First steps to marketing your business
Do I need a website, and where should I host it?
Getting your name out there will always be an essential part of starting a business. This doesn’t require a full page ad in the local newspaper; a unique domain name, some business cards, and maybe a website, is a great start.
- Get a unique domain name from namecheap.com, and setup your business email in Google G Suite.
- Have some business cards printed online from MOO or Vistaprint.
- Update your LinkedIn profile to let everybody know you are in business.
- Maybe setup a quick website, Wix and Squarespace are easy and have everything you need.
|Platform||Ease||Hosting Cost (USD)*||Features|
|Squarespace||****||16/mo||SEO, SSL, Support|
|Netlify||*||0/mo||Build it yourself|
|* lowest price without ads as of May 2018|
First, you need a domain name. Price varies depending on name and where you get it, but most aren’t terribly expensive and you’ll be more interested in the service your domain registrar provides, and how easy their tools are to use. I use Namecheap, the cost per domain is reasonable, the tools are easy, and two factor authentication makes it a little more secure. Of course, the relative pricing between registrars changes all the time so it might be worth checking out a couple real quick.
And since we have a domain name for our business now we should set up our business email. Again, something really easy and inexpensive that shows you are a serious professional.
I’m a big fan of G Suite you get email and then some, it’s only $5/mo and pretty easy to setup between your domain registrar and Google.
You might be thinking that in the digital age we live in business cards are a relic of a bygone era. Let me offer this small argument to the contrary in support of what is really a very minor investment in marketing your business. A well designed business card lends an air of credibility, it emphasizes that you are serious enough about your business to put it in writing, it is fast and easy to hand out (at least it should be, keep your cards handy!) when you meet someone in passing, and it serves as a physical reminder of your business (tossed on a desk is better than hidden away in a phone). Our intention here is to promote our business, not get a new friend’s digits in a crowded bar.
Plus, it is very easy to have good looking cards made these days. We have multiple options in online printing, and they provide a wide variety of well designed templates for your business card.
- Vistaprint is the standard. I’ve used them before, multiple options for size, paper, and finish.
- MOO is a bit more design forward. My current card was printed by MOO and I really love the heavy card stock. It is the more expensive option though, and if heavy card stock isn’t your jam you’ll definitely save money with Vistaprint.
If you aren’t a visual designer don’t waste your time trying to design the card yourself, and I’d hold off on paying for a custom design too. Just pick one of the many templates, keep it simple, and focus on actually getting the card in the hands of potential customers.
You might be ok for a little while with your business domain, email, a pack of business cards, and a good LinkedIn profile. As you get your name out there people will start to look for you online, eventually the LinkedIn profile won’t be enough to really show what you can do.
I’m sorry to say that early on your website isn’t going to help you find customers as much as you would like. It is more a case where not having it will hurt more than it costs to have it.
So what are your options for a starter website? Let’s look at difficulty and expense of building and maintaining the site for each of these common options.
Wordpress has some advantages. There are lots of themes and examples out there to provide inspiration, and there is plenty of community support available, wordpress is open source software and 30% of the web runs on wordpress. Wordpress.com keeps it all working for you and provides support. Minimal cost $4/mo for a custom domain with email/chat based support, $8/mo if you want to use premium themes (goes up from there if you want to use custom themes or plugins).
- Comes with SSL.
- Need a premium package to get their SEO tools.
- Live chat and email support included.
Wix has a really slick website creation tool that they call Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI). Their ADI system will ask you a few questions and create a site for you. You can then tweak the site for your needs all in their software (no coding required). The trick is it is a bit more expensive than wordpress, the entry level $5/mo plan shows ads, for $11/mo they remove the ads and will act as your domain registrar which saves you a little trouble (but not really any money given how inexpensive most domains are).
- Asks what type of business, and you select a style preference, then it creates the site.
- The site creation tool (what they call Artificial Design Intelligence or ADI) is slick, but editing the site after that is a little less intuitive (to me anyway).
- The editor is pretty easy to use once you get familiar with the interface.
- The site will come with example content, just edit it for your specific business.
- The base site is a single page design, separated into sections. It fits a design trend and gets the most relevant info on a single page so a visitor can easily scroll through.
- You can add more pages to your site, it will even make suggestions for pages to add and provide a variety of designs for each page type to choose from.
- Has support for blogging, if that’s a part of your marketing strategy.
- Support for the lower tier accounts is mainly through the web forum, higher tiers have VIP phone support.
- Images are easy to upload, and they provide a selection of free images as well as integration with shutterstock.
- Support for SEO.
- Comes with SSL.
Squarespace has a beautiful website and its templates are beautiful as well. Its entry level plan is $16/mo ($12 if billed annually) and no ads, 24/7 customer support. To me Squarespace felt the easiest to use.
- They will allow you to register a domain name through them, but it is $20/yr for a .com. Compare to Namecheap at $10.98/yr.
- They will set up G Suite for you if you like.
- The workflow is easy, sign up, choose your template.
- They create an example site with the template and you can delete or edit the example pages as needed.
- The editor is really easy to use and you can get started really quickly by just editing the text and images in the example site.
- It is easy to upload images from your computer. They have a search box to find images for your site if you don’t have any, but the image search feature in their editor goes to getty images, which requires a subscription to remove the watermark.
- They have a separate menu for changing design elements of the theme, like colors and fonts.
- The separation of design from content editing is nice, it allows you to focus on the content, but still see how it will look.
- It does have the ability to add custom CSS, but you probably won’t need it to get a site up.
- Also has support for blogging.
- Support for SEO.
- Comes with SSL.
- 24/7 customer support (worth repeating).
A static site on Netlify. Its free and fast and completely customizable, and doesn’t put ads on your site. The problem is that you need to know how to build a website. This is the developer friendly option, but if you have never made a site before you will want to pass on this (or pay a pro). The cost here is all in your time, and time is precious.
- Comes with SSL
- Low cost option for hosting a static website with great performance
Pay a pro isn’t a bad idea. You’ll get a website custom built for your needs, worth it in the long-run. I’d hold off for a bit though, you want your business to be growing enough to fully benefit from the investment.