Have you noticed that the formerly inch-thick Yellow Pages Directory is no longer delivered in person by someone sweating under the sheer weight of all that yellow paper?
Over the last few years, it’s gone from Sumo-sized to catwalk-lean to “you need to see a nutrition specialist”. Now it is about to disappear altogether. Almighty Google now Knows Everything, and that your website is utterly vital to getting your business known and respected, but…
Yes, a very big “But”. Time after time, we see start-up businesses making the same basic errors in their web and print presence. “We’re short of money - we can’t afford a swanky website”, they say. Agreed. However, you absolutely cannot squeeze the budget on your main route to market. Well, you could, but it is a prime example of “a false economy” - you avoid costs, but in doing so, you produce an image, look and “feel” that makes customers avoid you. (But you did save money)
We know what it's like since we've been through it. It’s a big step to pay out for professional web design, but, quite simply, you have no choice. Sorry.
Because it’s our industry, we have a sharp eye for basic errors. We’ve noticed five key ones the start-ups continue to make:-
DON'T Use a free email addressFree email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo are great for personal use, but that’s all. Tell your prospective clients to reach you via [email protected](etc) or [email protected] and you are immediately making a dramatic impression, but not of the right type.These addresses look teenagery and unprofessional. You may be operating from a lap-top in a spare bedroom, but you don’t need an address that suggests that you are.
Image is all. Your email address is part of your identity. Free email addresses are the “jogging bottoms” of business communication. Fine at home, but no good Out There. You need smart-casual cyber-attire, such as:-
- [email protected]
- [email protected]
Can we help? Yes - we can find good domain names and also set up your email accounts for you. Don’t damage your chances of success by using a bad email address. A good impression is not hard to create.
DON'T Design your own brand“Brand identity” is way, way more than a good logo or font. We almost misunderstood this ourselves. At Renoovo Design, we have experienced this when reviewing our identity. Outsiders to the business are your best friends here - they come without troublesome industry-sector-image baggage. After several weeks (yes, weeks) of designing our own logo, we decided to give the job to someone else. To be honest we were quite impressed at how the designer understood our message and turned it into a symbol. Why did they take so little time? Because they were blessed not only with design skill, but an external, unbiased view of our business.
There’s a nasty trap here. Some folks think that since they know how to use graphic designer software, they can design their brand image themselves. They try to be clever, and their identity ends up being a mix of different elements with no consistency throughout their artwork. Design skills are a gift which must be seasoned with rules and concepts understood by those who spend time studying it and have the experience. Despite the tools available, this is not a DIY job.
See our design expertise in our portfolio
DON'T Use a cheap SEO service providerThere are two main types of SEO companies: the good ones and the bad boys. There are more bad than good. Problem:- sometimes you won’t know who the bad ones are until it is too late. Here’s your chance to get your on-line identity sent to jail for a long time.
The bad guys will typically promise SEO deals guaranteeing one year of top ranking in Google. How? All they do is type in your website address and fire up a clever algorithm. This sends you an email with a list of what we call META tags that their clever software thought were best for your site according to your pages content. It sounds simple. There is no human input whatsoever. These solutions are designed to generate money quickly, but not for you. Furthermore,to generate more traffic they publish your website address onto thousands of free directories. These practices sound like they’re way out of date now but unfortunately some companies out there still use these methods.
Good news! Your site moves up the page rankings. Bad news - three months down the line your website has apparently disappeared to searchers. Why? Google bans websites for using "cheat" SEO techniques and they change their algorithm regularly. It used to be twice a year, now it’s more like once a month (if you don’t believe us here is a proof: https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change). This protects against fraud and ensures that only real content (written by real people) stays high up the rankings. These bad guys know they are using "black hat" techniques and run the risk of getting your site banned by the Search Engines. However, they never seem to lack clients who are deceived by their promises.
What do The Good Guys do? Hours of work with specialists who are interested in your business and what you do. They talk to you and visit to understand what you do in order to target the best keywords (search terms used by your online market). They set up advertising campaigns to help increase relevant traffic whilst boosting up your organic ranking. They write blog articles about hot industry issues. They publish your website onto industry related directories. They create a community of followers that are interested in what you do and they publish regular updates to keep the community alert. This is an “organic” (rather than “robotic”) approach to SEO which is based on a long term investment and ensures that your business stays honest online. It’s not cheap and quick. But it does work, and it won’t upset Google. You’ll stay out of “Google-Jail”. However there is a (monthly) cost to this. Our advice for startups is to do some of it yourself and outsource the rest.
DON'T Jump On the first Web Design DealOK, I give up! If you cannot appreciate the value of web design, go for cheap deals - it will be a truly educational experience. There are plenty out there that will offer you a website for £300 or less. However, once you realise their limitations and inconsistencies, call a professional. You will be £300 down, but you will have learnt a valuable lesson. (enters sympathetic mode) We understand that the cost of a professionally made website can easily overwhelm new businesses. We were once a new business ourselves. If you are only interested in having a holding page for now, we can help you achieve this by following your branding guidelines and still attract visitors. It will be low-cost, but it won’t look “cheap”. There is a huge difference.
Beyond this, a key question:- Is money spent on a website a cost or an investment to you? If you want to honour your standards of work, we advise you to consider looking at professional web design. It's an investment in your future success. It will provide you with a consistent corporate image and the flexibility of updating the content to reflect the state of your business.
We offer very good deals for startups and would love to help you achieve your goal.
Head to our portfolio to see how we have built beautiful websites for clients
DON'T Get Cheap PrintFinally, the often-forgotten subject of print. We have seen good websites and promising companies let down by cheap paper and ink creations. There are hundreds of print deals that will attract new businesses.
"100 business cards, at £10.79 including attractive offers”. What do you get for that? You can select a predefined theme and add your details onto it. Great! How do you know your neighbour hasn't chosen the same design? Also, they print it on the thinest, most foldable, cheapest quality paper to reduce their cost. There is, however, a hidden bonus, (but not for you):- you get the printer’s name at the back of your card. It's an excellent marketing strategy for them since it gets their name out to all kinds of networks.
I’m repeating myself. It is better to invest into a “quality look and feel” print. A card makes an instant impression - in some Far Eastern business cultures, the card is seen as an extension of the holder’s personality. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it can be simple and clear with a professional look to it. We can help you with all sorts of print. Wherever things can be printed, we can design them and print them for you.
See example print work we have done
This is roughly our “top five of ‘don’ts’''. It may seem brutal in places, but we have a heart for businesses to succeed by mastering the things they can control, so that they have time to deal with the challenges that they can’t control. We've been there, taken a deep breath when we’ve paid out for professional work, and we’re still here. It’s probably time to talk.
Written by Clement Gonnet, from Renoovo Design Ltd.