Establishing a new business was much simpler before Al Gore invented the interwebs. You just established your legal entity with your state. You received a tax ID number from the federal government. Then, you got yourself a phone number from Ma Bell and listed it in something our forefathers called The Yellow Pages. Then you sat back and let your customers’ fingers do the walking across their phones to your business. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
It’s A Different World
In 2016, when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, things were very different. The Yellow Pages were effectively extinct. Because the Google and its band of digital buddies changed everything. Suddenly, you were expected to build a website that told the world everything it wanted to know about your business.
A High Degree Of Difficulty
For most new business creating a website is really hard. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the Bob Villa skills to build their own website. At least nothing that looks like a website you would want your business to live in. Of course you can hire someone else to design your website. But that can involve more expense than most bootstrapped startups can pay when they have no revenue.
Marching To An Offbeat Drummer
The Weaponry decided to do things differently. We created a fun and frivolous, if not totally fricken random website at The Weaponry.com. The first headline visitors read says, ‘Am I in the right place?’ And the first body copy on the site reads, ‘This is not a legit website’. At least visitors can’t say we didn’t warn them. The main image on our home page is of Laverne and Shirley from the sitcom Laverne & Shirley. I wrote in detail about the site in The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?.
More Thought Than You Think
While it appears that we were just trying to be funny when we created our website there was actually a lot of thought put into the decision to create such an unconventional site. And here’s the rationale.
The 7 Reason The Weaponry doesn’t have a real website.
1. Our website is not our business.
I have met far too many entrepreneurs and non-trepreneurs who spent all of their critical, early effort thinking about their website. They spun their wheels and delayed the real work of establishing a new business until the website was complete. Which stole far too much of their valuable time when the business was still in its veal stage.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see startups make. Instead of focussing on your website, focus on business development. Work on your network. Work on your processes and procedures. Work on your product or service. All of those things are far more valuable to your growth and long term viability than a website. Don’t fool yourself. A polished website is merely a placebo that makes you feel as if you have a real, viable business.
2. All agency websites looked the same.
Agencies love to puff about how creative and different they are. But the sites all say the same thing, which betrays the statement. If you are really different, and think different, do different. Our illegitimate website is nothing if not different. It helps us stand out. Which is the first order of business in marketing.
3. We didn’t start out with creative work to show.
Advertising agencies deal in the currency of ideas and creativity. In the beginning we didn’t have ideas that were born and raised at The Weaponry to share. I didn’t want to feature work that wasn’t conceived, gestated and birthed at The Weaponry. But agency websites that don’t show creative work feel as if the are covering something up. So we decided to avoid creative work altogether by not revealing anything.
4. Our website is meant for prospective employees. Not clients.
Websites, like any good piece of communication, should be crafted for a specific audience. The audience we most wanted to reach was prospective team members. We knew that creative thinkers would recognize what we were doing as very different. Which probably meant that the way we thought and operated was different. And that we are open to new and novel thinking. While I might not know much, I know, I know, I know this much is true.
5. The intrigue was too fun to let go.
When the first visitors found our fake site the fun began. People immediately wanted to know more. In fact, everyone told us that they read every single word on the site. We have now had that non-website for 3 years. And the stories just keep piling up. We could write a book on the stories we have heard, and the funny emails that have been forwarded to us. It has definitely created an inside/outside effect. All to the benefit of our insiders.
6. I didn’t want the business to grow faster than I grew as the leader of the business.
This is the most important reason we don’t have a real site. When I first launched The Weaponry I had a lot to learn. And I didn’t want the agency’s growth to outpace my own. It would likely lead to disaster. Unhappy clients, unhappy partners and unhappy employees.
I knew the business would grow. But I didn’t want the pressure of additional demand before we created the systems and processes to accommodate for it. So a magnetic website with great SEO and a sharply-honed paid search strategy, like we implement for our clients, would have actually worked against our long term plans.
7. My Own Rebelliousness
I simply like doing things differently. And I wanted to prove that even in the digital era you can grow a multi million dollar business without a website that shares a dot of data about you. Which is exactly what has happened.
What is even better is that smart businesses trust us to design and build their websites, despite the fact that we don’t have one ourselves. That will provide a great hook when I finally write the book about my experience. #MarketingBakedInFromTheStart
There are no absolutes in business. There are multiple ways to do everything. If everyone else is zigging then you should zag. Or zog or zeg. Because breaking the rules always gets you noticed. And getting noticed is the first step to making a sale. So learn all the rules. Then decide which ones are worth breaking. Then break away. It may just provide the break you’ve been looking for.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
‘I think one of the first things Anne Norman told me about you all was “if you go to their website, just don’t worry. I promise they’re legit.” And a year into a killer partnership, I can say, not only are totally the legitist but your website reflects everything we love about working with you.’