What's in a name? A whole lot more than a smelly rose, especially if it's your company's name.
So, when you're finally ready to create a Web site for your firm don't cheap out and don't be dumb.
Before you do anything, here are some words of caution: Step away from the guy you met in line at the supermarket who's trying to break into Web site design.
What is wrong with you people? You can't hand off something as important as your company's Web site to someone you don't really know, who has little experience.
It's your reputation that's at stake, and some of these folks might end up taking you to the cleaners.
Or worse. You may end up losing your domain name, the name you choose as the embodiment of your company in cyberspace.
That happens to many small business owners. They hire a so-called Web developer and that person offers to buy the domain name for them.
NO! Never let this happen. Always buy your own domain name.
If they buy the name for you, it's theirs. They can hold your company's cybername hostage. In some cases, they may demand big bucks from you to buy back your own name.
I recently wrote a story for BusinessWeek's SmallBiz magazine about an entrepreneur who unknowingly lost ownership of her firm's domain name. That's when I realized how pervasive this was.
Genma Stringer Holmes, founder of a Nashville pest control company, met a guy at church and decided to let him develop the Web site for her longtime extermination business, even though he had little to no experience.
Besides the fact that he created a crummy site, he also bought the domain name for her.
Well, he never finished the site: holmespestcontrol.net. If you go to it you'll see that none of the links work, except an unfortunate two. The links that ask you to set up an appointment or include your contact information do work, but there is nothing set up for Genma to get this coveted customer data. The information goes into the Internet abyss.
The worst part is that Genma can't shut the site down, and she can't have another Web designer fix the mess. Why? Because she does not own the domain name.
Turns out a lot of small firms are getting shafted by their Web developers and designers. An employee at the hosting company that hosts Genma's site told me he gets about eight calls a day from firms that have similar Web hell. And the Better Business Bureau has seen complaints against such Web outfits skyrocket to 1,971 last year, up from 603 in 2003.
After the story came out Genma told me she was inundated with phone calls and emails from entrepreneurs who went through exactly what she did. She's now spending her time away from killing bugs commiserating with fellow entrepreneurs about the issue.
Having been burnt, she has some words of advice: "Go back to the basics."
Investigate the heck out of your potential Web developers. Start out with BBB.org, and ask for a slew of references. And check their work. That's easy. You don't even have to get up out of your chair. Just go to the sites they've already designed.
And make sure you are the registrant of your domain name.
If you've already handed over the design of your site without making the domain name ownership an issue, go ahead, check the owner of the domain right now on Whois.org.
You might be surprised by what you find.