I was speaking with a large Rental Company this morning in fact, and he said “I keep hearing from rental guys that things are up, and we’re finally in recovery – I just don’t see it though”. That seems to be the common question throughout our industry. “What upturn?”
OK, so you might read this and say “Duh… like I don’t already know that” and perhaps you do… just stop reading now. I do not intend to come off as an expert, only to apply whatever knowledge or experience I have on these topics towards helping others. I am going to do this in several Parts so we can keep each part focused on one topic, and keep the reading time reasonable.
So, the rest of you who DON’T already know everything, please keep reading. I’d like to offer you a few inexpensive or FREE ways to start your business on it’s upswing and when the economy recovers, you’ll be ahead of the pack.
For starters, if you haven’t already, start a website. I know, sounds obvious right? You’d be surprised. Step 1 in web world is to setup an account with a domain registrar. That is a company where you can register your web address otherwise known as a Domain Name. I chose Go Daddy only because they have the nicest looking spokes-models… well, it’s also cheap, and is very easy to manage. Expect to pay between $10 and $20 / year per domain name. Buying for multiple years will get you deeper discounts. That’s up to you. I usually book 2 years on each renewal.
If your company is called “Killer Lighting” you should try for KillerLighting.com, KillerLighting.net and believe it or not KillerLightingSucks.com or iHateKillerLighting. It’s not uncommon for someone in a dispute with your company to start a site for no other reason than to try and cause you pain. By owning these, you’ll make their efforts tougher. You may even eventually turn these domains into something positive or humorous. If your primary domain name is unavailable, find something similar but also easy to remember. Domains such as “killerlightingandproductionsinc.com” are silly. It’s too easy to type that wrong – and end up with “site not found”. That often makes the user say “screw it, I’ll go to 4wall.com – much easier”. Be wise with your choice. I am also against dashes (even though I have a site with a dash in the name – long story), and other characters in a domain name. If you need more help on a domain choice, please call or email me. I’m happy to advise.
Now that you’ve got your domain name, you need to locate a Web Developer. At GearSource, we spend approximately $200k per year on web development alone. I suggest that your business won’t revolve around the internet, but instead the internet will help to market your real business, lighting or sound production. At the same time, I wouldn’t suggest any of the do it yourself website offerings. You should budget between $5,000 and $10,000 on your initial site design and development for a quality site.
A few tips:
1. Avoid the use of technology – such as Flash – just for the sake of using technology. People are often impressed by flash animation, but it comes at a cost both financially, and from a performance angle.
2. Be sure that your site includes a simple CMS (Content Management System). This is your Site Admin – and allows you to update the content frequently. With all of the traffic building “tricks” available today, the best solution is still appropriate and well written Content!
3. Speaking of traffic, you will need a Web guy who understands SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and designs your site with SEO in mind. Unless you spend a fortune on advertising, people will find your site via search. Without SEO, they won’t find you – period.
4. Don’t try to make your site everything for everyone. I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve seen with jokes, music, news, etc. You want to promote your company. That’s all. Anything else is a waste of valuable space.
5. Include a “Sign up” field on your home page. Your goal is to start build a database of people who want to hear from you. This is called Permission Based Marketing. We will discuss Permission Marketing more in one of the next installments.
6. Unless you are a Retailer and plan to invest in e-commerce, don’t add product and prices to your site. It will serve no purpose other than to anger your vendors. Real e-commerce is a whole other animal and must be treated as such.
7. Did I mention Content?!!! Remember to always keep your site fresh. If someone visits your site, and the most recent news item is 6 months old – they’ll ignore you.
8. Market your site! We will cover some cheap or free methods of marketing your site later. Remember though, only part of your traffic will come in from search. You also want people coming in directly through your marketing efforts.
Hope this was at least somewhat helpful. If I told you I’ve learned a little about web technology, the associated costs, and how NOT to do things over the years, that’d be an understatement. We rely heavily on web tech – and while you may not be quite as reliant as we are, it has got to become a big part of your overall marketing effort.
See ya soon with more.