HOW TO START
Your First Steps
If you consistently start new projects, you may have experience creating an ‘Initial Phase’ plan.  If not, these are critical first steps before any dollars are spent and definitely before contacting a web developer.  Whether a beginner, or seasoned entrepreneur it's hard to research effectively, while trying to avoid unnecessary pitfalls. To ease this lengthy process, I compiled the most important first step topics and created articles to share a broad perspective for some, while serving as a refresher for others. No matter the industry or state of your project, visiting these steps will provide clarity and ultimately save time and money before getting started.

START UPs
NEW projects
existing projects
FIRST STEPS
Initial Phase Plan
THE FEASIBILITY TEST
01
Project Setup
Project Motivation
The Business Setup
02
Platforms
Project Outcome
Hosted or Self Hosted
03
Content Type
Static, Dynamic or Interactive
Features & Functionality
04
Performance
Applications & Connectivity
Personnel
05
Projections
Budget & Projections
Content Writing
06
Feasibility
Executive Summary
Feasibility Test
07
Checklist
Building Your Team
PREPARE   +   PLAN
Project Setup
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Project Motivation
To get started, project themselves are inherently time consuming, mentally challenging and more expensive than initially anticipated. This Initial Phase Plan is designed to help with common pitfalls that individuals experience. First, really think, and I mean you should really consider actual reasons for the whole thing.
Not much time is needed for this section, there are only a few reasons we build a new website, start a catering business, or any venture. I would suggest if your motivation doesn’t fit into these categories, then it may not be worth the time.
4 Motivating Factors
Generate more income
Solve a need for a community
Improve current business workflow
Personal core passion
I have found all projects ultimately revolve around these 4 key factors. Some may have other reasons to offer, and your situation might be slightly different; nonetheless, these tend to drive most ventures. Before you begin take some time to write down your true project motivation.

Time Management

You’ll need plenty of hours where you’re digesting content and thinking about the steps.  I would suggest you block out 2 days per week for thought and research.  No TV or phone, just sit quietly and think. This will give you brain time to start the creative process.  

As a professional athlete, this is common practice; visualize the moment beforehand gives better preparation. Spend a couple of hours on these days to mentally visualize the process.

Research

Research, research, research the idea before spending a dime. Do plenty of searches on various competitors and view your idea from afar. Prepare to spend around 3 to 4 hours / 2 days per week - for at least 4 weeks total.
The Business Setup
Obviously, your project needs a name, however it's a lot harder than it seems. Before going to far, make sure the project has a meaningful name that can be remembered easily. Next the idea should have a business identity before you contact a designer, developer or strategist. Iron out these items prior to development and should be completed in order.
Step 1:
Step 2:
Step 3:
Step 4:
Step 5:
Step 6:
Step 7:
Step 8:
Step 9:
DBA
Domain
P.O. Box
Business Type: Sole or Incorporate
State Incorporation Registration
EIN Number
Business Bank Account
Sales License
Phone Service
Platforms
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Project Outcome
There are steps throughout each person’s venture, where you go from beginning contact with a customer, to a final purchase.  From a to z, the project should be created to "replace" a part of that workflow. To minimize daily effort, write 3 core functions you want to automate.  Ideally, the goal is to streamline your customer acquisition and maintenance process.
These expectations will guide you on the path of deciding which platform type to commit to.
Hosted
If you choose a hosted platform, most often the trade is - ease of use over customization.  Hosted platforms are not one size fits all, but what they do offer is a quick and easy way to start publishing content without touching a server.
Self Hosted
To get an idea on the functions you can avoid, here is some of the common steps it takes for Self Hosting. The daily process can become tedious if you don't have the time. It's definitely a personal choice to think about.

Linux or Windows server
Shared, VPS, Dedicated, Cloud
DNS management
FTP Client
cPanel or Plesk management
SQL server or MySQL database
Programming activation (PHP, ASP.net)
Domain management
Firewall and security
SSL certificate
File management functions
File storage
File system access
Disk space monitoring
Bandwidth monitoring
Creating backups
Setting up email accounts
SSH user key management
Log file access and reporting
Application plugins
User Accounts
Here's a screenshot of a cPanel hosting interface you would use
Your Final Decision

There's really no way to explain every little detail about the differences. Actually going through the process is the best method for choosing. If you're on the fence and wavering between the two. Here are my recommendations. You can't go wrong either way, it just depends on your daily workflow and amount of time you have for management.

Hosted
Easy to setup to get up and running
Faster publishing process
Simple font usage
Receive free system upgrades
No FTP client management
Uptime quality is usually very good
No cPanel or Plesk console management
No htaccess file
No complex security features to set
No folders and files to manage
Zero MySQL or SQL database creation
Avoid file permissions
No Error reporting lookup
No Email filters, routing & tracking
Self Hosted
Typically receive technical support by phone
Pay a one time, annual price
Upgrade to higher server capacity in same day
No coding language or script limitations
Access to full code
Run multiple sites on one hosting plan
Emails included in plan
Access to free plugins and applications
Full customization
Ideal for large scale enterprise operations
Perfect for custom code projects
No subscriptions
Access to file folder structure
Content Type
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Static Content

A static website is delivered to a user exactly the way it's stored. That means that nothing on the page will change by the user and collaborators rarely change the content.  Static websites are generally creating with no scripting. If desired, every page can be different, or designed to match the layout of type of content. A designer can use a style guide to adhere to branding rules, or add special effects, interactions or styles in a unique way, which is called a - Theme.


