The worst mistake in internet marketing? Making things too complicated. It pumps up costs, slows site launches and keeps you offline when you could be online, selling stuff.
Who makes that mistake? You do. When you insist that that one feature is so important you can’t live without it, you’re killing yourself. If you can get 90% of the function with 10% of the effort, shouldn’t you?
So, here’s a list of features I think your site can probably do without, at least for now:
- Integration with your inventory management system. If you’re already selling lots online, great! Spend the fifty grand it’ll take to synchronize your store with your inventory system. Otherwise, forget it. Put it on hold.
- A fancy content management system (CMS). A full-featured, enterprise CMS is a great tool when you need it. But do you really need it? If you have a staff of two, you don’t. Use WordPress or Movable Type, instead.
- Community content. Yah, community content is trendy as heck. But you don’t need to build your own bloody city. Before you spend the time and shell out the cash to add community content, ask yourself: Do you need to build the community yourself? Couldn’t you use Facebook? Or MySpace? Or something else? Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to.
- A talking, walking spokesperson. I’m sorry, but no one needs a little video person that walks onscreen and starts babbling about how wonderful this product is. I go online to get away from that. So save the cash. Don’t add a virtual spokesperson. Plus, they’re creepy as hell.
- Video. I love online video. It’s super-valuable to the right business. Is that your business? If you can’t get your message across without motion or a ‘face to face’ human element, use video. Otherwise, save the money and time.
- Credit card processing. If you’re selling online you’ll need to process credit cards. But setting up a merchant account with your bank will make you wonder if you’re in a Kafka novel. Instead, use a service like PayPal. Later, when you’re selling in volumes where a .5% reduction in costs is important, you can set up the merchant account. Or, even better, get a lackey to do it for you.
- A custom store. Yes, you want your store to look just so. If you can save thousands of dollars and weeks of work, though, why not compromise just a little and use a prebuilt store like Prostores or Volusion? Be smart. Get selling.
- A custom lead management system. You want a CRM system that lets you manage 3,000 leads a month. Problem is, you don’t have any leads yet. Try Salesforce or HighRise. You can hook ’em right up to the contact form on your web site and get 90% of what you want at 5% the cost in dollars and sanity.
- Web 2.0 features. Whatever the hell those are. If you really need a feature, trust me, you won’t need to pigeonhole it with some trendy phrase. You’ll know you need one-page checkout, or smart form validation, or a puffy logo that looks like it’ll purr when you pet it.
- Multiple languages. Think about your audience first. Do you have a sizable group of folks who don’t speak English in that audience? If yes, spend the money to translate. If not, stop right there.
- Your own server. Yeah. No. Start off in a shared, ‘virtual’ hosting environment.
- A live webcam. Thank heavens, these seem to be going away. I don’t really want to see what you’re doing at your desk 24/7.
- A ‘wish list’. It’s nice to save your favorite products in a little folder all your own. But is that why you buy? I don’t think so. Add the wish list later.
- A ‘virtual office’. You don’t need to make your web site look like a real office. I’m on the internet because I don’t want to go to your office! Give me a site that loads fast and gives me the shortest possible route between my question and your answer.
- A ‘virtual mall’. See the previous item, and don’t make me slap you.
When you’re deciding on features for your site, analyze the costs and benefits carefully. Consider whether you want a feature because you think it’s important, or because it’ll really help your audience.