Building and Managing Your Online Office

Mary Schmidt does it again – another must read, this time on the subject of “Building and Managing Your Online Office.”  Read her “When Bad Creativity Happens to Good People: post here, then read her full article here

In my consulting work, I often have to review really bad web sites, from all sizes and types of companies and organizations. Some of the largest and most expensive sites are often the most broken (lots of style, very little substance with no consideration given to customer service). And, small businesses often make the “penny wise, pound foolish” mistake of going with a web hobbyist. But, how do you know whether you’re working with a hobbyist or a pro?

All web developers run across this at somepoint.  “It’s between you and my 15 year old nephew.” That’s the point that I walk out of the room.  I don’t take customers unless I’m convinced that I can have a positive impact; where I can help them on the road to success.  If your business means so little to you that you’d allow you’re nephew (cousin, brother-in-law, etc.) to hack out your web site, you’re not a customer I want.   After all, you wouldn’t want him/her to take his first shot at cosmetic surgery on you. 

I’ve heard it said by many a potential customer, “my web site isn’t a large part of my business.”  The truth is, it is one of your primary points of customer contact.  If it looks professional, you look professional.  It’s one of the things customers immediately check to see if your “real”; and it’s a tremendous eqaulizer for smaller businesses.  Even if your business is small, you can look big on the web; if fact you can look bigger and better (more professional) than your larger, more established competition.  In short, if your website isn’t an important facit of your business, you really need to look at what you are doing wrong.

Your homework for today is to take a look at your web presence with a jaundiced eye.  Does your message come across?  Are you doing it better than the competition?  Can customers find you easily?  If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have an opportunity to improve in 2007. 

3 Replies to “Building and Managing Your Online Office”

  1. Right on, Mark. This echoes my thoughts and hits the nail on the head. If people are not willing to commit the time, resources, energy and money to developing a decent site, then they’re more than likely not all that serious about their business. You don’t have to break the bank to have a great site, but if it’s professionally done, you’ll shine above the competition.

  2. I learned the hard way re web sites – ask them right up front if they have a budget and how much they plan to spend. If they say, “gee, I don’t know. Just give me a proposal” Whoa! Red flag! This almost always means they have a couple of hundred bucks in mind for a site that should cost thousands. (And their nephew is waiting in the wings.)

    Here’s another “Huh?” example(a real e-commerce site):

    “I don’t make that much money from my site now, so I just can’t see spending this much money.”

    My advice to people who don’t want to spend for professional web site – get a free blog. You can at least have a web presence and a blog can be configured to look like a site (at least to the non-web-savvy businesses’ non-web-savvy target market.)

  3. A blog is a good alternative for those who won’t be putting any money into a project. Also, think about Yahoo for a cheap templated site. It will look (marginally) better than the site your nephew will hack out, and you’ll have control via their sitebuilder app (and most web hosts offer a similar templated service).

    For businesses that really need a professional look on the web, nothing says “cheap” like a templated Yahoo site though. If you need the web done right and don’t have a budget, go that route, but immediately start saving to get a real website up.

    My best advice is to get a good design, and limit your offerings to start off with. That’s the way Michael Laskoff did it for The Branded Asset Management Group – 2 years ago I did a one page site for him with a simple clean design. Now he’s got a fully functional site, that still uses some of the branding precepts that were established in that original design. http://tbamg.com/

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