Joe Dawson

Joe is the director of Creative.onl and oversees all of the design and technical work that we produce. Find him on Twitter.

Getting value for money is never easy. When you are starting a digital business, searching for the right solutions and services to help meet your goals, it can be a real challenge to get everything to come in on budget. 

You may be like Tim Cook, Apple CEO, and say: ‘I do not consider the bloody ROI’. But you’d be an exception. In simple terms, ROI isn’t just about managing your startup budget but getting value out of the choices you make. 

Most budding entrepreneurs have a limited amount of finance so getting a great return on any particular investment is vital. 

The big challenge is how you measure these things, especially when it comes to digital marketing. It’s rarely straightforwardthat X leads exactly to Y. There are normally a range of parameters involved and they are not always financial.

1. Get the right team in place

People who don’t know what they are doing can be wasteful. That’s the bottom line when you choose your team to help build your digital startup business. It pays to have the right individuals in place whether that’son-sitein your office, the suppliers you choose or the companies you outsource to. 

Your team, at least in the first instance, needs to be talented AND adaptable. It’s nice to have a person who is really great at one thing but with limited resources available, they are going to need to be more flexible than that. Look for people who are passionate and are willing to roll up their sleeves and muck in and learn new things. 

2. Plan for ROI

It’s dangerous to be too obsessive about a lot of things but in the case of ROI,it can prove beneficial. From the start of your business venture, you need to write ROI into the processes and mechanisms of your development. Basically, you’re looking for what works and what doesn’t and that needs to be at the forefront of your mind.

There will be things that you want and things that you need, of course there will. But which is going to give you the biggest and best payoff as you start to build your company? No doubt you will need a website. What about social media? With all that must be achieved, fledgeling businesses can often ignore ROI and start throwing money at different activities without much thought. Always take a step back and consider the value to your business and its future.

See also →  3 signs your graphic designer lacks a digital strategy

Unfortunately, true ROI isn’t always that easy to measure. Take social media engagement, for example. You may need to spend several hundred hours building your platforms, fans and followers but the true return might not be known until much later on in the process. 

Putting ROI front and centre of your business plan, however, does mean that you will stand more chance of getting it right from the outset, even if it is difficult to quantify.

3. Keep an eye on costs

One key area you need to keep control of when launching a digital startup is what you spend, especially in those early days. It’s not that easy, as any entrepreneur will tell you. Running out of cash spend is probably the number one cause of failure when it comes to new businesses.  

There will be fixed costs such as you hosting your website and variable ones like the design of your site and it’s update, how much you spend on marketing initiatives such as social media advertising or improvements to your product or service so that it sells better. These all need to have a value and return something to your company and you need to be aware of what the end results are. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What does it cost?
  • Is it worth the investment?
  • Can I do it for less and still get the same result?

4. Put UX at the heart of your development 

UX or user experience is now probably the main driver for startup success, particularly for digital businesses. We understand it a lot more about it than just a few years ago. In short, if you are developing any sort of business model, you need to look at everything from your users point of view. 

UX design is integral to areas such as website development but the concept should run throughout your entire business. Once you start really delivering on your customer’s wants and needs, you begin automatically to bring more value and meaning to your goals and development decisions. 

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5. Invest in quality content development

Startups often get preoccupied with putting as much out there as possible, saturating the market if you like in the effort to get their brand noticed and off the ground. This is generally a mistake and rather than produce a strong ROI can waste money and cause reputational damage at the same time. 

Always go for quality over quantity – it will pay dividends in the long run and deliver a strong ROI. Take your website copy as an example. It may be tempting to produce a number of different pages, all with carefully chosen keywords to attract people to your site. 

But does that mean you pages become difficult to navigate? Are you actually providing the information people are looking for?

Investing in a professional webpage copywriter or design company may seem like a big outlay but it will ensure your site is fit for purpose from day one. You want to connect more deeply with your customers and you can only do that through quality content

6. Measure every step of the way

You can’t really stay on top of your budget and what ROI you are getting if you can’t measure most if not of all of what you do. That’s not an easy business. Even in marketing, where there are numerous metrics to take advantage of, the landscape can be complicated. 

Some businesses spend far too much time focusing on what are called ‘vanity metrics’. The trouble is there are plenty of these around – things that you can easily measure but which don’t tell you an awful lot about how you are performing. They can end up sending you down the wrong path and give a false impression that you are doing well and even that your ROI is great. 

So the first thing you need to do for your new digital startup business is focus on the right stats and measurements and use these to inform your future operations. As with any new business, some things you try will work and others won’t. The key is having the metrics that shine a light on your behaviour, providing the opportunity to change course and improve returns in an informed way. 

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