The Startup Scenario: Turn Your Small Business into a Viable Web Commodity


If you know what the words ‘panic attack’, ‘sleepless nights’ and ‘slow days’ mean and you have ever found yourself throwing a child-sized tantrum because you just opened up the frig and found there is no more Pepsi, then you are most certainly a small business owner. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you they are all stress related, what you may not know its actually good stress, because you are breaking out and doing your own thing.

You ask “What does she know about being a small business? Hmph!” Well I answer “I know plenty.” Running an ad agency for small businesses puts me in the same ranks as small business owners, worse yet I have to try and get the company name (WebServices 4 ALL) to be as recognizable as the big ad agencies out there.

Three of the biggest issues faced are the same for all business owners:

• Money- who has it right? When someone quotes you $2000 for a site, a mere $10,000 for a commercial, and sets aside at least $10,000 for keywords on Google and yahoo, I think ‘yeesh! I do need to eat sometime this year.’

• Know how – if you are a new business owner very few other owners, especially in the same category or going to be helpful. Make good use of your contacts and networking events and listen closely and get creative. What may have worked for a music shop with a bit of tweaking can work for your tea shop.

• Time – that’s an easy one, you need it, you don’t have it and that’s why you need an agency.

The most important thing you need to do before going to an agency is get prepared and know your company’s vision.

Here’s a checklist that might come in handy. Once you complete checking all the boxes, consider yourself ready for the next step:

â–¡ Vision for your company
â–¡ Logo, do you have one or even need one?
â–¡ Who are your competitors? Locally and in the state?
â–¡ What are your competitors doing for advertising and promotions, is it working?
â–¡ What type of budget do you have for advertising? (Be honest and careful with this one)
â–¡ Color scheme, everyone likes something
â–¡ Do you have a website?
â–¡ When do you plan on having one?
â–¡ What do you want from your site, i.e. information, sell products online, have people make reservations through the site, etc.
â–¡ Do you want to maintain the site or have the designer maintain it for you?
â–¡ How much of a budget do you have for a website? (website budget and advertising budget should be two separate things)
â–¡ What are your busy times of the week, month and year?
â–¡ Would you like to remain a brick and mortar store or eventually become all online or vice versa?

Your best technology of choice to find out about your competitors is the Internet: type in “flowers” and see what comes up; you can do local searches as well. Peruse their sites, see if they are big corporations, mom & pop shops, etc. If the shops are close, drive by, go inside and buy a few flowers to check out prices, atmosphere, location, and if they have promos listed in the store or just online, ask about their hours and accessibility. Don’t feel bad about doing this because rest assured, if they are in business and doing well, than they have done the exact same thing.

True, there has been a lot written again about word of mouth, i.e. it works, it doesn’t work. I find that being part of a small business, word of mouth does work. I’m proof of that; every client I have has strictly been locked from word of mouth. People will gladly share when they find a good deal, including the right prices and what worked for them. My secret? When I have a sleepless night or have thrown the temper tantrum about Pepsi, I focus the energy and say ‘ok, where are the big dogs advertising? Are they in newspapers?’ Then I check out local newspapers for ad space. Are they advertising online and where? Then I check out who’s online and has the audience I’m looking for. If I need an amount for my next advertising budget, I set aside a day and call, email and call again to papers and publishers, gather prices and see what I can really afford to do. If I can’t afford it now, I save for it, because it’s something I really want.


  1. The “Best Kept Secret” in Pittsburgh, PA is Robin Stanton, WebServices 4 ALL. Robin Stanton’s article about the “web commodity” is on point and powerful. The checklist that Robin provides is a must read. It projects important information about operating a small business, web design, maintenance, and partnering. After reading Robin Stanton’s article, I actually felt accomplished, enlightened, and embraced for the challenges of running my small business. Thank you Robin Stanton for the valuable information and for a superbly written piece. Roberta R. Thurman

  2. I checked out your article, and I must say that it is nice, informative, and crucial. How else are we to learn about the online web industry if we do not have guidance, instruction, and training. Your intelligence is key to your company, WebServices 4 ALL. How can we, the consumers, help you to branch out to a wider, global audience, if that is possible? You’re on target. Keep up the good work and the powerful articles coming, because we need them and WebServices 4 ALL. Tony J. Robinson, Applebee’s


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