Don’t spend a dime on a new website until you can answer these questions

You’re pretty sure you need a website (or a rebuild of your current site), but before you make the investment, make sure you have a solid answer to these questions…

What do I do and why do I do it?

It’s surprising how many small business owners struggle with a focused answer to “What do you do and why do you do it?” (Hint: a shoulder shrug and “cuz” is not an answer, heh heh.) This is not a criticism of small businesses. The fact of the matter is that once you’ve been in business for a while, it can be difficult to hit the rewind button and recall why you started a business in the first place. What problem were you trying to solve when you decided to go into business for yourself?

The reason you need an answer to this question before investing in a website is because it helps the web developer and copywriter with your story and your branding. Through design and copy, a good web developer can build trust, connection, and a relationship with your potential buyer if they have a solid answer to this question.

Who the hell is my buyer?

Again, if you’ve been in business for a while, you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, “Of course I know who my buyer is.” You’d be amazed how many blank stares we get when we ask this question — including when we recently asked it of ourselves. We know that we build websites for small businesses, but it was time to get a bit more granular than that.

Lots of businesses have a general idea of who their buyers are, but it’s important to break your buyers into groups, or what are called “buyer personas.” A web developer needs to know whom their design and copy is talking to. How does your buyer need the information on your website delivered? Do they need an immediate call to action when they land on your website, or do they need a little more social proof and story before they email or call you?

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What do I hope to accomplish with my online marketing?

New (and existing) businesses know they need a website, and so they start doing some research on the do-it-yourself options and more professional options, without analyzing what they want their website to accomplish. These goals can be modest – “I just need a digital business card to legitimize my business,” or they can be a little more complex – “I need to generate qualified leads.”

Having a list of three online marketing goals will help your web developer tremendously in designing a site that aligns with your goals.

What will my navigation look like?

This may be a question that you think will be answered organically, and sometimes it is. However, dedicating an hour to what web pages you need can pay off greatly in the end. You won’t waste time and money making this up as you go, but another reason this exercise has value is because of how your website delivers information.

Once you have your buyer personas in place, you should have a better idea of what your potential buyer is looking for, and where and when they are looking for it. For example, you may want to share a long history of your company, but maybe your would-be customer is less interested in that, and more interested in a specific service you provide. It really is about what your potential customer wants, and less can be more when it comes to the world of manic mobile searches. This can also save you money. You may think you need a 20-page site, but your personas may indicate you only need a five-page website.

Who is going to write the copy and provide the images for my new website?

Please, please, please, do not spend any money on a website until you can answer this question. I say this as your web developer friend. It’s heartbreaking to watch a new client get excited about a new and improved website and then have the project die off because there is no one to write the copy and/or there is no library of images to work with. We have seen this time and again. In fact, it’s why we designed our GOLD web package with copy-writing. We have a professional writer on staff to assist our clients with web copy. In this way, we can keep the bar moving on a new website and launch on time.

When it comes to imagery, just have an idea of what will work for you. Do you need to hire a professional photographer who can cast your products and services in the best light, or are you OK with stock imagery? Sometimes a hybrid of both is appropriate. There really is no right or wrong answer to this (although professional imagery does do a better job of telling your brand’s story), but it’s just important to be prepared to answer this question.

What is my budget?

Awwww. And there it is! The money talk. It’s an important question to ask yourself. Is your website responsible for generating most of your business? Maybe it should be a larger piece of your marketing budget. If you don’t have a marketing budget, maybe the DIY option is a better fit. Do you have the budget to pay for the project all at once, or would a subscription-based model work better for your budget?

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Once you can answer these questions, you are ready to start researching either DIY models or reaching out to web developers. Being armed with this information will make your website perform much better, as well as enable your developer to launch your new website on time and on budget.