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Brian Cuda: Make sure your site works for you

It’s all geek to us

Posted: April 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

A few months ago, a potential client, we’ll call him “Bill,” came to me for a proposal on an e-commerce site.
Bill’s primary business was failing because of the economic conditions, and he was looking for a way to supplement his lost income.

Bill’s idea was to sell a widget online via an e-commerce site, which would allow customers to buy the product and then Bill would have the items shipped directly from his supplier. This item had done well for him in his retail location, and he figured he should offer it online.

My proposal to Bill included the usual items: domain name, hosting, site design, payment gateway integration, social-networking promotion and search-engine optimization services.

He reviewed the proposal and indicated that my presentation was good, and the price within budget, but that he had received a proposal from another firm, and it didn’t include optimization or any mention of marketing or social networking.

Bill had been operating a local retail shop for many years; he knows what it takes to attract customers to his store and sell products. He wanted to pay me to simply build the site and was confident the “customers would come.”

I explained to Bill that building the site is just half of the project. If a site isn’t found in the first few pages of search results, on banner ads, or promoted through social networking, sales would be minimal or nonexistent.

After our conversation, Bill realized that his site budget needed to include online marketing to be successful. So, he reviewed his business plan and decided not to move forward with the site at the moment.

Crushing the spirit of an excited entrepreneur is not fun, but watching him lose money on his endeavor would have been worse. I have encountered many entrepreneurs like Bill, and I’ve diagnosed them with the “If You Build It” syndrome.

You may remember the movie “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner about a farmer who hears a voice that whispers to him, “If you build it; he will come.”

In the movie, Costner’s character almost loses his farm building a baseball field where the ghosts of Chicago White Sox players appear and start playing baseball.

Entrepreneurs like Bill often view the Internet as a magical baseball diamond where customers will just appear. They see it as a place where common business sense doesn’t apply. Their main symptom is a belief that if you just build a site, customers will come.

Bill was optimistic about his ability to sell his product online, because he saw others succeed and believed that the pool of potential customers was exponentially greater than the population of Santa Clarita.

However, he failed to learn the steps that were taken to get traffic to those successful sites. He also forgot that the competition pool was exponentially greater as well: Instead of five local competitors selling his product, there were millions.

Lessons can be learned from Bill and others with the If You Build It syndrome. Many of the same rules of business apply when starting a venture online. It takes hard work, time, money and planning to make the business successful.

Brian Cuda is co-founder of Conceptinet, a website design, development, hosting, social media and marketing firm located in Santa Clarita and can be reached at (661) 338-0830  www.conceptinet.com. Mr. Cuda’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. Readers can submit questions to: brian@geek2us.com.

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