Episode 23: What Comes Before A Website? (This Before That Series - Part 1 of 3)
It's very common for new entrepreneurs to want a website to validate the fact that they have a business, but a website does not make a business! In this episode, Carmen Reed-Gilkison and Deirdre Harter dive into what you need to have in place before you ever consider building a website and how to go about getting yourself set up correctly.
[01:01] Deirdre Harter: This is the first of a three-part series where we're talking about “this before that.” Now, the reason we wanted to bring this up is that a lot of times, we are seeing coaches, consultants, and service providers with online businesses, and things are getting put into the wrong order. And we know that you don't know what you don't know. And so that's why we wanted to bring this series to you to help you recognize if you're putting things in the wrong order and what the right order is.
[01:41] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: And today, we want to talk about what comes before a website. So we just did our rebrand, which, if you're following along on the podcast, you saw our rebrand series, which we talked all about that to also shine a light on what you need before you even brand in the first place or do a re-brand. And today, we want to talk about what comes before our website because the women that we work with come to us when they're just starting or they're farther along in their business. We work with people who've been in business for 5, 10, and 30-years, so we see a lot of different experience levels and knowledge levels when it comes to online business. But something that's very common with the people who are just starting out. And this is common, I think, for anyone. It was for me as well, is the first thing I wanted was a website. The first thing people want is a website. And I know that when I first started, I don't think I had one for a little while, but at some point I decided to have one. Deodorant, did you have that same urge to have a website right away when you started online entrepreneurship?
[02:54] Deirdre Harter: I did not have the urge for it in the very beginning, I knew that it was going to be a big challenge and it was going to take up a lot of time. And back when I started, my whole business was a side hustle, and I didn't have a whole lot of time. So I knew that I was going to try to figure out how do I do this without that. Because I really wanted to just make the money first and then hire who I needed help. I knew I was going to need some help to do it. So mine was a little bit different in that I did not want to do it. But I was hearing, and this was 14 years ago, I was hearing everyone saying, you got to have a website.
[03:36] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, and you did it. Right. And I'm sure that a lot of that has to do with your experience as a CPA. I mean, you helped audit businesses, and you saw what works and what doesn't. And so you had a lot more of the business knowledge, I think, that a lot of people do. And when I started, I was a side hustler too. But the funny thing was, one of the first challenges I took was this build your website in a week challenge. I can't remember the name of the gal who ran it, but I thought, so if you did this whole thing, and she gave you all the tools to use, and if you did this and you were able to build the website, you could keep well, you'd have a website by the end of it. But what I soon realized was that there's no way you could do that unless, especially for the first time, everyone, I think, in there was the first time at trying to build a website. So unless you had the full seven days off, you could maybe have done it. But I was working, right? So I had to do it after work and before work and all that kind of stuff. So it was a little bit grueling, but it kind of got me hooked. And I think a lot of people get they think that in order to have a business, you have to have a website. But that's totally opposite. In fact, you don't have a business until you make that sale. Right?
[04:55] Deirdre Harter: Yeah, that's exactly right. And I will say that my first coaching, when I was coaching in the eCommerce space, that was when I had super limited time. Then an interesting thing happened. Once I became a full-time entrepreneur, all of a sudden, I had more time to work on and in my business. And I do remember I took a course and it was called it was something about creating your platform, like it was about how to become known, how to establish your expertise. And a really big part of that was you had to go to your website, and of course, they were selling the WordPress, the whole template that you needed. And I bought it. And I remember getting completely sucked in. And this course, it took me like four months, and I wasn't selling a thing, learning WordPress and getting this whole thing installed because it was supposed to be a do-it-yourself type of thing. And I was enjoying it. It was fun, I have to admit. I was having fun doing it. But I can tell you that at the end of it. I had this really awesome website, and I had all the plugins, and I had my blog going, and still, I wasn't making any money with it.