Examples of Static Content:
EBooks
Whitepapers
Informational
Advantages
Less complex
Lowest cost
Easier to create and distribute
Easier for browsers to store (cache) for searching

Disadvantages
Very little consumption value
Content can be old or not updated
Problem with scalability, if you sell products
Offers simple one sided communication
Dynamic Content
Dynamic sites uses server-side scripting languages like JavaScript, PHP, ASP.net, Python or Ruby to create page content, and sometimes interact with information stored in a databases.  In addition, dynamic sites can utilize a CMS, known as a Content Management System to manage data. Content is called by the scripting language from other files or from a database depending on actions taken by the user.  It’s normal to constantly update the content.


Examples of Dynamic Content:
Blogs
Social Media Feeds
E-commerce Site
Calendars
Podcasts
Videos
Advantages
Keeps your visitors interested
Higher conversion rate
Lower bounce rate
More repeat visitors
Increases audience loyalty
Shared often in social networking
Improves search rankings
Great for personalized content
Can be programmed for auto updating content
Disadvantages
Moderate to high cost to maintain
Requires constant analysis
Needs to adapt according to metrics
Many of the pages are essentially a template
Additional functionality may also cost more
Interactive Content
As the name suggests, it evolves according to user input.  Usually in the form a simple click or a series of questions.  An interactive web design integrates software into the web page to engage visitors with a more relevant experience. Ideal for digital marketers, the interactive content can be developed to create unique experiences, which enables for pinpoint analysis. Businesses use this data to assess its value connection with a specific audience. Some marketers call this type of site - Crowd Source Content.

Examples of Interactive Content:
Like Buttons
Shares or Tweets
Customer Reviews
Surveys or Polls
Web Apps
Calculators
Clickable Maps
Social Media Profiles
Online Games
Multi-Participant Webinars
Live Infographics
Advantages
Provides more social credibility
Increases brand loyalty
Engages your customers
Improves personalized of content
Interactions can be measured
Encourages sharing
Disadvantages
Higher cost
Can become resource-consuming
Low quality control due to social sharing
Attention span can turn off under poor execution
Your Final Decision
Static

Allows for a sound linear flow of content.  If you need to sell visitors on a particular service or process, static will provide good format for informational driven projects. Are you in a time crunch or stuck with a deadline? Static is definitely the way to go. But, your overall impact will suffer because there’s probably no financial room to pay for interactions and animation. Price range can be as low as $500 up to $1500.


Dynamic

Without question, it’s the most popular type of site project on the market today.  There are too many benefits for this article, so the basic takeaway is the ability to keep visitors interested in what you have to say by continuously serving them - freshly updated content. Repeat visits is the goal, as well as search engine rankings. If you have the budget, this the way to go. Price range is moderate, ranging from $2000 to around $8k.


Interactive

Undoubtedly, you will need custom coding for apps and interactivity.  Not always, but most often these projects run very large in code, page size and links.  This can be a deal-breaker for startups.  The cost is going to be the main sticking point.  Price range is also the widest, with the low end around $4000, and topping out around $50k.

A point to consider, as visitors began participating and generating content, data can explode very quickly, causing unforeseen bandwidth and storage issues.  On the other hand, after a certain threshold, your site can practically run on autopilot.  If this type of project is your choice, be mindful that you will need to closely monitor the quality of visitor interactions, as well as, the speed of that interaction.
Features
Traditionally, a business relates to a customer with a product or service.  To attract, influence and convince customers, we create statements about the offerings to explain what the product or service can do for them. A website is slightly different because a feature isn’t physical.  The feature is basically the interaction on the site to receive a benefit.


Here's An Example:

Let’s say we offer a Knowledge Base as feature.  The desired benefit we want, is for the visitor to receive detailed articles about a service on the site. Additionally, if we include a User Comments feature, we are allowing visitors to read personal experiences from other customers.  The benefit gives current and potential customers the ability to make informed decisions based on actual feedback, positive or negative. First hand usage from a real customer.


Functionality
On the surface, a feature is very similar to functionality, but how it’s applied and the overall purpose is very different. Functionality can be described by the ease in which a visitor receives information or uses a feature on your site. It gives the ability to provide a user with various ways to navigate, view, digest and download content. In a nutshell, functionality is the technology that allows a feature to exist. It gives a user the capability to interact with a site to receive a benefit.


Under The Hood

Again, functionality is the technology allowing a developer to build features. It can be hardware or software and also allows a developer to build with flexibility, scalability and efficiency.  If done properly a user will have a seamless experience using a feature.
Differences Between Features & Functionality
application stack completes the process
Scenario #1
Feature
Desired on the site
Community of Users
Functionality
to display feature
Forum
Applications
to execute functionality
PHP, MYSQL, HTML, CSS, Java, Python
Scenario #2
Feature
Desired on the site
Sell Products on Site
Functionality
to display feature
Internet Storefront
Applications
to execute functionality
Ecommerce Platform
Scenario #3
Feature
Desired on the site
Get Customer Information
Functionality
to display feature
Digital Form
Applications
to execute functionality
Form processor script, Web server
Scenario #4
Feature
Desired on the site
Accept Donations
Functionality
to display feature
Web Form
Applications
to execute functionality
Merchant account, Payment processor, Payment gateway,
Functionality can be viewed in a literal platform or operational sense.  It lies within the actual technology presented on a site.  An example would be deciding between hosting on a Linux server versus a Windows server.  The choice can be directed toward what type of applications you want to integrate.  Almost always, features have to be planned, built, and executed with the idea of being supported by built-in functionality. Easily, this is a tricky part to tackle because features are generally an idea, and often not very realistic when it comes to implementation.  Design adjustments will take place, so prepare to be flexible in your approach.


