Mistakes to avoid if you're starting a new business
Over the last 15 years, Web Foundry have been lucky enough to work with an unusually high number of start-up companies and entrepreneurial organisations.
We’ve conceived websites and applications for every size of company, from large associations to one-man start-ups with limited budgets.
During this time, we have recognised many common mistakes that new and developing businesses make, ranging from not keeping a tight enough rein on budgets to failing to consult a laywer in the early stages.
Here we highlight the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.
You might not be surprised to hear that most entrepreneurs badly under-estimate the cost of taking their idea online and have a rose-tinted view about web development and online marketing generally. Getting it right takes more time and effort than one might think and you need to be prepared to test, iterate and test again.
Cash can be burned quickly, so focus on delivering a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that contains the core features that provides tangible benefits that your target market will value and potentially pay for.
We see a disproportionate effort (and cash) placed into the creative and build phases of projects leaving little for research and promotion. Real world testing and marketing are often afterthoughts and yet are the real keys to viability, sustainability and growth.
We like to remind our clients of the '£3 rule'. It’s simple: For every pound you make available for design and build, make another pound available for marketing and another for maintenance and upkeep.
Strategic marketing is all about understanding customer needs and fulfilling these profitably. Don’t assume you know what your customers want, make sure you ask them. Demonstrate your ideas and vision and learn about what matters most to them. What problems are you trying to solve? What is your solution worth to your customer? Marketing principles apply just as much in the digital world as they do on the high street.
Again we usually see this tagged onto the end of projects when it should be considered up front. How will you protect your idea? Your content, data or customers? Who will own the rights to your code, branding or ideas? Getting a competent lawyer involved at an early stage is essential.
If you’re handling card payments you will need to consider PCI DSS compliance, if you’re capturing and storing user data you also need to have clear policies on your website and more importantly, robust processes for handling and securing the data on your server in line with current data processing law.
You should also consider how you might deal with a disaster scenario, such as what if your web developer or host goes out of business? This is where good advice early in the process is invaluable.
Technology projects often run over budget and the bigger the project, the more complex and uncertain it becomes, then the risk is greater than ever.
Every year countless high profile web projects are shelved. This can be because priorities change or more often than not because the complexity and requirements spiral out of control.
Your project manager and choice of digital partner is key. They will need to work closely together to keep a tight rein on your budget. Payments to your agency partner should be staged on the successful completion of agreed project milestones and you will want to keep some contingency in hand for the unexpected, but inevitable ‘scope creep’.
Scope creep is the biggest enemy of cost control and can lead to disputes that draw the lifeblood and energy out of your project. You can avoid this (or at least mitigate its impact) by tightening up your requirements, ensuring early buy-in from stakeholders, meeting often with your team and releasing iterative versions of your site.
The web provides a level playing field, where great ideas can flourish and where small budgets and entrepreneurs can punch well above their weight.
Modern Content Management Systems (CMS) and development frameworks speed up the creation process, enabling faster working and prototype developments. You can often develop a well-polished prototype suitable for an investor meeting or research group session without outlaying huge sums.
Agile development and management methodologies can keep things moving along swiftly and the knowledge and quality of your core team (your web designer, technical lead and marketer) is the most important factor.
Working with someone who’s been there and done that for other start-ups can help you avoid the rocks and contribute invaluable ideas and suggestions.
Get in touch if you need a helping hand getting your start-up idea off the ground.