear call to action or purpose. One thing’s for sure – people on the web have a short attention span. If you don’t catch them quickly with clear, hard-hitting text and offers, you’ll lose them back to Google where they’ll go hunting for an alternative.

Once you get that site up, nurture it, keep it up to date and refreshed. A great website is about giving visitors what they want but also giving them clear reasons why they should come back soon. Definitely provide a blog. Let your customers get to know you and come to respect you through your advice, observations, real-world sharing.

Valuable resources I recommend:

StartupNation’s vendor matching service – it’s like “Lending Tree” but for small business services. We offer over 80 categories of different kinds of services and have pre-screened vendors who compete to give you their best offer on providing the service you’re interested in. So, need a website designed? Need a logo? How about help creating a marketing plan or raising money? You just fill out a very brief form, and within hours you’re able to compare bidding vendors apples-to-apples with no obligation.

Microsoft Office Live Small Business – this is a link to an article about the service, which I am wholeheartedly a fan of. You can get your domain name, get your website, easily construct it with your design elements and merchandise, set up your shopping cart and do email marketing all from a turn-key product they offer. If you like what you read, then click over from the article to check out Office Live from there.

Get your website critiqued by supportive peers. Nothing like drawing on the wisdom of a few hundred thousand smart people, at least a handful of which will give your website critiques based on specific questions you ask about your website design. Definitely leverage this invaluable resource to ensure that your site is optimized for effectiveness.

Drive traffic to your website through specific strategies that are proven to work. Included at the link is more award-winning step-by-step advice from StartupNation that will help you understand exactly how to increase website visitor volume and to how to turn those visitors into increased revenue!

Learn about email marketing at Startupnation’s expert blog authored by Ryan Allis, who is a phenomenal success story in his own right. His company, iContact has become a leading email marketing solution provider for large and tiny companies. I highly recommend you subscribe to his blog – it’s one smart pearl of wisdom after another.

Create an ecommerce site using eBay or Amazon Stores. To learn about the latest in trends—and there are many moving pieces especially at eBay these days—read the blog of Kevin Harmon who makes millions through his “Inflatable Madness” stores selling CDs, books, DVDs, and more.

- Rich