Your Final Decision

So how should you decide additional features?    It’s critical to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and the value you want to give visitors. Start by asking question like this:

Will users manage their own data or information?
Will you sell products?
Are you allowing digital downloads?
Who is your target audience?
Will you need analytics?
What do your competitors offer?
What is your overall budget?

These are only a few examples, you’ll actually have a much longer list.  Just remember, a website is only one component of the plan, it’s important to know where it fits in the project. First step; always write a list of “Features” you would like to give visitors.  Then choose how you plan to deliver that feature, the choice will be the - "Functionality". Reserve some time to discuss this, it may not be clear in the beginning.  I find these two segments take 2 - 4 weeks to decide.  

Get Features and Functionality ironed out, then Applications, to put it all together.
Performance
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Applications
An application is a software program stored on a remote server and delivered to a local computer. Unlike traditional desktop applications, which are launched by your operating system, web apps must be accessed online through a browser interface. Applications don’t have to execute on the internet, referred to as “client-side”.  They can also reside on a server completing tasks without visitor interaction, known as “server-side”.  In some cases, you’ll deploy both client-side and server-side applications. Dynamic and Interactive content is an example of this combination.
It’s likely you’re going to implement web applications, so this article won’t discuss desktop versions.
Advantage of Web Applications
They run inside the majority of web browsers
They're cheaper to develop
Can run on multiple operating systems
Disadvantage of Web Applications
They have limited access to system resources (CPU, memory, file system)
Browser dependent, needs a solid connection
Needs strong security protocols
You can see why creating a list of desired features, then figuring out the functionality to deliver those features, will lead you towards deciding what application to build or purchase to complete the process.



Advantage Integration

To understand this phase of your project, again, create your feature list first, then decide a functionality method.  The application you choose to implement will be the medium of delivery. There are two ways to approach - adding functionality and features.  You either write an application from scratch or use a 3rd party application. This is called - Integration.



Build vs. Buy

Once you have a grasp on your features, and you know the functionality, it’s time to get the right application to integrate.
This concept is often called - Build vs. Buy.



From Scratch

Building applications from scratch offers flexibility for unlimited customization and you can build towards specific functionality, yet it increases your development time frame and cost. Building from scratch also means you’ll need to manage server side protocols. 3rd party applications are great for less skilled entrepreneurs.



3rd Party

Integrating a 3rd party application is much cheaper and faster to deploy, but you may have to compromise on your functionality requirements. This application phase can become extremely complex. To make the process a little easier here’s a brief checklist to ask before making a final decision:

What is the time frame of launch
What is the total development budget available
If 3rd party is used and is discontinued, how will you be affected
Do you need to fully control my data
Who will manage the application
What is the skill level of quality required for the application
What are the risks of build vs. buy
Will you need ongoing support

If you find no application to fulfill the purpose, consider hiring a this type of developer: Full Stack Developer,  JavaScript/jQuery Developer or Back End Developer.

Just know, your budget will increase dramatically. If it becomes a little daunting and you’re unable to make a comfortable decision on which applications to integrate, go with:

Most affordable price at the time
Ease of use towards your skill level
Customization options that come standard
Application that doesn't need coding for you to use it


Again, prior to committing any money to a project, decide if you want to build from scratch or integrate 3rd party for your business.  It’s imperative to truly understand this concept. Without a doubt - This is the most expensive phase to manage.


Applications, whether web-based or server-based is not an area to cut costs, these programs run your entire project. When choosing a developer, make sure you receive a wide range of application options before the purchase.  It’s precisely why app developers offers free trials, they understand it takes time to see if the program fits.  Take advantage of these trial periods beforehand. I’ve posted an actual researched Application Phase from a previous project.  You’ll see the complexity broken down so it’s easier to digest for a client.


Example Application Spreadsheet:
(Full view - right click open image in a new tab)

Connectivity
If I want to display a testimonial.  Is it text, in a slider, background video, in page video, YouTube or in a popup? After I know how to show it, I need to find the application to push out the content in the manner I just chose.   If I chose YouTube, I know I can’t fully control how the video is displayed, their functionality is limited.  If I chose a background video, then I probably won’t need voice, right?  You can narrow down the options while researching.


To Refresh:
1st - Create a desired feature list for the site project
2nd - Decide how you want the feature function on the site
3rd - Research and test applications to accomplish both

Okay, we’ve got all the pieces in our head.  We haven’t bought anything yet, but there’s logic forming.  By now you know, Application Integration - is the technology that presents features and functionality.  The final step is learning how to merge all the pieces - which is called - Connectivity.


PRO TIP:

The process of looking at specs (evaluating), navigating (clicking stuff) and testing (adding dummy content) - to see how all of your chosen applications will talk to each other, is often referred to as - Configuration.


Truthfully, connectivity is really a collection of technologies configured, or structured in a way that helps your business complete tasks more effectively. A lack of communication in connectivity is what leads to task inefficiency, which can increase costs and reduces customer acquisition - also known as Conversion.  Yes, poor connectivity can destroy customer conversion.








