Going from idea, to fledgling startup, to a true small business is a complicated process, often predicated on the success of the company. We know how technology has changed doing business, but let’s look at how to use technology to give you an edge and help increase your chances of startup success.
A startup with a website that has a bad user interface (or worse, a bad user experience) is like a blog that looks like it was started in 1995 — no one will want to read it today. They’ll see that it looks horrible and unintuitive, and skip to the next option in their Google search.
As a startup, though, you might not have the budget to build a website, even if you have investors. That’s where building your own website comes in. It’s much cheaper than trying to haggle with a professional site builder. The problem, of course, is that you don’t know what you are doing when it comes to designing and building the actual pages, and are hoping that copying what other websites have done will be enough.
There’s a design review process that can help you determine what each page needs to do, and more importantly, how to do it. What metrics do you want to affect when building your website and your overall company? Are conversions more important, or revenue? Who is your audience? How are you going to blog? Have you made personas?
Let’s look at an example of using personas to dictate pages you create in order to draw in an audience. Wizards of the Coast, famous for their “Dungeons and Dragons” brand, also offers a popular card game, “Magic: The Gathering.” They use three primary personas when designing both the product and their marketing: Timmy, Johnny, and Spike.
Spike is competitive and enjoys winning, so Wizards offers an article on how to win in a specific style of tournament. Timmy and Johnny personas are more worried about how they win, than whether they win or not, so articles on mechanics of the game and player psychology are aimed at that audience. Having these articles on the site ensures the target audience doesn’t have to go anywhere else to get advice.
Now that you have the front-end content keyed in, SEO guru Rand Fishkin has tips on how to improve your back end in order to show up in Google searches.
The internet has other uses, as well. If you are starting a business that requires you to be on the phone – calling clients, dealing with suppliers or distributors – make sure you have a proper connection. This also ensures your employees can always be reached at the workplace, whether it’s your garage or a new office building.
Your cell carrier may only give you a single bar for your signal in your house, which could result in cutting out and dropped calls, which can in turn cause frustration and lost business when a client can’t reach your sales department. Consider instead using WiFi calling, which some companies offer free for their customers.
With a website, marketing personas, and easy communication, you’re ready to grow from a startup to a business. That means bringing on employees, perhaps from around the world. With a growing number of employees, you will likely need some sort of HR department. Put technology to work once again, instead of wasting paper, by on-boarding employees with e-signatures.
Your employees, current or future, can read whatever document HR needs them to sign on their smartphone, and sign the document using their own touchscreen. It’s a win-win for the environment and technology. Even more importantly, it saves you time in the fast-paced, cutthroat world of business.
The whip-smart R&D engineer from halfway around the world will be more tempted to join you if she can sign on her phone now and start earning a paycheck before her paperwork even arrives at the competition, giving her a better reason to accept your job offer instead of the competition’s offer.
Data and the cloud
Technology can help grow more than just your employee base; it can also grow your business as a whole. By integrating customer data into your business decisions, you can keep yourself well-informed of what customers want, how they are buying, and monitor customer satisfaction and loyalty.
You can monitor the effects of your marketing from earlier in the year, and adjust accordingly. Is your marketing campaign, for example, driving better sales, or creating too much of a bottleneck at the production level for your product due to demand? What will the public perception of the bottleneck be, and how can you use that to your advantage, like Tesla with its highly desirable cars that require a waiting list?
By answering these questions, specific to your situation, you can get a clear sense of your customer base in order to better appeal to your audience.
Speaking of clients, technology can make it easy to keep track of them, with all the information in the cloud. If you are having lunch with a major client, and their accounting information needs to be updated, you can simply use your phone to update the necessary details, all before the receipt arrives. Your client is set, and your accounting department has updated records so that invoices can be properly billed. Better yet, client relations are improved.
Utilizing the cloud also means the data is stored safely off-site, usually by a third party who ensures your data won’t disappear should something catastrophic happen, such as a break-in or a hack. This is also helpful for staying productive when you upgrade to a bigger office, as your employees will still be able to work remotely. You won’t have to backup your data as it’s already stored and backed up offsite.
From an idea of a website to marketing your services or product based on customer and client data, technology is helping startups succeed. In a world where a startup can be flash-in-the-pan, making millions and losing millions in the course of a year, embracing technology is key to outlasting the competition.