[06:16] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah. And that's what happens. So then let's go let's fast forward a little bit in my experience, and I realized that the website that I had created and I would have to think back, but anyway, either I had created it, oh, yeah, I did have it created. And so I realized that it wasn't working, or I had pivoted to a different I think that's what it was. I pivoted to a different niche, and I was like, okay, well, if I'm going to do this, I need someone who knows how to do a website. Because I was still stuck on that. Because I think just people get stuck on that when you're starting out. You think that's what makes you a business owner, and it's absolutely not. But what I did was I had gone to an event local in Portland, Oregon, and this gal who was one of the presenters, she was fantastic. And I could tell she knew her stuff all about websites and web development and what to do and not do. I mean, her presentation was about the security of websites, but she also then sold websites, right? So I was hooked by her, and I hired her, and we worked together. She helps me with the whole strategy. We went into this really cool they had this really cool office with these whiteboards, like, all the way around the room. And so she'd map out what the pages were. What do we want people to do, the whole customer journey. And we did this over the course of a few weeks. Like every weekend, I go meet with her to do this. And then I remember, and this was back then. I don't know when back then was. I mean, it was probably seven years ago maybe that website was $5,000. And I remember going through this whole strategy session, and then at one point, she said, so where is all the copy for the website? And I just was like a deer in the headlights because I was like, what do you mean? I was thinking $5,000 was the website, copy, and all. I never thought anything of it. But essentially, this episode is what comes before a website, and copy comes before a website. That was my lesson. Copy comes before a website. Carmen, don't pay for a website until you have the copy! But I didn't have the copy. I mean, I had to rush and try to write stuff up myself. And I had no idea how to write it to attract the right people and all of that stuff. It was all just me winging it. And I think a lot of these experiences that people have and they go through them, and they feel dejected or like you failed at something or whatever, they really do help build our character. And it's funny to look back now, and I think anyone who's going through it who's made mistakes like this, just chalk it up to the entrepreneurial journey. Right. It's a super important and large growth experience if nothing else.
[09:06] Deirdre Harter: Yeah, that's exactly right. And one of the reasons I love being a coach and coaching others is we can never completely eliminate all the missteps and the detours. There's some that we just have to get through. Right. But being a coach, we can help take out a very large percent of that because we have been there, done that, and that's why we have coaches that we hire, and they help guide us because there's always someone ahead of you who's walked that path. Right. And they know where all the pitfalls are. You're still going to stumble on one or two here or there. But I love the fact that now I have guidance. You and I have guidance now, and we are able to guide others. Because the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, it was very frustrating and disheartening, and there was so much you had to get through and get to the end and go, well, that didn't work.
[10:14] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Exactly. Yeah. And that was after some long, huge expense of energy. Right. Like your focus. You're thinking, this is going to be it. How many times have you had that? This is going to be it thought and then it isn't it? I think everyone has that, and you don't realize it because the other part of being a solo printer, especially, is it's a lonely journey because you're doing it on your own unless you have a coach. And I think you bring up a good point. We have guidance, and coaching is so important to have; and it is an honor to be a coach because when you are in your business on your own, you can't see the forest for the trees. I mean, you have no objectivity. You have no idea if the thing you're doing is great or not.
[11:06] Deirdre Harter: As a service-based entrepreneur, are you feeling overwhelmed with all the to-dos? The women who hire Encore Empire have reached a breaking point in their business where they know that something needs to change, but they don't know what. Maybe you're finding yourself working nights and weekends, and that's not what you signed up for. And despite all the extra hours you're putting in, your income isn't increasing. We help you peel the layers back to uncover the root of the problem and not only correct it, but teach you how to avoid falling into the same trap in the future. We help you step into the role of CEO in your business, where you're working on your business, not just in it. If this sounds all too familiar, we invite you to set up a consult call at encoreempire.com/consult.
[12:07] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: There are ways, and we teach our clients how to understand and evaluate what they're doing. But when you're alone and you have no guidance, you just really don't know. Right. So when we talked about what comes before our website, and it's the copy, well, how do you get the copy then? And back then, I didn't know how you get the copy. Really, what it is, is you need to know your offers and your ideal client. Right.
[12:34] Deirdre Harter: Yeah. The copywriting. Sometimes we think all we need is the skill, but the skill alone is not enough. You have to also know what is the material. Like, you can be the best copywriter in the world, but if you don't know, if you have not validated those offers with your ideal client, meaning they've paid you, you found them, they paid you, they're thrilled, then really the copywriting becomes something that it's being done in a vacuum.
