Being your own boss isn’t easy, but often the perks outweigh the challenges. As the owner and founder of your company, you always get to make the difficult decisions about budget and the needs of your business. If you are an online-focused business, one of the many things you’ll need to do is strategically plan your web development needs. We often get questions from our clients about this, and wanted to take the time and point you in the right direction.
Without a clearly understood web development plan, it’s easy to fall into the habit of just winging it, or focusing on the wrong things. A design that looks nice but ranks badly for SEO, or that makes it hard for people to sign up or purchase, could destroy a business that depends on online sales.
Here are our tips to help you manage your web development from the get-go.
As an entrepreneur, you should plan on spending at least 10% of your annual revenue on #webdevelopment. #techtuesday @LinkingArts
This means that if you have 200,000 in sales, at least $20,000 should go towards your online tech needs. If that seems like a lot, google it. It should really be more.
But what if you can’t allot this high a percentage? I get it. Not everyone has the budget for tech, but if you are an online business you must factor this into your yearly expenses. Remember that your online sales drive your business. Your web site IS your business.
Ask yourself, if I took down my website could my business still achieve growth in the next year?
By setting aside 10%, you also give yourself and your developers enough money to work with in case you have some emergency tech needs.
Start thinking of your business as tech-based business
Do you have a brick and mortar store? Are you selling half of your products online and the other half in your store? If you are dependent on online sales, then you have a tech business.
Many companies don’t see themselves as tech companies, which is a mistake. Even if you didn’t just launch a new app, it’s important to look at the engine that’s driving your business.
- Are you an ecommerce platform?
- Can customers come to your site and purchase your products?
- What percentage of your sales come from your online store?
- What overhead are you paying towards online vs offline sales?
These are important questions to answer. Shifting your thinking in a way that allows you to start seeing yourself as a tech enabled business helps you rethink your web development needs and plan better.
If you were a coffee shop, would it make sense to cut corners procuring the best coffee beans and espresso machine?
Of course it wouldn’t.
People come to you because you offer some of the best coffee in town. What about if your cash register didn’t work right, would you fix it? Buy a better one?
Your webstore is your online cash register. Make sure it works and works well. People come to you for your products, and they want you to make it easy for them to order those products both on and offline.
Know your market
We often work with clients who come to us and want to be the number 1 in their local market. While it’s great to be goal oriented, it’s also important to know and understand your market.
Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself:
- How has my niche changed in the past 1, 5 and 10 years?
- How can I offer something unique to this market?
- How can I use technology to enable me to do that?
- How are my competitors using technology?
- When was the last time I updated my website, or the online services I offer?
For example, one of our clients started out as a brick and mortar clothing shop. She then went on to build out a fully integrated commerce store, increasing her profits with online sales by several orders of magnitude.
But it didn’t end there. She needed to improve the checkout experience. She needed to improve her site content and cultivate a long-term SEO strategy. She needed ways to automate her inventory and connect it with the site. She needed a way to batch-update her stock each season. And she didn’t budget for any of these things, she just thought, “we need eCommerce.” So although she grew substantially, she never achieved the level of success she could have. Every expense was unanticipated, stressful and a battle in more ways than one. And we couldn’t help her if she didn’t have budget available for us to do any work.
It’s been a few years since we built out her store, and time has only confirmed to us that it’s crucial for businesses to understand the ever-changing needs and landscape of an internet strategy, and that online businesses take maintenance, ongoing assessment, and investment. You get out what you put in.
Running your own business has its challenges, but being prepared to handle the web development piece of your business is crucial. It’s important to understand that setting aside a realistic tech budget will give you a competitive advantage. It also helps to think about your business as tech based, especially if that’s where a significant percentage of your revenue is coming from.
Developing a clear and at least medium-term web strategy is crucial to maintain and grow your enterprise. Having a realistic understanding of what’s involved in running an online business will help you differentiate yourself from your competition and increase your value to your customers.