After reading 10 Things All Entrepeneurs Fail At by TechCrunch's James Alutcher (and resisting the English teacher inside of me wanting to correct the grammar mistakes in the title), I thought of a couple of mistakes I've made and seen others make when putting their new business venture on the web in the form of a website and/or a social networking profile.
The first is underestimating the importance of an online presence. I went through my local coffee shop's drive-thru earlier this week, and while I was waiting in line, I decided to look them up online. I was stunned to see that they really have no online presence. They're in a few directories developed by other people, but they don't have a website or any sort or any social networking profiles that I could find. Needless to say, I'm working on a proposal (I wonder if they would let me do the job for free mocha frapps...hmm). But I digress.
One of the first things people do now when they discover a new business, or when they're checking out a new business, is LOOK THEM UP ONLINE. If they're a local business, people expect to be able to see the hours of operation and a map to nearby locations. People are also hoping to look at a menu of the products, and maybe even a discount. In many cases they'll be using their mobile devices to do this. Any business that hasn't taken charge of its own online reputation by having at least their basic contact information listed online in an easy-to-find and use format is missing the boat.
The other mistake we all tend to make when we're starting a new business, and caught up in the excitement of seeing our first website (and showing all of our friends), is that we might overestimate how much business we're going to get from that website. Somehow we tend to imagine that there are millions of people just sitting out there with a void in the shape of whatever we're selling that are going to be so happy that we finally opened for business and put up a web page or a Facebook profile. Maybe that will happen, but just in case it doesn't (ahem), it's important to remain realistic about the purpose of our website and the goal of our online efforts.
Sure, if you really study and implement good search engine optimization and you have a business that is geared toward online commerce, you may see a lot of profit just from the online traffic you generate. For most local businesses, however, the website and/or social networking profile is the new yellow pages ad: You must have one so that people will know you're legit, but the traffic you're going to get solely from there will be a small percentage of your overall profits.
Have a great weekend, everyone!