As publicists, the majority of potential clients that approach us are new businesses. The new part doesn’t bother us. We like new and exciting ideas. However, new businesses we will turn down, are those that are not thought through. This can cause problems, and in some cases is the top reason we will turn down a potential client. If they don’t have a business plan that is sustainable, we can’t guarantee that we can help them, no matter how good we are. Since the majority of new adult businesses are those based online, there is one thing that we are looking for above all else when a potential client wants us to represent them: Do they have a dependable webmaster and IT department?
In an online business, the webmaster and IT department are the business. Their minds are the gears and cogs that make the machinery work.
Personally, I love online businesses founded by webmasters and internet-savvy people. Like a stunt-driver, these people can turn on a dime, change quickly and adapt. Often the people we turn down as clients are not webmasters, and have little or no experience in coding or software. Yet they will pitch huge and complex online business plans, that we already know will never pan out. This is like putting together a race car without an engine.
Some businesses that we have seen have the equivalent of “insert webmaster here” written into the business plan, without any real knowledge of how much the fees and costs will be to erect the site. Many of these potential clients also don’t have realistic expectations on how long building the website, and making it functional will even take. Creating a profitable online business page can take massive amounts of time, and may require detailed knowledge of programming that sometimes evolves day by day.
Not having a responsive, competent, and motivated webmaster will jinx the manager’s ability to control what’s on the site, and puts the company in jeopardy when we go to put out press releases and news about an online company’s new features. This is embarrassing to both client and publicist, when a press release goes out offering a hot, sizzling new feature which shows up late for the launch date, never shows up at all, or worse doesn’t work and the webmaster won’t fix it.
The company webmaster should be close by, competent, and most of all, motivated to move quickly. The client should have access to every part of the website at all times and should be able to regain control quickly if the webmaster is fired. There should never be a question of payment with the webmaster, as this is a key factor in their motivation. If a webmaster is paid well, yet won’t cooperate with you, you’ll need to find someone else and quickly move on.
We’ve watched clients, friends, and peers damage their companies by not having this key component dealt with. They want a website, but they have no idea what goes into a website build, and can’t find a proficient webmaster to run it for them. The last thing you want to do when hiring a webmaster is base your choice on the amount they are charging, or hire someone that you don’t have known references for. (This can also be said of publicity firms, but that’s a different blog post….) Know who you are dealing with, understand what the quote you were given actually covers and have some idea of what goes into maintaining a website before you start.
Work with your webmaster to find out how you can update things like your blog by yourself, or make sure that your webmaster includes updates in their quote. Don’t try to make the site so complex that you will probably never need all of the options you are paying for. However, don’t limit yourself by not having everything you need from the beginning. Always educate yourself as much as possible about what components go into building a website, and what your needs truly are.
A website that doesn’t work, or doesn’t look good to the consumer, is worse than not having one at all. It burns money, wastes time, and can make customers turn away without ever coming back.