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Wednesday, 20 June 2012 15:54

Managing the web of your eCommerce relationships: Mumpreneur Blog by Polly McGee

Managing the web of your eCommerce relationships

For the many mumpreneur and micro businesses that outsource the build, Content Management System (CMS) and hosting of their eCommerce websites, the relationship you have with your provider(s) is critical.


As the digital side of your business can be the axis on which your entire brand/marketing /social media/transaction turns, without it, well, how do I put this politely…


Anything with this much significance needs some serious controls around failure and loss, most of which begin and end with your provider. The patterns I see in these relationships are unfortunately based around not just delegation of the service, but also abrogation of responsibility for understanding the tech side of the CMS, search engine optimisation (SEO), etc.


If your provider/designer has also been responsible for registering your website URL and site hosting, then there are more life-threatening risks to your business if that relationship breaks down.


I’m blogging about this because I’ve recently been touring around doing a stint as a digital coach. One of the most disturbing things I’ve heard over and over when talking to clients is that many are effectively being held to ransom by their web builders and hosts.


Whilst there is a fair amount of bad industry practice going on with some rogue providers, there is a similar lack of responsibility on the part of the business owners to regain the power balance in the relationship.


Many businesses, for starters, don’t have contracts in place setting out who owns what and the responsibilities and roles of each party. Having a clear and agreed Service Level Agreement (SLA) is part of contracting, as is managing that SLA once the arrangement commences. Very necessary and more so if they have registered your URL – they own your global digital real estate.


For those who can’t access their CMS, being able to update and change things on your terms and timeframe is equally important. You need to know that when you ask for something, you’ll get it.


Being clear what you are paying for and what your release clause is forms part of your scrutiny of the fine print, as does the ownership of IP – including the design of your site and functionality.


If all of these elements are discussed, documented and agreed before the work progresses, managing the relationship is much easier.


Especially in technical areas where you may not have the skills to identify problems, make sure that the work you have requested is done as stated in the contract.


I have encountered a number of website owners that were absolutely assured their SEO was updated and maintained, where no SEO existed.


When the provider was queried, they were basically told it was fine. It wasn’t.


Just because your business may be small now, doesn’t mean it will always be, and you should demand the same service and surety of continuity for your site that bigger businesses do.


Find sites you like, and ask the owners about their experience with the provider. Use your social media networks for referrals, and feel like you are in a partnership that works.


Your web designer/builder/host or whatever combination you choose should be someone who you can talk to, get a straight answer from, be responsive to your needs, and have the same understanding of the outcomes that you do.

Dr Polly McGee a co-founder of Startup Tasmania, which aids fast-growth start-ups in the state. She’s behind the MumpreneurIDEAS program, a one day workshop that assists women to start-up and is also a senior lecturer in Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Tasmania in their MBA and undergraduate program. 

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