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When do you need a new website?

Penny Flanders spends a great deal of time doing manual work administering her website, Miss Money Penny. Is this what’s holding her back from growing the business? Our expert panel finds out.

Challenge 1: How can you grow a business if you’re drowning in admin work?

Josh Mehlman: Penny, you mentioned that a lot of people don’t like eBay. What’s wrong with it?

Penny: There is a lot of clutter to get through. My buyers don’t want to fossick around for things, they want to have all of the hard work taken out of it for them. They don’t want to search through 1500 dresses on eBay, they just want the cream of the crop already selected for them by our professional stylists.

Jonathan Crossfield: Is there a reason you don’t have the system set up for people to create their own listings in the correct format and have them in a holding pattern for you to hit ‘approve’?

Penny: I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on developing a website and I believe it is quite expensive to get one built from scratch with that functionality.

Terri Winter: I think that your workload is going to be too high, too manual, especially as your business grows. That’s kind of what’s happened to us because a lot of our systems were very manual. It’s better to start the right way, even if you’re not as busy now because you get the right systems in place.

Jonathan: If it’s taking you all these extra hours to do that work manually, you need to work out what is the dollar value of that and decide if it’s worth putting that money into the website instead.

Challenge 2: How long will it take until the business is profitable?

Josh: Laurence, you’ve worked with quite a few start-up businesses. How long generally does it take before things really kick-off?

Laurence Harrould: Well, the general figure is that you’ve got to give it three years. Any business that’s actually profitable in the first year is pretty unusual, especially given that that’s when you’ve got all the expenses, the set-up costs, and no income. So you can pretty much write off the first year.

Penny: Good, I feel better about that.

Laurence: The fact that you are about six months in and you’re starting to think about how your processes are going to work, I think that’s pretty standard.

Penny: I guess I was nervous about whether the concept was going to work. If I grow, I get nervous because I’ve just got all this admin to do. I’m even thinking of putting on a junior for $15 an hour to help me, as an interim thing. But it sounds like I would be better off investing the money in a system that is more automated.

Jonathan: If you know it’s not working perfectly now, you’re not in the best position to make a judgment call.

I think you really need to look at fixing these issues and then give it some time when the website is working at its optimum. Then see if your sales are increasing each month.

Challenge 3: How do I build up my customer list and grow the business?

Jonathan: How are buyers currently finding this site and making the purchase?

Penny: A lot comes directly to the site as a result of PR that I’ve done, but that’s only going to last so long because it was new and exciting.

Jonathan: When you get people coming to your site based on your PR activities, they are already informed about the brand before they go to the site. You want to get the site to a stage where people visit without you necessarily having communicated that message to them directly.

When I went to the home page, it doesn’t scream to me that this is a second-hand clothing site where you can buy and sell. If you go to the homepage of eBay, it is very, very clear what eBay is. Although your homepage looks great and has been well designed, it says nothing about what the purpose of the site is.

With websites, experts estimate you’ve got about four seconds to get your message across before the reader clicks away to find something else.

Laurence: It actually took me a while to work out how you actually buy anything on the site. It almost feels like it’s easier to sell things than to buy them.

Jonathan: How many sellers do you have on your site?

Penny: Probably about 200.

Jonathan: They are your best resource to work out what to do next. Ask them, “How would you like this site to work?” They might have some fantastic ideas that you haven’t thought of and that we can’t come up with, because we’re not selling antique cocktail dresses.

The more you can get your website to not only make the listings but the market itself and create the sale, you can sit back and let the community grow your website for you. #Here’s the full article.

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