Adam Arbolino is the co-founder and CTO of DesignCrowd.com, a logo, web and graphic design marketplace.
Do you have a business idea keeping you awake at night? Are you putting it off because you think building the website is too much work or you don’t have the knowledge to do it? With the growth of open-sourced platforms and advent of ‘freemium pricing models’, the time to try is now.
The site I co-founded, DesignCrowd.com, grew from a garage office to a thriving marketplace with 148,000 designers, and businesses who have created $12 million worth of jobs, in just a few years by applying these ideas. Here are some pointers for entrepreneurs looking to start testing your concept or minimum viable product (MVP).
Step 1: Two is better than one
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely game. Web businesses with at least two co-founders, ideally a technical founder and a non-technical founder are more likely to get investment than solo-preneurs. You also have a partner to bounce ideas off and make fast, rapid decisions.
Start networking and find a co-founder who shares your vision, and brings skills that are different from your own. Two minds are better than one!
Step 2: Code, baby, code
Assuming you have an idea already, you’re now ready to start building your website. Now all you have to do is choose a programming language and build a MVP.
A good entrepreneur recognises that speed is key. With this in mind, choose a programming language that makes it easy to start publishing code. It’s also important that you try stick to programming language that run on UNIX. It’ll be the cheapest option to get a website off the ground. My personal favorites would be Java (Grails), Ruby (on rails) and PHP.
Step 3: Infrastructure and technology stack
A few years ago, this is where you would sink all your hard earned bootstrap cash – but these days our friends at Amazon have given you a bunch of free hosting and space to get your next venture launched at no cost.
Using Amazon AWS free tier you can get started on their platform without spending a cent. Plus, by the time you’re ready to expand into a paid service, your business should have some revenue trickling in the front door to justify the upgrade.
Step 4: Validate ideas – improve conversion
In my experience, there are three golden rules to building a booming business:
- The ability to execute or code your product
- The ability to scale it (infrastructure)
- The ability to drive user demand for your product through data analytics and testing to improve its conversion rate
So far we have ticked off the first two, but now we need to work out how to get smiles on our customers’ faces. The best way to do this is to turn your product into a honeypot for buyers.
One common myth amongst new entrepreneurs is a belief that most data-driven companies need to spend a small fortune on analytics software and build huge marketing teams. I strongly disagree; the only two weapons you need in your arsenal is a quality analytics package and a validation suite. Luckily, two of the best are free (to get started):
Google Analytics: No matter the size of your business, Google Analytics will help you sleep at night. It gives you all the tools you need to track user movement. It tells you what they’re doing, what products they like and helps uncover technical issues with your site.
Visual Website Optimiser: Now that you’re tracking your site end-to-end, you also need to track your conversion from ‘start to sale’ (what’s known as the conversion funnel). VWO gives you tools to A/B test your ideas and changes and lets you see what tweaks can capture sales/demand/revenue more successfully.
Step 5: Marketing and sales
You don’t need to be a marketing MBA to learn how to generate sales leads. Many social channels are free to use and help to drive traffic and sales.
Email is a direct digital channel with strong ROI, I strongly recommend MailChimp to start with. It lets you send 12,000 free emails a month to start marketing your business to registered users on your site.
Developing a solid SEO strategy will also help you grow your business’s digital footprint. You can create awesome content to pull users in, by blogging regularly on an SEO-optimised community blogging platform like WordPress.com.
Once you get the traffic visiting your site, you need to convert traffic by strong calls to action on your product pages, capturing quality database leads along the way. To optimise your site, WebSEO and Google Places are great.
You should now have some customers coming through the door, so you need to use a CRM system to manage them. Zoho gives you the power of tracking your customers and is perfect for any sales activity you need to get off the ground.
Step 6: Communication and management tools
By this stage, you probably have grown a bit and need to start tracking tasks/employees/where you parked your Lamborghini. Here are the perfect set of tools to keep tabs on everything in your business.
I’m no marketing expert, but in an online world that is driven by consumer demand and social content, you don’t need to be. Our company is living proof that you can build a strong online presence using the tips above, so start!
Image credit: Champion studio/Shutterstock