A Veteran’s Guide to Starting an Online Business (Building a Website)

Starting a business is tough. Chances are you have a great idea that all you’re friends told you is, and now you want to put it into motion… Now it’s time to start looking at how to build a website and get your products available to the public.

In my last post, I gave an overview of getting started. Here we will focus on how to build a website and get your company to have a physical footprint.

Now, if you are looking for one quick takeaway from this post, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND INVESTING IN A GOOD WEBSITE. I can’t emphasize with how important this is… The most common mistake I see is that someone wants to get their product out there, so they end up slapping together some shit website to get their product up. The problem is that when you do that you are now showing your product to the public and they are getting a glimpse of your company for the first time. These people don’t know you, they don’t know your story, and they don’t know your product (yet), all they know is that you have a garbage website. That age-old adage that “first impressions matter” is true! More likely than not you’re not going to make a sale, but instead, you’re going to get a ton of people come to your website and remember that you have a garbage website and won’t want to return in the future. This right here was one of my biggest mistakes starting out.

 

A great way to approach your website is treat it as those it’s your place of business… because it is. If you had a brick and mortar store, you wouldn’t have it be dirty, with paint all over, or one product in the same section as some different unrelated product or pictures of product that you offer that won’t be in stock for months. In theory, your store would be clean, easy to walk through, the checkout process would be quick, and your customers would feel good about being there. The same goes for your online store.  Make it nice, make people want to stay there for a while. Remember, this is your gateway to your customers and the only chance you have to make that sale.

Here are a few steps I’d recommend taking to getting your online store set-up

Step 1- Find a good web developer/web designer.

We personally use a company called BitMotive.  We’ve been through probably ten different web developers, and these guys are hands down the best. We’ve been with them for about two years so far, and they designed and developed our current website. They also maintain that website on a monthly basis. If that’s not enough of benefits for you, they also do Black Rifle Coffee’s website. So if you want a good recommendation, there you go. Regardless of whom you go through I strongly recommend you do some real research because who you choose matters. The wrong person will leave you in a world of headaches. Also, if someone says “I have a friend who does websites”…. run, don’t walk, run away, because of that the fastest way to hate life.

Step 2- Find a Good eCommerce Platform.

At first, I didn’t realize the importance of a good eCommerce platform, and I ended up just going with the cheapest option… big mistake. The problem is that when you set up your website, you will build it into an eCommerce platform. Basically, the platform is the part that only you see. This is the part that manages inventory, processes the payments and allows you to manage your products.  If you choose a lousy eCommerce platform at the start, you will soon need to restructure it, and then you’ll end up having to get a new eCommerce platform which will take time and money.
I suggest finding the right eCommerce platform at the start, so you don’t have to go through the headache that I did.  I started on Gold Cart, went to BigCommerce, then to Volusion, then to WooCommerce and finally to Shopify. Personally, I am a fan of Shopify but do your research.

The Best eCommerce Platform (according to me)

Shopify
I like Shopify because they seem to have the best integration. What I mean by this is they have great apps that allow you to optimize your website to your needs. They are also really well integrated with Amazon, Facebook Shopping, Google Shopping and more.  They do a great job of building business relationships, and since we changed to them about a year ago, I have been very impressed.  They also have a very reasonable price point.
BigCommerce
We went from BigCommerce awhile back, but I’d say of all the ones we used they were the second best after Shopify.  BigCommerce is an excellent option for starting out because they do have decent prices and they also have some nice website templates that you could use to get started. Like Shopify, they also do an excellent job of going out and building integrations to ensure you are maximizing your reach.
Volusion
If for any reason the second two don’t work I’d say look at Volusion. Like BigCommerce and Shopify they have great integrations and templates.  However, we had some back-end issues that made us switch. This was a few years back, and I have heard that they have since improved their backend experience a lot.

Step 3- Build your website, but keep it simple!

Another one of my starting mistakes was wanting a super complex website that had lots of bells and whistles. This was expensive, caused a ton of issues and ended up not doing me any good. KEEP YOUR WEBSITE SIMPLE! I can’t say this enough. Look at every well to do company out there, and you will see they all have one thing in common… their websites are simple.

Step 4- Find a website you like and then copy it.

What I did was go to all of the websites I liked to shop with, and I jacked their ideas on how to set it up. Anytime I shopped somewhere, and I liked their checkout, or navigation or about us section I noted it and then sent it to the web developer. The reality is that there are thousands of webstores out there, there is no point in reinventing the wheel. Just find what you like and mimic it.

Step 5- Find a good domain.

A good domain is important and something that I messed up on. Let’s be honest, refactortactical.com isn’t the best domain. It’s complicated, nobody pronounces it properly and it nobody remembers it. Your domain, like your website, should be simple. Let’s say you sell holsters…  Holsters.com is always going to be your best domain. If your company name is Molon Labe Holsters (just throwing out random names here, please don’t use that as a name of a holster company bc it’s super cheesy), don’t make your domain molonlabeholsters.com. The reason is that it’s hard to spell and remember. Molon is not an English word, neither is able, and both could be misspelled easily. The reality is that your company name DOEST NOT need to match your domain.
A great example of this is Peanut Butter and Co. They could use the domain peanutbutterandco.com, but that’s complicated.  Instead, they went with ilovepeanutbutter.com which is a great domain. That domain is easy to remember, hard to not spell correctly and ties in well with their company name.
We ended up buying the domain tacticalequipment.com because we had so many issues with our original domain. Now if you type that in it will redirect to our website. I can put that domain on our product or in marketing and people can easily remember it.  Again, look to other successful companies as an example.  Blackriflecoffee.com, nike.com, adidas.com, ford.com, skdtac.com…. I can go on… However, all of these are domains that are easy to remember.

Step 6- Start by using good keywords in your website.

When you set up your website, make sure you start by using good keywords in your anchor text and products. If you’re selling holsters and you make a holster called the “Patriot,” don’t just make your product page consist of the product name. Instead, your product page and text should read the Patriot Kydex Holster. This is important because if the world Kydex or Holster is not on that specific page, you will never optimize in google. If all your page reads is “Patriot” google will think the page is about Patriot, not about holsters and won’t show it to people when they type in the word holster into google. It’s important to get your keyword into your webpage from the start so it can be appropriately categorized.

While this list isn’t definitive, it will help get you going! I hope this post helps a Veteran looking to start a business going and be successful. If there is anything you think needs to be added, I am all ears!  Good luck.

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