Lessons from an "internet-only" company

I meet lots of people who are disenfranchised with the web. They've had their fingers burned with a cheap website (or even an expensive one) that didn't produce results. They frequently come to the conclusion that the web just doesn't work, at least not for their industry, or they come to the conclusion that it's all just a big con.

This is a shame, and it's caused by the huge numbers of poor quality of web designers in our industry.

It is bad that people are having websites designed for them without understanding how the web really works. People assume that if they have a website, it will automatically start bringing in new prospects.

It just doesn't work that way, but most web designers don't correct their clients. It's just easier to take their money, knock out a website that looks half decent and move onto the next customer.

Before setting up OpenGlobal, I managed several of my own internet-only businesses. I know first hand that the web does work, and more so now than when I first started, it works for every industry.

Or at least, it can work.

I learnt the hard way what works and what doesn't work, and I learnt that the same rules do not apply to all industries.

Companies that only trade on the internet prove that the internet can work. But too many small and medium enterprises assume that just building a website will put them in the same league.

Lesson number one: your website by itself will attract no visitors, no prospects and no customers. In the same way that a brochure or catalogue doesn't bring in any customers if it's sitting in a box in your office, a website won't either.

You can spend thousands of pounds having huge adverts printed, but if they end up sitting in your office rolled up in a tube, you can't complain that billboard advertising doesn't work.

But that's what the vast majority of small businesses do with their website.

Most web designers are analogous to printers printing your billboard posters. You can't just build a website and leave it sitting on the internet doing nothing.

I've even heard of some web designers who don't submit the websites to the search engines. The websites are live, but literally nobody can find them because the search engines don't know about them.

Just building a website will do nothing.

And unfortunately, you can't pay a web designer to do it all for you. Even OpenGlobal, who specialise in website management, cannot do it all for you. You need to make your website part of your business, just as your marketing strategy is part of your business. You don't entrust your entire marketing strategy to an external company. No matter how much you outsource your marketing, you still need to understand what is happening, and you still need to provide input and give the go ahead for everything.

Your website is the same. Internet-only companies can be successful because their website is the entire focus of their company. It's not just a peripheral piece of marketing for them, it is the business.

You cannot create an internet-only company with an off-the-shelf website. An off-the-shelf website will do nothing for your company. In fact, an off-the-shelf website will not only be a complete waste of money for any company, it could actually lose you customers. Yes, these days, a bad website can lose you customers that you would have kept if you had no website at all. Some people are put off by bad websites.

The websites of internet-only companies are updated constantly. At least once a day, more likely several times an hour.

Your website needs to be treated seriously. You need to keep it up to date and you need to tend to it and keep it working for you. I'm not saying make it the core of your business. Just make sure that it is a key part of it. Use it as a way of getting news, information and offers out to your clients and prospects.

An out of date website is no good to you. It's just a waste of money. So make sure you can update it when you need to. Your website is about you, so you can't rely on an external web designer to keep it up to date. Only you understand your company enough to ensure that your website reflects your company correctly.

And of course, be careful whom you take advice from. You wouldn't take financial advice from someone who's just a broker, you'd take it from someone who is actually investing their own money themselves. A broker just needs to understand enough to sell the products, but an investor who's investing his own money needs to know what works and what doesn't in order to survive. Use the same wisdom with your website. Take advice from people who manage their own web-only companies, those who have to truly understand the web in order to survive. Don't take advice from someone who just builds websites for other companies.