Combining Application & Connectivity:

All connectivity will use an - Interface. This how you create actions for the code behind the scenes. Of course, businesses use many applications and there may be multiple interfaces to learn.  Each one has methods and communication protocols to process tasks they receive.  This ensures applications are on the same page when talking to each other.


PRO TIP:

Your entire technological system is part of one big box.  Along with vendors, staff, customers, etc.  This total setup of a is generally referred to as - an Ecosystem.



There are various models that are used, which goes beyond the scope of this section, just know the main takeaway is to understand applications have two governing, or core systems for interacting - Models and Protocols. Now let’s look at the connectivity options.


CROSSOVER TOPIC:

In Phase 3 - Content Type, under Features & Functionality, we talked about how to decide.  That ties into this segment because your application choice can ultimately depend on the type of “Interface” they offer. With a weak, poorly designed interface, you may not see the benefits.

If the interface is cluttered, offering too much functionality, the learning curve can leave you feeling frustrated.  In the end, the investment may cause unnecessary headaches.  Research, research, research - then test on free trial - Always!.







Connectivity Options:

We’ve discussed features, functionality, applications and connectivity from an identity perspective.  I feel it’s imperative for my clients to truly understand how to define these aspects because it helps to know what they’re investing in.  So I’m doing the same for you.

As we identify, define and label, at some point we need to know exactly “how” we can start executing tasks - actually begin using the stuff.  There are a number of ways to achieve this, but for most entrepreneurs and business owners you only need to understand five options.


1 - API:

This stands for Application Programming Interface.  It’s essentially software that allows applications to talk to each other. We shouldn’t go too deep in this section of connectivity options, just know if you want applications to share information without manually doing the work, your website will most likely need an API.

An API can be written from scratch or used from vendor in your specific industry. API’s can be free or paid. There are numerous API developers who specialize in a particular industry segment.  Decide what you want your application to do before going down this road, you’re probably going to pay a developer to build from scratch.  Custom API’s need manual management.


2 - Automation Service:

Basically these services are web apps that automate workflows and boost productivity, with the least amount of effort. Who doesn’t want that right?  The process is fairly simple, companies allow you to pay a certain fee to integrate your business workflow onto their platform. Using the web service's interface, you setup and link your applications on their platform, by adding what is known as an API Token or Key.  The tokens are created on your end, then inserted into the interface and the automation service API that does all the work.  It’s really simple as that.

Honestly, it's a fantastic investment and highly recommended for any small business or start up; and much cheaper that building an API from scratch. Finally, inside the Automation Service’s interface, you can tailor the functionality to accomplish multiple types of tasks via triggers and actions.

- You tell their software, when A happens, then I want B to occur.

A service like this can dramatically increase your workflow efficiency.  Because most issues don’t present themselves until customers become more active in your business.  As you see the need for a certain process enhancement, usually, the Automation Service can handle the needs.  Starting out, it’s a great option that provides efficiency and won’t blow up your budget.


STRESS ALERT:

It may be challenging to know "who" to look for.  Online, how do you find a service, company or individual when you don't know exactly what you're seeking?  The info is written in developer type articles!  The research can take weeks, or even months.  That’s my specialty, bridging this gap. You will need help. Contact me and I’ll get you started at no charge.  If you don't have research time, view my Pricing page for options.



3 - Network:

I’m not going to spend much time here, because most small businesses will never set up a network to manage their daily workflows, its reserved for larger enterprises.  However, a network is a group of computers and other hardware devices linked together to communication and share resources. Computers on a network typically share data through - Nodes.  These nodes route data to a specific destination based on a number of layered protocols  Data passed is compiled into - Packets.

It’s highly unlikely that you would use this type connectivity for a project.  The best use case for a small business is; if you have a partner or team in different cities or states and you need to share resources that are constantly being updated. Then it can be explored as an option. Nevertheless, be ready to pony up some cash though, it’s not the cheapest option for sure.  Yet, It’s probably the most secure.  If proprietary information is your asset, then think about setting up a remote network system.


4 - URL Links:

Uniform Resource Locator, a URL is a way of identifying the address location of a file on the internet.  A URL is used to view websites, download images, videos and other types of files hosted on a server.  Ultimately, it tells a browser where to look, and is a very simple way to connect your project to almost any type of resource or application. You probably already know what a URL is, therefore, the purpose here is to let you know it's one the cheapest and easiest ways to add connectivity for applications to - extend functionality and present features.

So how do we even get to a resource that has a particular URL?  URL’s to resources are no good unless we have a way of telling people how to get there and view the content.  This is where HTML language comes in.  HTML is the standard way we tell the internet where things are.  It uses what are called - Hyperlinks.


Hyperlinks are made of HTML tags and attributes to locate resources. Without going to deep I’ll refer to the common two:


<a> tag and <href> attribute</href></a>
<a> = stands for Anchor</a>
<href> = stands for Hypertext Reference</href>
An example would look like this:
{ a href="URL" }
This is a hyperlink - to a URL.


HTML hyperlinks help us extend functionality by pointing to another web site, a file in a different site, another code script and other protocols.  You can see how “Links” can be used for extensibility. If you have the location, you can use a URL Link to show the content.  This goes for Applications too!

