Run your own website
Promoting your business online is important - sign up for a content management system and keep your website up to date.
You don't want to call your designer every time you want to add something new.
I hate being held to ransom. And I'm sure you do, too. But that's the scenario you're creating when you hand over your website to a web designer or developer and relinquish control over when and how you can change your content.
It's important to keep your website content dynamic and fresh so customers and prospects will return to check out what you are doing and find out about new products and services.
That means you need to be able to change your content whenever you want. You don't want to have to call your web designer/developer every time you want to add something new. Apart from the fact this process is inefficient, it can be costly if you want to make regular changes to your site.
That's why I think it's vital for small-business owners to use their own content management systems (CMS). My recommendation is to initially use a designer to create the overall look but after that you at least want to be able to change the text on your website whenever you want.
For example, if you decide to offer a special price on an item because you need a sudden boost to your cashflow, you don't want to be beholden to someone else to make that change on your site.
So the million-dollar question is: which CMS should you use? There are so many to choose from, ranging from free open-source CMSs to ones that require a monthly subscription, which often includes hosting.
Compared with what it used to cost to create and host a website, these are very affordable. For example, GoodBarry starts at $47 a month. While using free solutions may sound appealing, the old adage is true - there is no such thing as a free lunch.
If you are planning to use a free CMS, such as Wordpress, Drupal or Joomla, expect a steep learning curve and a lot of time poring through forums and blogs trying to figure out how to insert that picture just the way you want.
On the other hand, monthly subscription-based models can offer more flexibility. While you might baulk at being tied to a monthly subscription, the benefit is this is usually accompanied by technical support - so you can call or email for help. Services such as GoodBarry and Interspire not only provide a CMS but also automated email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) and e-commerce in the same application. This integrated approach is vital for those who want to track and analyse customer data in one system.
Previously, you might use Aweber for email marketing, ACT for CRM and 1Shoppingcart for e-commerce - your customer data is all over the place and harder to consolidate.
When you are considering which CMS to use, I recommend research. Talk to other business owners about their experience with the system.
I was almost going to sign on the dotted line with a certain CMS. Fortunately, investigative journalism instincts kicked in and I contacted some businesses that were touted as happy users.
This was certainly worthwhile as I received a scathing review of the system from one and discovered some of the others did not even use the system.
I've invested hundreds of hours researching various CMSs and have trialled several options. GoodBarry looks like it has the goods. It seems to offer everything a small business could want so I've taken the plunge.
After a couple of months tinkering in the back end of GoodBarry, I've been fairly impressed. But the proof will be in the pudding when one of my businesses goes live with it later this month. So do I recommend it? It's too early to say. Ask me in a few weeks.
Sydney Morning Herald