[13:06] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Right.
[13:07] Deirdre Harter: And when you're going to work with whether you're doing it yourself and learning how to do it, or you're going to hire someone a copywriter, again, it's that same experience that you have with your website, Carmen. They're going to go, okay, I'm going to write your copy. Like, okay, who's your ideal client? What are your offers, and what's your strategy here?
[13:25] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Exactly! Yeah. And if you work with a reputable copywriter and you don't have answers to that, they will tell you to come back. When you do, they're not going to take you. Because think about it, the validation piece. That's why we built Encore Empire on values and validation. And we say it all the time. And what you said, Deidre, was it: You have to know your ideal client. You have to find them, know them, sell to them. Right. The sale is the validation. But also then the fact that they're thrilled, that's also the validation. You can't make it a sale. Like, sometimes another thing that people do early on, or there's a misconception that if you just create programs or digital products and sell them, you can pretty much be hands-off in your business. And you can, but the more hands-off you are, like, if you just have a site where your digital products are being sold, and you just see money coming, and that's fine, but how rewarding is that? I kind of went down that path a little bit, too. We're trying to sell a course, but it was hands-off, and people were buying it. But then I had no idea because even when you reach out by email to check in on what people are doing or, hey, how's it going? Or whatever, hardly anyone ever responds. Right. So I think the point is that you want to know that the client is happy, and if you're not able to do that, then you haven't fully validated.
[14:52] Deirdre Harter: Right. And it makes sense, Carmen, that before the website, once again, you also need to know what's the result you're going to get for your clients. And by that, I mean there are different ways of educating and mentoring. So if you're a coach or a consultant, you can do it through various ways. And by that, I mean you can have a course, you can have a membership, you can do one on one coaching, you can do VIP days, you can have a six-month program. There are so many different ways, and I think we get stuck on.
[15:38] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Right.
[15:39] Deirdre Harter: Is the thing I'm going to package this up in, but I think sometimes we forget to think about what is the best for our clients, like, what is it that they need? If we truly know them and we know the result that they want to achieve and we know how we're going to help them get that result, it may or may not fit into a certain kind of business model or delivery system.
[16:06] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yes, that's so true. I have a story about that too. I think Peter and I probably have stories about everything, but when I was helping local brick-and-mortar business owners learn how to do social media marketing, I wanted to help them learn how to do social media marketing. They wanted to lean into social media marketing because back then, that was when Amazon was just starting to get big, and they were worried; remember, everyone was worried about the little local guys and all that. So it was good timing in that respect. But they did not want to stop and learn it. They just wanted someone to do it for them. And I didn't want to do it for them. So that speaks to that. Exactly. So I was going out there with the intention of teaching these people, like, here I come, I'm going to come save you. I'm going to teach you how to do social media marketing, and everything's going to be fine. And they were like, first of all, they're super overwhelmed with social media marketing. They're small business owners. They're brick and mortar. So they are dealing with all the things they have to deal with. The whole retail thing, stocking, inventory. They've got employees, they've got a physical location. They did not have time to stop and learn how to do this. And so they were just overwhelmed, and they wanted someone to do it for them. And I did not want to be an agency. I didn't want to start an agency, and I didn't want to have to be the one to do that work. So that's a mismatch right there. And that speaks exactly to what you were just saying. How did I learn that they didn't want to do it?
[17:33] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: It was by talking to them. So it was a great idea. It was good timing. But the delivery method that I wanted to do wasn't the method that they wanted. They wanted someone to come along and do it for them. The other aspect of that was they didn't really have the money to pay a high ticket agency either. And not that I would have been high ticket, but it's like they would have been scraping the pennies to make this work, which it just didn't work out for me, but that was a form of validation. It validated that that wasn't the right thing to do at that point.
[18:04] Deirdre Harter: Right. Had you done a website with all that on there, or did you discover this before you created a website?
[18:11] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: No. Yeah, I did not do a website with all that on there. And with them, I was really going face to face and meeting them. And I actually had a meetup group back then. So when people find out, when they think about how do you know your ideal client, it's like you have to meet with them in person, really. Right?