Example:

What if I want to build my site on Wix, but I want to use Shopify for my ecommerce to sell products.  My Wix site would have one URL, and my store would have a different URL.  I would simply add a menu link to the store.  It’s that simple. My only task would be - to build both sites with the same header and footer so my visitors have a seamless experience. This is referred to as - a Theme!

If you’re new, this should start to make sense.  If you have experience, then know how this works and now you can use advanced linking functionality within multiple applications to extend your site’s capabilities, without crushing your budget!


5 - HTML Embed:

This is generally called a - Widget.  An HTML embed allows you to add raw HTML or content from another resource inside your site’s page. It gives the ability to obtain access and pass data between your site and the code from another location.  Commonly, the <embed>, <iframe> or <object> tag defines the container used to hold data from an external application or interactive content, usually inserted by an <iframe>.</iframe></object></iframe>

This tool can insert virtually any embedded code from another resource into your site, which increases your site’s functionality. To do this, you only need to generate the code provided by the other application. Now there are many objects, elements and scripts that can use an HTML Embed, over the years, flexibility has greatly increased.  I don’t want to go to deep into this subject. I just want you to know, this is fabulous options to add more features, functionality and connectivity to your site project.


HTML Embed Benefits:
Requires virtually no technical skills
No cost to your budget - it’s generally free
Can contain many forms of data and media
Minimal conflict with your site design
Can typically insert anywhere in your site
Overall, this is one of my favorite connectivity components to use.  It’s generally free and easy to deploy on any type of site.  If you want some more information on HTML Embeds, check out this article:

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/HTML/Multimedia_and_embedding/Other_embedding_technologies



Final Conclusion

This all revolves around a business’s ability to manage their daily workflow, as well as, giving customers streamlined simplicity within your ecosystem.  A general rule of thumb for choosing an application to fulfill a feature is to keep the connectivity learning curve as simple as possible, for as many customers as possible.

Commonly called - User Friendly or Ease of Use.


Personnel
Nothing complicated here, it's a short segment.  Our Initial Phase Plan needs to know
- who is going to be doing what

Every project has daily, weekly and monthly tasks, which require serious time commitments.  It's imperative, you iron this out before you start pouring money into a venture. That’s why an "Initial Phase Plan" is so critical.  You’ll discover what you’re trying accomplish and the benefits you want potential visitors to receive.  Having assistance will reduce your workload. Use Step 4 - Performance to show other partners what you need and if their skill set doesn’t quite fit, then it’s an easy decision. Save your investment and equity.

Personnel Task List

I can’t stress this enough.  Under the above, Applications & Connectivity, I have an example spreadsheet that you may remember, if not, go download it now.  From the file, you can see the Service, Software Type and Application Output.
1
2
3
This is a fabulous way to measure your skills, then identity who you have mind, to join your team.
You can align this section to various tasks that a service will need.
It’s an easy comparison method you can share with individuals to clearly explain what skills you will need from them.
If you have a question about this, don't hesitate to contact me.  Step 4 - Performance, if done wrong will cost you thousands of dollars and you still won’t have an ecosystem.  I promise, this step has taken down many capable individuals. Please know who can do what and why you need help. Be specific.  If not, do it yourself, with a Consultant.


Projections
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Budget & Projections
At this time, we know this is not a complete plan, not even enough to support basic financial documents.  This section will square your alignment to get started!  And that’s exactly what is needed to begin learning - what in sam hill - is needed before spending money. There are a number of ways to go about this; here’s what I suggest.  

During the first few stages of your project, go ahead and combine Budget and Projections.  Normally, you wouldn’t do this, but I’ve written a few very large business plans that were between 75 - 150 pages.  The information can get out of control and that’s not our goal here. We don’t want everything in our head on paper, we just need to know one thing - "Should I start this project?"
Combining Budget and Projections into one document will definitely show us data to support either direction; stop or keep going.



How To Lay This Out

Using two concepts, we need to know Customer Acquisition and the Business Ecosystem.
CROSSOVER TOPIC:

This is why I inserted Ecosystem into the Connectivity Phase.  It’s silly to keep saying feature, function, app, etc. From now on I’ll refer to the sections in Step 4 - Performance as your - Ecosystem.


Back to Budget and Projections.  You want to start Customer Acquisition, because customers are the only way to start a business in the first place; so we might as well get right to it. Second, we need to manage these customers with some type of technology. And finally, we need something to automatically attract new customers without manual effo


‍‍
Part 1: Customer Acquisition


Step 1

This is a simple method I use.  What will it take to acquire -

1 customer  -   in 1 state  -   in 1 city  -  in 1 area  -  on 1 street  -   in 1 house?  

That’s the question we need to answer. You don’t need market segmentation yet, just assume this person fits your target demographic. How will you get THIS first customer; someone that’s not a relative?  The answer should allow us to repeat the process, to attract the next customer and the customer after that.  You get the point - a method of repetition. In some ventures, I’ve had to walk door to door. Some it was cold calling.  Others it may be email campaigns.  But all of them involved using some type "physical activity" to acquire a customer. Figure out exactly what it will take for a customer to actually reach in their pocket and pull out money to pay you.




Part 2: Business Ecosystem


Step 2

What part of your business ecosystem will you employ to acquire a customer?  What technology is needed? Now you can see how the features you desire may not match these two steps.  What you want on your site, doesn’t always line up with actually landing a customer account.

