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How to avoid the sort of crazy website launch that’ll have you reaching for the wine and chocolate

One of the best strategies for succeeding in the world of online startups is by starting small (or lean, which is the fashionable team at the moment. But I use the word small. It’s straightforward and it doesn’t remind me of dieting). Here’s why: An over-complicated or over-ambitious launch becomes muddled, it confuses your customer base, and most importantly it will take away all the confidence you have in yourself and what you are selling. It’s really easy to avoid over-complicating things and I’ll go through some of the main stuff to avoid:

  • Selling too many products or services. Here’s the thing. Market research was vital in the pre-internet days when startups needed thousands of pounds of investments and were therefore high risk. An online business doesn’t need thousands of pounds and it isn’t high risk. By starting small and limiting the items you sell, you’ll gather the perfect market research. What sells well? What product doesn’t interest your customers? Stop guessing and start studying your customers.  Do this before you invest thousands, and you’ll have a much better chance of your business succeeding.
  • Spending thousands of pounds on advertising: here’s why too much advertising can be bad. You don’t know who you are selling to. You might think you know, but until you launch and you start getting sales, it is simply a guess. You could end up wasting thousands advertising to completely the wrong market segment. So start small.
  • Producing complex solutions. If you are creating something technical, such as a new piece of software, you may have a grand vision in your head about what that is going to look like and why your customers are going to love it. But creating software can be an expensive and time consuming business. If you get it wrong, you will alienate your customer base and it will be very difficult to recover from that. Limit your initial development, pull back on your ambitious vision, and see how customers react to your offering. You could find that they don’t want all of the expensive things you had planned to put in there. Actaully, that is pretty likely as a lot of customers prefer simple solutions over complicated ones.
  • Producing a complex website: So all these points equally apply to your website. I have seen so many websites launched with dozens of menu options, numerous categories, and the whole look is confusing and overwhelming. Really, your initial website should just tell your customers a little bit about you and a little bit about your product or service. Plus a blog. That’s it. You don’t need all that other stuff.
  • Shouting about your business from the rooftops. A high profile launch is one of the most risky choices you can make for a website launch. If it works, it can be wonderful. But if it doesn’t (for example, the site becomes slow to respond to the huge number of visitors who’ve read the press release, or there’s a bug on the website) it can be catastrophic. Look at the health care website launched by the Obama administration as a perfect example of how damaging a problematic launch can be.

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