[18:30] Deirdre Harter: That's right. And aren't you glad you didn't have a website and go through all that before you figured that out?
[18:36] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Exactly. Yeah.
[18:38] Deirdre Harter: I think that this is something we see too in this industry of coaching and consulting and strategists. There are some really big names out there.
[18:50] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Right.
[18:50] Deirdre Harter: Like, they got started ten years ago when this whole thing really started to take off on the Internet, and now they're kind of all over the place. So we're going to just call them gurus for now, just as a label to know who we're talking about. But a lot of times what we're seeing is that the gurus have they have a specialty, and they're teaching what they know to you and not necessarily what you need as the entrepreneur. And so there is an underlying assumption here that if you are purchasing their course or their program and we're talking about things that are not one on one when we do one on one coaching, that is always customized. That's where you're talking one-to-one so you can figure these things out. But this problem comes in, I think, when there are programs and courses. And this is a lesson not just for all of us in determining, do we need this program? Of course. But it is also for you to think about your clients and what they need. So we need to make sure that it's what you actually need and you're not taking it just because they're fantastic. Just like you talked about that program, you took on creating a website, Carmen, like you it was great. It was a fantastic program, very effective, but it just wasn't what you needed.
[20:17] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. Yeah. And a lot of these people and we're talking about the big name people like. I mean. Amy Porterfield is not one of these that we've seen this happen with. But there are some other big-name people like that on that level. Where we have clients coming to us, and we're hearing stories where they invested in these high-ticket programs, and some of them were sold that it would be a personalized coaching thing. And it was not now. Typically they'll say there's group stuff. But you get to meet with an accountability advisor or something like that. Well, that's not the same as one on one coaching. But what we're seeing that's very disturbing is, in one instance, we heard a story about a gal who's halfway through this high ticket program, tens of thousands of dollars, and people are trying to help her monetize like four or five things at once. Well, Deirdre and I know that trying to focus on four or five things at once in that manner is almost impossible. To know that they're in a high ticket program and this is going on is really concerning. And then another example is someone who's brand new to online, where someone's trying to start her off with a membership, and she doesn't have a following or anything. And it's very disheartening to hear this kind of stuff because we know that it starts on the one-on-one level, meaning that you need to know who your ideal client is and what they want before you can start building out something. So for the person who has no following and someone's trying to teach her to do a membership, that's going to be a very difficult path to go down. And it's not something that we would do. And not to say that we're always right and other people aren't. It's not bad at all. It's just being business strategist. We understand what it takes to begin and to get that. Like I said before, we start with values and validation. It's like you've got to start internally and not externally. And it's almost like some of these gurus are teaching the big fancy stuff. Even when you think of click funnels or funnels at all. Like, do you need a website? Do you need a funnel? No, you don't need anything unless you have you're able to sell something first. Right? You have to sell first, and then the money that you earn enables you to then strategically decide what your next step is and why that's right.
[22:43] Deirdre Harter: And when we talk about values, I think this is a really important piece that we are helping build a foundational business strategy. And what that means is that we are looking at your goals. Like where do you want to be three years from now, five years from now? And not just the money part. And I think sometimes the money is important, it is necessary, but we also need to look at lifestyle. Like, what do you want your life to be? How many hours do you want to be working? Do you want to be working with a team, not be working with the team? There are so many factors that we really need to hone in on. And this is where values come in. Like, what do you value most? The women we work with that are in our world are all heart-centered. We all want to make a major impact it's why we do what we do. And that has to be factored in because there are 100 ways to make money. But you have to really be intentional about how you're going to go about doing it when you want to build in these other factors. Like making sure that you're providing the impact. That you're getting the self-fulfillment out of it that you really want. That you're working with the people that you want to in the way that you want to. So there's so much more to it. And I think that's where a lot of this falls short is and when we say it's not what you actually need, it's not always a plug-and-play. Like you can't just take anybody and say, anybody can have our membership, and everyone should, it's not necessarily true.
