Post by Monica Flores, contributing Women on Business writer
I started my first website in 1999, when I was a contributing member of The Odyssey World Trek for Service and Education http://www.worldtrek.org. This is a “blog”-type site, where my teammates and I travelled to 30+ countries and did “posts” with audio, video, and stories of people working on different social issues in other countries and how schoolchildren in the U.S. could learn from them.
Since then, many more people have put up many more websites and blogs.
How do you stand out?
How do you make sure your business thrives, and your business website presence continues to truly represent you on the World Wide Web? How do you make sure your business gets in front of the people who can make a difference to you by buying your product, signing up for your service, joining your group, or becoming a part of your community?
As someone who helps my clients build their web presence through my own company, I think about these issues every day, and three overriding messages continue to surface, regardless of industry, experience, or revenue level. These aren’t so much “secrets” as they are common truths that are hidden away under the “hype” of having a new Flash widget, putting music and video on the web page, or setting up e-commerce.
The main thing is to share your “secret” knowledge in these three ways to help others:
1) For your Business Website: Be Authentic.
If you’re going to last as a woman in business, and you’re going to grow your business to the level you desire, you’re going to have to create more value for more people.
Part of doing this while maintaining your core values is to be authentic to yourself, your mission, and your vision…. as much as possible.
Retain people around you who share your vision and who are authentic themselves, and above all, do not “sell out” and turn into just another marketer.
There are plenty of opportunities for you to find the “right” people. In the last five years, I’ve been seeking to meet with clients for my web design business who are: women, minorities (African-American, Asian, Latina), green, and/or progressive. Finally (thankfully), those clients have been showing up and we’ve been building websites with a heart.
In our first few years, we were scattered and not focused on building the right client list for us. Now, looking back, I realize it’s taken courage and the ability to say no to people who we don’t fit with. I think in the long run, our focus on only saying yes to people we resonate with — and helping them build their own business– has made us happier, more productive, and more effective.
How can you retain authenticity in your own business?
Identify your core purpose through your business, and make sure that you display it prominently on your business website. We would anyone choose you? Not so much because you’re the cheapest, or the closest, or because they couldn’t find anyone else. People choose you because they resonate with you and your values *AND* because you are able to bring your company’s skills, knowledge, and products to help your clients/make your customers’ lives better/increase their productivity/make them money.
Example: Robin Moorad recycles office furniture in Berkeley through Imago Associates. Focused on this effort, she keeps it tightly focused on her core market and she’s built the business around what she believes. She is as authentic as possible, doesn’t beat around the bush, and delivers a valuable service. http://www.imagoassociates.com/6.html
2) For your Business Website: Keep it Real.
I’ve surfed to many sites that have a clickable dollar sign on them and a plea to “sign up for such-and-such secrets.” For many looking for a quick buck, this type of website will work, as long as web visitors read the ultra-fine print at the bottom of the page. There will probably be a mailing list and a number of increasing demands related to this type of website.
However, if you’re going to keep focused, keep building your business, grow organically and make it to your 1-year, 2-year, 5-year, 10-year mark and beyond, then at some point you’ll have to drop the “make a million dollars an hour” facade and focus on delivering true, measurable value to your customers. Keep it real.
Like Dizzy Dean said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”
If you can deliver it, do it, complete it, produce it, or make it, then keep it real and state your price, your terms, and your delivery dates. The valuation of your business will increase proportional to the number of customers who find value in your solution.
Here’s an example of a coaching site where the owner, Liz Agnew, “keeps it real”: she blogs solely about how to make your career and life better, and she does it in a way that truly shares her career (professional coach) as well as what it would be like to work with her. http://vgacoaching.com/
3) For your Business Website: Share what you Know.
I take the stand that the more you share of your knowledge, the better you will serve your customers. To me, this means that you share what you know about your field, about your projects, about your process, about trends that impact your clients, about special news, about your business. This doesn’t mean that you give away trade secrets or proprietary knowledge, but I do mean you share your personal knowledge about your field.
A great example of this is the Zappo’s CEO blog by Tony Hsieh.
He shares about the employees, about the company’s growth and development, stories from behind the scenes, and the good and the bad times within the niche market (United States footwear) they serve. Note that this company is on track to sell almost a billion dollars worth of shoes this year. If they can blog, so can you.
As another example, we are now offering many no-cost “gifties” to our customers and visitors, including a free 5-page downloadable and editable sample website, and a free, searchable e-download of my resource on building communities:
Sample Site by 10K Webdesign
When there is little start-up capital, it’s still important to do things well and to focus on what can be done right. As your business grows, you can then turn around and invest more into its growth by upgrading and adding new features.
There are no secrets to building a better business. It is a matter of finding the right product or service, the right customers, and the right way to deliver your goods.
Three ways to keep in mind, both within your business website but also through your general operations: Be Authentic. Keep it Real. Share what you Know.