PRO TIP:

This is a fluid, evolving process.  Keep asking yourself, “Am I using the right tools to land more customers?”  Again, that’s why Steps 1 - 4 require so much attention.



Your desired project outcome, the storage hosting, coupled with the type of content, inside certain functionality, combined with applications and setting up the connectivity - all of it - and I mean absolutely all of it, should be designed and built so you can - land 1 new customer, at the lowest possible cost, in a manner that you can repeat.

With that being said, I should point out. We’re not talking about visitors.  We’re not discussing Likes and Shares.  Not Followers and Tweets. As a entrepreneurs,  we all have one foundation -
“Do visitors reach in their pocket and pull out a credit card, and actually buy something?”

If that isn’t happening, then what’s the point of applications and features, with great connectivity.  That’s why I’ve created these articles. So you can get customers to purchase.  This is what your Budget and Projections should do; show exactly how your entire setup accomplishes that.




Part 3: Projection Sheets

Here are actual projection spreadsheet examples from previous projects.



Final Conclusion

I want to emphasize.  These 3 projections are completed before ANY dollars are spent, before you ever contact a developer and before any effort is made to start your project.  In the beginning, all I recommend spending money on is purchasing the: Domain Name and DBA.

Graphic A:

This of course is the done in Step 1 - Project Setup, under putting together the business entity. Normally, you will incur some cost in getting a DBA, etc.  It's not an absolute must, so if you don't want to, just get the domain name and simply list all the other costs for setting up the business.

Graphic B:

Next, start your online research process.  This is done in Steps 2 & 3.  Think of all the hosting or applications you may need. Research as many as you can, then get free trials to actually look at the interface.  List those you like and how much they cost.

Graphic C:

Finally, use those two spreadsheets to create a break even point.  This will tell you how many customers you need per month to fund:
The features you want
The applications you plan to use
The connectivity needed for the ecosystem
Now you’ll know the baseline costs.  After this, a solid picture will emerge.  You’ll begin to see what it will take for your web-based project to operate.
Content Writing
What is content writing anyway?  Content, or sometimes called - Copy.  It’s the process of writing to a specific target audience with relevant information that influences them to take action towards a definitive goal. Usually, we say Content Copy, because content can mean a number of things.  Photos, graphics, videos; basically things that are presented to an audience.

STRESS ALERT:

Let me say, Step 5 - Projections is absolutely the most difficult process in every single venture, no matter what it is.  Content Copy is certainly the most neglected process, and for sure, the most challenging.  I put this in the category of sales.  It takes a village just to make one sale; no individual person that can make a sale on their own, you need a number of pipelines in the mix. Content Copy is the same.  A number of elements must be present before documents are written.  Do not take this phase lightly. Schedule time and truly think about what you really want to say.



Beforehand, you need to know topics such as:
The business’s identity or who you are.
What exactly you do - Customers need to know what you’re trying to accomplish.
What are you selling - It’s easy if it’s a product, a little harder if it’s a service.
Who are you going to target - Not a full breakdown, a little segmentation is useful when it comes to content copy.
Where are you located - Customers will desire a location for geographic purposes.
Differentiation - How are you different than the competition.
How do you plan on benefiting the public - What results are customers going to receive.
Text makes everything work, without understanding who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s hard to write about your business.  Let’s talk about how to actually do it.



The Process
Step 1:
Step 2:
Step 3:
Step 4:
Step 5:
Page Outline
Page Itemized Outline
Page Statements & Inserts
Project Research Data
Page Overview
Step 1:   Page Outline

Simply make a basic outline of the pages you believe should go on the site.  For each page, simply list the topics you want to present to visitors.  Remember, it’s just list, resist the urge to give this page any details.

Step 2:   Page Itemized Outline

From that outline, start itemizing those topics.  In my example documents, I have a topic under the landing section called - Why it was created.  This was a big project to write for and I had multiple client types.  But you don’t to know that info yet, I needed to explain the top-level reasoning for creating the network. So start by typing simple one-sentence thoughts, off the top of your head.  Make sure it’s one-liners, not paragraphs!

PRO TIP:

Again, this is super important to understand.  Information will start to flow, fight against taking every little statement here.  Just bullet point your ideas.  No paragraphs.




Step 3:   Page Statements & Inserts

After you jot down your one-liners for each section, it will be a hot mess of text.  That’s what this page is for.  Create a separate document, and simply drag the various statements and inserted lines you don’t want into here. I found out early on, don’t delete anything when writing content copy, just save all the one-liners in a page called - Statements and Inserts.

STRESS ALERT:

You can use dividers and give each section a name, so you know where it came from.  This document will be very useful later on.  After a month or so, you’ll never remember what you thought from day one.  This page is a lifesaver!




Step 4:   Project Research Data

Yes there must be research.  This step in any project is no fun, but so necessary.  Here, you validate what’s in your head with; proven data, clinical trials, demographic studies, etc. Use one-line statements if you can.  If your findings are paragraphs, by all mean use it. Just make sure you take down the source.  It drives me crazy, and I’m sure customers feel the same, when companies make claims using data, without the researched source. The document will provide a well-rounded image. Footnotes from actual studies give a claim it's credibility. Use this type of in-depth work to your benefit.

Step 5:   Page Overview

Put it all together.  Your overview is the first line towards taking content from your head and placing it into reality.  Nonetheless, the overview is just that, a high level document with; section titles, sub-titles and one or two paragraphs.