[24:13] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. And you and I were talking earlier, and I think that this is very true. The bigger the guru, the farther away from the clients they are. So when you purchase, I will say, I keep bringing up Amy Porterfield because I love Amy Porterfield. And I will say, when you purchase a program from Amy Porterfield, she is in there with you, and it's awesome. So she's not one that we're talking about, but there are some that sell their programs, and people are enticed to buy the program because they either went to an event where the guru was speaking and then that guru sold into their program. But it's not the guru that you're working with. When you get there, you realize that, oh, okay, now you're working with the team of the guru, and the expertise and level of value they're able to give you varies. And that's where things don't seem to have very good alignment. And that's the part that we absolutely don't like at all. So a lot of these people are stand-up people with integrity and everything. It's like there's nothing wrong with them, but they've just gotten a little bit too far away from the client. So they're relying on their team to do something that they used to do. And there's somewhere along the way, the checks and balances or the quality control has kind of fallen off the wagon a little bit.
[25:37] Deirdre Harter: That's right. And there's always a way to ensure that stays. We don't want anyone to have the impression that you can't go real big and you can't have a big team because then you're going to lose the quality of your service. It's not true because there are so many examples of companies that are very large and yet they maintain that customer-centric focus. One I can say right off the top of my head is Apple products. If you've looked at Apple or studied or heard anything about their marketing, they are gigantic. And yet they still have raving fans. And people just are so sold on what it is that they offer, and that is a product, and we're talking about services here, but it really is about business best practices. And I spent decades auditing other companies, and so a big part of that was internal controls, but not just for fraud. That was part of it, but a lot of it really was this best practice piece to ensure that the mission and the vision were being supported by the processes and that everyone who worked in the organization understood what they were, and that all those standard operating procedures and manuals and the way that we did things were all tied in and that we weren't missing any steps. And that really was what an audit was, especially within the nonprofit world. I did quite a few in that area, and they are very heart-centered, mission-oriented, and it is so important for them to ensure that all the dollars that are being donated to them are being spent according to how they've set out to spend those dollars. And I think we can borrow a lot of that idea and we can build that into our business. In fact, that's one of the areas that we help our clients with is making sure that along the way, as we're validating, as we're growing, as we're scaling, that we have the right infrastructure that is going to allow us to continue to give the same result or an even better result. That's really the goal is let's give our clients a better and better result as we grow.
[28:00] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Exactly. Yeah. And if you think about it, that's how it should be. Right? I mean, if you're growing and scaling and if you're getting better and better and you're delivering more and more, you should hopefully be able to give a better experience to your clients. And sometimes I think business isn't easy and people get tripped up here and there. Anyone people it doesn't matter if you're a guru or you're just beginning, people get tripped up, and that's normal. I think a lot of it is if you make a mistake, how you handle that mistake too, goes a long way. But I want to get back to when we're talking about this episode, is what comes before our website and we talked about copy. The copywriting comes before the website, and that you can't have the copywriting if you don't know what your offer is or who your ideal client is. And the way Deodorant and I teach our clients to hone in on this, no matter how many years they've been in business, is we start with their values. So we want to start with your values. You should start with your values and look at what matters most to you and your life today, tomorrow, five years from now. I mean, obviously, it'll change. It's not going to be set in stone. But we talk about the inside-out approach, and it's important, it's so very important to start there because that helps to eliminate some of those missteps further. On in your business, right?
[29:28] Deirdre Harter: And one last thing, too, is that when we talk about what comes before a website, all of this applies to maybe you have a website, maybe you've been in business for a while. But what I see is a lot of times, people feel like they need to change their website, update their website because they're going to have new offers or they're pivoting in some way. This has happened a lot over the last couple of years because of COVID. A lot of service providers who were working in person have pivoted over into online or they're adding an online leg to their business. And it's almost like starting from scratch, right? It's like they feel like, oh, this is like a whole new world, it's a whole new thing. And so they kind of get into that same place we all started at, like starting out with the business. And they think that because, oh well, I've been in business, I've been doing this for such a long time that they don't need to go through these preliminary steps of the validation piece. And again, it will usually ends up in complete overwhelm, complete frustration. And by doing this step every time there's a pivot, a change in your offers, in who you're serving, and in how you're serving, this is such a valuable framework for you to use each and every time.
[30:49] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. And you can learn more about values and validation by joining our prerecorded business Validation Method Workshop at encoreempire.com/validate.