When I noted that I had just reached my 25 year anniversary of being an online consultant, with that came a slew of congratulatory emails and good wishes. Along with a question that kept being asked…
What's Your Single Best Piece of Advice?
It's tough to get down to just one thing in an arena with so many variables. But I'll share an overview and what I think is the most critical thing you can do to enhance your chances for online success.
The other questions asked repetitively about what I've experienced over the last quarter century:
QUESTION: Has it become impossible to keep up?
No — but it does take work and commitment. Don't keep up and you'll literally be left behind on so many levels.
QUESTION: How am I supposed to compete on a small budget?
Rather look at it as what is the budget you need to compete.
QUESTION: How do I avoid investing in things that are here today; gone tomorrow?
None of us know how long a trend, product, website or software will last. All you can do is make the best decision at that point in time on what you need to succeed.
Keeping up is mandatory…
Hello, Judith: I have a website with the same design for about 6 years now. I know I need to update but I just don't have the budget for a new site. My last web designer ripped me off and is nowhere to be found. Do you have any suggestions on how I may be able to improve my search engine rankings so I can make more income to afford a new site? Thank you for your time!
Cart before the horse. You cannot sell visitors with an outdated looking website. And if you still have the same design, what else have you not been keeping up on? Socials, networking, SSL, CDNs? You get the idea.
Every business model and market has different demands and requirements. Depending on the saturation, competition and potential available market you have to rise to that occasion.
What you have to do and spend is unique to every website. And, actually having a “unique” website helps — a lot.
You Need to Compete
What is clear is that online is the playground of rabid competitors, hard workers and smarty pants. Regardless of what T.V. commercials will have you believe, just putting up an inexpensive nice looking basic website is only the first step. A baby step.
Having a stale design certainly is not competitive nor would having a new design in of itself improve your rankings. Design aside, if your content is shallow and stale, even the best design will not produce.
Wanting to do the least amount possible while expecting the most results. That doesn't happen online (or in any off-line business for that matter).
Investing in Change
A common thread is the hesitancy to even try to keep up with technology. Many mention their concern that by investing in WordPress today, they will have to reinvest in the latest greatest new thing down the road.
I get that. The only thing consistent about online is change.
While the latest online “tricks” (no such thing) or tools are constantly changing, I can assure you that WordPress has gained steam for well over a decade now and is still going strong. I have every single one of my websites on WordPress and will use WordPress for any new sites still on the drawing board. So check that excuse off the list.
WordPress isn't going anywhere — but up. Your WordPress website is an investment worth making now because the longer you wait, as with all things online, the more catch-up you will have to play. If not in the design aspect but in the branding, positioning and exposure arenas.
“So? Chop-Chop! What's Your Best Advice?”
It's pretty simple. Do your homework. Know those you trust and only trust those you know.
One thing I've learned in running my own businesses and websites is that I can't do everything on my own. There are products and services I will require to succeed where I need to trust their quality and support.
If I had a dollar for every horror story relayed to me about hosting companies, plugins that are not supported and developers that fall off the map, I would be retired.
You Need Partners; Not Vendors
If you have a great idea, a unique idea, and the work ethic to make it happen, you will have to rely on others to assist you. There is just no way to completely DIY your whole project.
Even after 25 years I have a tight knit group of folks I know I can rely on when I hit a wall. I also stick with those products and service who have proven the test of time. When I don't have to worry about my products and services working; I then have the time to run my business.
From ancillary services, to networking, to advertising, social media and hosting — don't buy the hype, don't make decisions on cost alone. For goodness sake don't buy into the quick, fast, cheap and easy claims of success.
They simply don't exist.
Do not take advice from websites or unknown individuals simply because you perceive they know more than you. Or if they just so happen to be saying what you want to hear.
Take the time to vet the services and tools you are looking to use. Make sure they have a positive history. This is he only way to determine if you will be able to trust and rely on them for the long haul.
Look at all your service providers as partners in your business' success. Partnerships will benefit your bottom line more than the product or service that gives you a low-ball price today and no support or reliability in the future when you need it.
Time for Due Diligence
Know what you want, find those companies you can trust and go for it. When you have partners you can trust on your team you will exponentially increase your chances for success.
Of course providers have their own interests at heart. But by doing your due diligence, you not only don't waste critical time making mistakes, you also save money by not spending it in areas that are not necessary or effective.
That is why it is so important to investigate your potential partners to make sure they are trustworthy, ethical and reliable.
You've heard the saying “consider the source.” Do just that.
Legit or Not?
I get asked about statements on made on other websites regularly. Don't let information that goes against the necessary and required investment and hard work required to succeed online override your common sense.
If the source has no longevity or lacks credibility; don't pay attention. Experience and trust can only be gained after years of walking that walk. Success isn't instantaneous (even if your website is on WordPress).
Remember that old State Farm commercial… “They can't put it on the Internet if it isn't true.” with the creepy date that's a “French Model”. That commercial was effective because is makes a valid point.
Many folks believe what they see online purely because it's online. Don't be that person.
When it comes to your online business project, taking the time to learn just enough to know who has your best interests at heart is time well spent. Being able to discover when you are just getting a sales pitch is crucial. Your gut will tell you the difference — follow it.
Here are a few things I do when investigating a new business partner:
- First, I review their site and FAQ. If the site is brochureware (a handful of pages with generic blah-blah-blah) that draws concern for me. There is no reason to not have every bit of information a potential customer may want front and center on a website.
- Next, if I am satisfied with the amount of valuable information on the website, I'll email to see if I get a prompt and courteous response. This gives me an window into what I can expect if I decide to trust them with my business.
- Before I make the final decision, if possible, I talk to them on the phone to get a feel for their genuineness, personality and support levels.
- I also look up their domain name at a WHOIS lookup to see how long they have owned their domain. This is a good indication of how long they have been in business.
- I search for the company name to see what is out there including on social media. Good, bad and indifferent.
- If I am making a major investment I will also check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged. I'm not a fan of the BBB, but this is another way to see if any patterns are forming.
Taking the time to cover the above can help you find the right partner to work with and that you can trust. If you cannot get a warm fuzzy regardless of how tempting the sales pitch is, walk away.
Every day, I see the “big name” companies and fly by nights alike take advantage of what their customers don't know to get into their pocketbooks. Who is at fault here? Both sides.
- The big name companies for relying on what their customers don't know as part of their business model and the fly by nights by being only interested in getting into your pocketbook and then they're done with you.
- And the customers, who are unwilling to learn enough to know they are not getting what they need to succeed or what they thought they paid for.
Once you find partners you can trust; from hosting to applications to development and post-launch support, you are then free to do what you do best because you know your six is covered. Running and growing your business.
You'll discover that is a pretty liberating feeling.
At your service,