A website is an essential part of your digital marketing strategy. It’s your online business card. It’s where people come to find out what you’re all about.

But is it the first thing you should invest in when starting a business?

Here are some questions to ask before you invest all that time, effort and money into your first website.

How clear are you about your business purpose?

When I built the first version of this website, I had no idea what my business purpose was. Was a I business coach, a consultant, a copywriter? I knew I had something to offer my clients and, in fact, I felt I had SO much to offer that I couldn’t see the forest for all the trees that were my skills.

When I finally wrote my business plan it was for a copywriting business and so my website had to change. I developed a range of packages for my clients, I got some testimonials and felt that I had created a cohesive online presence.

About twelve months in, I realised that copywriting as a stand-alone service wasn’t really my thing. I was providing mentoring and training to my clients, as well as beginning to do some website development. Once again my whole website had to be rewritten.

Do you have a business plan?

When I built my first website, I did not have a business plan. Or any plan. Just a bunch of ideas in my head about what kind of business I might want.

This was a mistake, because once I did write a business plan and had a clear marketing strategy, I realised that it was not matched by my website at all.

[Tweet “Your marketing strategy needs to drive your website development.”]

Your marketing strategy needs to drive your website development. It will determine your website structure and its content. You need to know how you want visitors to use your website, how to move through it and what you want them to do when they get there. Is your website going to be a “brochure” type website or will it be an online store? Will you be providing any digital products, such as ecourses and webinars? Will your site need a members only section, a forum or a chat function?

How clear are you about who your business will serve?

Your website is structured and written for your ideal client, not for you.

When I first meet with a client I ask them all about their business, their clients and their services. I ask them, “What problems do you solve for your clients?”, “How do you serve your clients?” and “How do you want to be perceived by your clients?”

It’s unlikely that you will be able to answer these questions without being really clear about who your clients are – their demographics, socio-economic details and their reasons for wanting your products/services.

When creating your website you need to be able to speak directly to your clients’ wants, problems and desires, so unless you are perfectly clear on these, you are not ready for a website.

Are you whole-heartedly committed to your business name?

Do you love your business name? Will you be trading under your own name? Or are you really quite ambivalent about what to call your business?

Ideally, your business name should match the domain name, or URL, of your website. If you build a website on one domain and then decide that your business name needs to change for whatever reason, there will be costs involved in transferring that website to your new chosen domain. It will also take time and effort, as some of the content will need to be changed to match your new business name.

If you’re trading under your own name, building your website on your name’s domain is the simplest answer, because even if your business changes, your URL doesn’t have to.

Do you have any clients?

You might think that before you can get any clients you need to have a website to attract them with. That is just not true. One of the first things people look for on a business website is social proof. What do others say about you? What success have others had with you? You can’t show that on your website without having any previous clients.

So before you build that website, get some clients. They don’t even have to be paid ones. Send out some feelers to your friends, relatives and through social media and offer your services for free, or at every discounted rates, in exchange for a testimonial.

Working with real life clients will also help you to clarify your thinking in regards to all of the other points above. You might find that the service or product you offer is not right for your target market. Or that you want to change your target market. Or that you want to change your business purpose.

So before you rush in and hire a web developer, or start building your own website, ask yourself, “Am I really ready for this?”, “Am I really clear on what I’m trying to achieve?” and “Do I know what a website should do for me?”.

If you’d like to discuss your website needs, or get a second opinion on whether you’re really ready for a website, contact me today to arrange a free, no obligation, strategy session.