Eric Huber of Blue Zoo Creative joined me for lunch yesterday and we got talking about the problem of the unplanned website. Eric shared a surprising question that he asks new clients in order to get their sites off to a well-planned start.
Now, Blue Zoo works largely with the 40% of small businesses that don’t yet have a website, getting them online and up to speed for the modern business environment. We work mostly with design firms that don’t keep copywriters and SEO pros on the strength, and with client companies that want better results from their existing websites. Our typical client conversation can be summarized like this:
“We thought our website would do X, but it doesn’t.”
“Here’s what will fix that. And may we show you some other things similar businesses have done with their websites, that you might not have known yours could do?”
Eric makes sure to ask his clients, “Where do you plan to be in five years?”
This classic job interview question not only gives Blue Zoo the high-level vision they need, it also identifies some kinds of people who aren’t quite ready to plan their wesbites:
- People with unrealistic expectations. Do you think that you can set up a few autoresponders and in five years you’ll be sitting on the beach sipping Mai Tais while the millions roll in? The correct term for this sort of person is not “businessperson,” it’s “mark.” That’s a whole other section of the internet community.
- People who plan to fail. We meet people who want to spend a very small amount on their website and see how it works. If it does well, they figure, they’ll make a real investment. We used to help these people. The problem is, a tiny investment will only get you tiny results, if any. It was possible at one time to set up a free business site and go from there, but now your customers expect a professionally designed site, the search engines will ignore poor content and code, and your homemade website won’t work any better than a hand-lettered poster board would work as signage for a brick and mortar business.
- People who don’t yet have a business. A website may be the first step for your new business — after all, you need the web address to put on your business cards. However, we sometimes meet people who know that they want to be in business but aren’t yet sure just what they want to do. Nothing wrong with that. However, the website for a cleaning service should look different from the website for a restaurant, so it makes sense to decide what direction you’re going in before you build your site. Check out SCORE or the U.S. Small Business Development Center for some tools to help you with your decision making.
If you’re past that point but want to do some more deep thinking before you have your site designed or optimized, check out 100 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website.