It’s never been easier to set up your business online
But what’s legit, what’s BS and what’s a scam?
This weekend I went to a BBQ and got talking to a business owner who found themselves in a tricky situation with their marketing. They had paid someone to set up their website and they noticed that their emails weren’t being delivered. They had no login to their website, their own business name didn’t show up in search engines and the email issue seemed to be linked to a blacklisted domain.
It pains me to see people in this position. I work with larger businesses, but I am always happy to chat to micro businesses owners about marketing over a quick coffee or Zoom. It’s never been easier to set up your business online, but it’s not always clear what’s legit, what’s BS and what’s a scam.
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Here’s what my micro-business coffee chat usually covers:
I’ve worked with very successful businesses that had no visual branding at all or a very outdated logo. In all cases they had an amazing product, great service and loyal customers who recommended them. When it came to developing their visual brand and messaging, they already had a strong sense of who they were. I’ve also worked with some visually stunning brands with absolutely no substance.
With this in mind, start small and basic with your brand:
A business name that explains what you do and is easy to mention in conversation or type into a search engine
The business name should be available as a web domain, plus you need to secure the social handles and do a quick Google search to check for trademarks, duplicates and scandals
Think about where your customers will see your brand - Does it need to work in a large format on your van or signage? Does it need to be easily photocopied on paperwork?
If you pay someone to create your logo, this is your intellectual property so make sure you get the original design files
You can even play around with Canva to create a logo, just don’t infringe on anyone else’s copyright and keep it very simple
When it comes to brands, simple and to the point is better than fussy and complex. Please do not spend £1000s at this stage, your brand can evolve over time.
Before you even think about getting a website, make sure you own your domain (in my case this is intothewoodsmarketing.com). I use GoDaddy and I have this on auto-renew so there is no risk of losing it. If someone else manages your domain, make sure you have access to the login. Like your logo, this is your intellectual property.
Once you own your domain, you can set up your emails. I avoid Google but this is an easy option, as is Microsoft Office. It can be fiddly setting it up but there are plenty of tutorials online.
If you need a simple website which says this is who I am and what I do, then a basic Wordpress.com template is £36 per year. This is what I started out with, and I’ve upgraded over time.
And if you’re selling online, then Shopify is a very easy and affordable option used by loads of online retailers.
If someone is building a website for you, you’re trusting them with a HUGE business asset, so do your due diligence. You’ll need access to the CMS (content management system - so that you can edit the text). Your web developer should be open about their credentials, how your website will be hosted and what happens if something goes wrong.
A few years ago, I did some coding classes on Treehouse which I recommend for learning the basics of how websites work. This is handy if you’re working with a developer and you feel as though they speak a different language.
SEO (search engine optimisation)
I avoid Google but I would still advise you to set up Google My Business which will help people to know that you exist and are legit when they search for you online.
It’s worth doing a web search of your business name from time to time to see what comes up. If your website and social handles show up in the results - great! If you’re getting bad reviews, then you need to take ownership, investigate and respond. If nothing is showing up, then you have a problem and you need to talk to your web developer or website builder/host (eg Wordpress) to find out what’s going on. You may need to call in an expert if this happens.
There’s a whole marketing industry designed around optimising your business to appear in online searches for your industry or product, eg marketing agency in Nottingham. This is a huge subject. I would recommend getting your website up and running first before jumping into SEO.
You need to be on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, right? No.
If you’re going to be on social media, you need to be where your customers are and be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit to it.
My plumber is active on the Next Door app as his customers recommend him through there and that works for him. My hairdresser shares photos of her work through Instagram and that works for her. My window cleaner isn’t on social media at all because his business is all through word of mouth.
This is all very brief, like I said, a quick coffee’s worth of advice, but hopefully just enough to steer someone in the right direction.
As for my friend from the BBQ, it looks as though I’ll be helping them to move over to Wordpress and we’re looking at a new domain name. Ouch.