Here you can drill down a little for more organization.  You’ll use all four documents to begin lining out the real site content copy. In my example, you can see I removed some info, and added new concepts that came to mind in the process. This will dramatically increase your ability to write legitimate site content and maintain organization along the way.


Pitfalls To Avoid

If you start writing and get caught up in formatting!  Avoid this like the plague.  Don’t format during this process, simply use spacing gaps and dividers.  When you begin typing a list, then get an idea, your mind will want to add spacing for excerpts or bullet points.

Don’t do this in the beginning of writing a section.  Not until you're certain you’ve got a complete top-level list in that specific section. Then add Gaps - but not in beginning.  Just get ideas into sections. I know that may sound redundant and maybe even a little confusing; so here’s scenario.

Let’s take the previous section from Connectivity Options.  When listing these, it was extremely simple, but as I was typing, ideas started flowing.  Here’s what it looks like.


YES
API
Automation Service
Network
URL Links
HTML Embed
NO
API
Automation Service
  • The are companies that allow for use of their API
  • Zapier does this
  • IFTT can do this as well
Network
URL Links
  • I need 3 more sections under here
HTML Embed
  • Complete before doing Network
  • Use the other document on flash drive


As you can see, now my list is cluttered and my stream of consciousness is all over the place.  It broke the flow.  This is the urge I want you to resist.  In my Content Copy Examples you’ll see this separated properly.

PRO TIP:

After the top-level list is created.  ONLY write for one section at a time.  As you’re typing for one, your mind may wonder and you’ll think of ideas for the other item.  DON’T DO IT.  I promise it will break your flow.  That’s why you have the Statements & Inserts page.  Use if often, your time management will prove efficient.



Finally, don’t buy into writing for keyword, SEO.  That just doesn’t make sense.  I know some may disagree, but who are you writing for computers or people?  It’s true if nobody finds you how can you sell.  The flip side to me is, I don’t need visitors to find me, I’ll go out and sell my products anyway!

How can you capture national market share, when you haven’t even saturated your neighborhood.  Get all the customer right next door first, then worry about SEO.  Go sell, sell, sell and forget about keywords. Content Copy should flow.  And flow from your heart, passion and experience.  There’s no way to convert that into a keyword SEO format.  Write because it’s true, it’s researched and validated.  Write so visitors get excited to see what you’re all about.  Make sense to real live human beings.  

Now it’s time to talk about what your site really is.

The Conversation

Yes, your site is a real live conversation, with a human that has probably been on the earth just as long as you.  We know b.s. when we hear it. Treat them with respect. Deliver content copy that has passion and depth.   It should make a visitor feel you.  In truth, a website is a one-on-one conversation with -
1 person  -  in 1 state  -  1 city  -   1 neighborhood  -  and 1 house

Generally, they are alone when digesting your content.  This personal conversation has meaning, otherwise they’ll bounce of the homepage anyway.  If a visitor goes beyond your home page, they want "you" to convince them to buy.  Or at least convince them to - think about buying at a later time. This is where the time will pay off. Make certain to think like this when creating your outlines.  It’s a single conversation, that will repeat.  If you get stuck, I am always available to assist.  Take a look at my outline examples, they’ll get you on the right track.



Content Copy Example

Click to see the actual steps from a previous project. These are "as is", the process may seem a little chaotic, but each document will keep your thoughts organized and cataloged in a linear flow you can repeat.

Feasibility
6
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Executive Summary
We know a business plan is the road map or blueprint for how you’ll operate.  It lines out a vision of growth with steps on how to achieve specific goals. There are a number of business plan types; startup, operational, internal and growth plans, to name a few. Generally reserved for investors and banks.  They require dozens and dozens of segments, pages of research, mounds of data and lots of financials; but one thing they all have in common is an Executive Summary.  As great as a full plan is, it still cannot accomplish what an Initial Phase Plan can do -
Tell you to stop or keep going

Often, ideas are great when they’re in our head.  Typically, our vision has illusions of grandeur.  This mistake can be costly and actually prevent us from having enough money to go in another direction.  A full business plan is notorious for taking individuals down a long drawn-out rabbit hole. That’s what we’re doing here, trying to see if this idea is a dud. You want to know before heading to the bank.  Discover this as soon as as possible.  An Initial Phase Plan is the answer and the steps won’t cost you a penny.

I’m suggesting you take a normal business plan and extract the Executive Summary.

The Purpose: Why Do One

The slew of initial ideas hastily scribbled on napkins or perhaps simply forgotten entirely can be a big problem a month down the road. Not only this Executive Summary, but the entire Initial Phase Plan will have a structured document in which to reside. More importantly, you’re able to highlight solutions to a problem that may not immediate jump out in a normal conversation. You’re interaction will flow with succinct structure. As introductory communication, a well designed summary will show your attention to detail and organization. And it doesn’t have to be a startup, an existing business can also go through this exercise.

What It Will Do
Clearly explain what the project is
Learn how to talk about yourself using a paragraph or two
Keeps the conversation brief
Explain the project strengths in a professional manner
Immediately hit critical points
Deliver bullet point list of topics, instead of long sentences
Readers will digest your mission more efficiently
Provide a snapshot framework of your project


The Minimum Content It Should Contain
Overview
Market Need
The Solution
Target Market
Value Proposition
Budget
Revenue model


Overview

3 - 5 single sentences stating why you’re taking on this venture. The primary reason or mission that is driving the start of this project.

