This article first appeared on: Bitsy – the friendliest B2B marketplace on the web

For various reasons I get to see a lot of website for starts ups – laser teeth whitening, nail bars, salsa and Zumba classes pepper my waking hours. And I’m usually trying to help gain customers or sales. I just wish they’d meet me half way. My biggest bug bear is websites. So listen up:

Think of your website as significant chunk of your business. It is not an optional extra. It is as essential as a phone number. You might not be selling online but you will get indirect sales and customers. I write for a review site (client confidentiality prevents me from saying who) and a hyperlink to the website is compulsory. When I find a hidden gem of a sandwich bar or retro sweet shop it’s frustrating not to be able to feature them because they don’t have a website.

Be different. Too many websites are the same. When promoting a business I look for something different – what it looks like inside, awards/press coverage, anything that generates stand out. I check out restaurant menus for specialities. If the food is cooked the way the owner’s mother used to then it’s a gift to find video of her on the website.

Maintain your website. Time and again I find broken links and buttons that don’t work or, the equivalent of a billboard in space, a holding page with ‘under construction’.

Don’t take suppliers information and put it on your website. Every nail bar has the same Minx product information and I can recite the Arbonne Prescriptive facial descriptions. Don’t be lazy. If you are operating as a franchise offering Zumba classes use the standard marketing material as a starting point but rewrite in your own words. Not only will your personality shine through but you’ll be more memorable than the Zumba instructor next door (and don’t commit the cardinal sin of copycat design as one start up I know has done by ripping off the Facebook template).

Let customers find you. Most visitors go to your website for directions; in this day and age a link to a map is compulsory. Also include an external shot of your premises – customers want to know what they’re looking for. And know when they’ve arrived.