Market Need

Explain the niche in a particular market that is under served or neglected.  A researched stat should support this statement.

The Solution

Present how you can remedy this problem and the methods you can employ to provide these solutions. Also share the medium or platform you will use for public delivery.  I.e., Retail, Ecommerce, Kiosk, Wholesale.

Target Market

This should explain who will you be selling or presenting to.  Provide a potential demographic.

Value Proposition

Why you over the competition?  Explain your competitive advantages and the experience or skills you possess to functionally provide quality service.

Budget

You should know how much the project will cost.  Simply use the data findings from Step 5 - Budget & Projections.  This information may not be necessary for visitors on the site.  But keep it in this summary.

Revenue Model

Outline how you plan to generate revenue.  Whether by outside funding, personal investment or loans. You want to have major clarity here.  If no funding is available, you’ll definitely need a time frame on the break-even projection date.



Final Conclusion

The benefits of presenting an executive summary to an interested party, or a web developer are numerous.  But ultimately, it helps you to discover and refine your ideal business strategy so there’s clarity towards building the project.  If you need a little guidance review some these articles below.

https://www.inc.com/guides/2010/09/how-to-write-an-executive-summary.html
https://articles.bplans.com/writing-an-executive-summary/
Feasibility Test
This is will provide insight into the operational, technical and economic sustainability, and answer -
Can this thing even get off the ground?

You want to be certain before investing time and money into something that’s not going to be possible. It’s the sole purpose of a feasibility test, we need to gauge, at the very least, is the project viable enough to meet operating expenses. Is it set up proper alignment?

The Alignment Strategy

Alignment is geared towards a single customer’s ability to receive a product or service.  Your Customer Acquisition plan needs to align with each individual’s actual capabilities to become a customer, then remain customer. It’s vital you understand how a customer can connect with you emotionally and financially.  Alignment should follow a path that allows a visitor to clearly visualize what you’re saying. This strategy would usually come from a full business plan, typically under market segmentation. However, you can dig a little into this with an Initial Phase Plan.   Of course, there many facets, but a Q & A exercise is the ideal closing phase.  Take your work to individuals.

RESEARCH TASK:

Choose your subject individually, handpick the audience, don’t select randomly.  Be selective and targeted in your approach.  Know why you asking a certain set of individuals. Make sure they align towards your project identity, to give you feedback from a similar demographic.




3 Key Benefits
A Feasibility Test will drastically increase the probability of success
A Feasibility Test will show who, if anyone, will purchase your service or product
A Feasibility Test will ultimately show if the project can turn a profit



How To Execute A Feasibility Test

Part 1: Build A Questionnaire

Here’s where the Alignment Strategy comes in.  You really need to know what you plan on asking people.  That’s why the Executive Summary is so vital.  Using that and your other Phases, you’ll have an idea what the goal is. Sit and write down questions that you may not have an answer to.  Things that you believe customers may want to know about your service or product.  Tailor questions to solve weakness and strengths in your project. Not too much detail, but enough that makes the time worthy. Once started, concepts will emerge and your list of questions will take shape.  If you want the form online, I recommend Jotform or Wufoo.  They do require some technical skill.

PRO TIP:

Why Jotform and Wufoo?  Because they allow for multiple columns.  If your form is long, users may not respond properly. it’ll seem easier when there’s 4 columns in 1 row. Almost every other form application service only allows 1 or 2 columns, if that. Some don't allow any!



Part 1: Build A Questionnaire
Warm Market Testing
Small Scale Test
Online Group Testing


Warm Market Testing

Family:  Contact family members and schedule blocks of time they can visit on the phone, or in person.
Colleagues: Phone or email and explain the venture and ask if they can answer a quick survey or questionnaire.

Small Scale Test

Usually this would require a prototype of a visual product.  If you don’t have it built, try to create a mockup.  This one can be challenging but figure out a way to get a physical object to show.

Online Group Testing

Similar to Small Scale, people in this group would need to see something.  Again, if you don’t have a mockup available, it’s not out of the question to use a Graphic Mockup.  Send this with your Executive Summary and get feedback.  Oftentimes, not having a physical product or current website is not so bad, because individuals may share ideas you never thought of before building a site. Remember, this entire process is to provide clarity, expand your thoughts and acquire feedback data.  Get out there and share your passion and idea to as many people as possible.  It doesn’t matter if it's not completed yet.

Ideas For Testing

Visit these articles and blogs to help boost your creativity.
Your Final Decision

Normally, if it’s a product, you will build a prototype.  If it’s apparel, perfume, jewelry or something like that, then you would make samples.  If it’s an application, website or online class, it’s a little bit harder. Undoubtedly, this is always the toughest part, how to start actually building the product or project. It’s exactly why I have the Executive Summary at the end of your steps.  This summary, if thorough, and outlined properly, can satisfy many potential subjects you plan to canvas. Yes, we said to hold off on spending dollars. But a mockup, one garment sample or bottle from a home goods store converted to resemble the real thing might be needed.  It can work well.

PRO TIP:

If you want to get the most impact from this Initial Phase Plan and the Executive Summary before launch,  you may need a few dollars to build or create a mockup to work alongside your feasibility approach.



This will be your package -
 An Executive Summary, Feasibility Test & Product Sample - ready for any presentation.
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