By Carey Warren

Recently, I got a call from a potential client looking for a lead generating social media program. Knowing I needed a little research on what marketing they had already introduced, I took a look at their website.

It was a do-it-yourself Wix site, filled with grammatical errors, poor graphics, disruptive music, bad photography, and content that was too vague and short to provide any real description of what the company really did for their clients. Their social media buildout wasn’t integrated well into the website, and their blogs and backlinks were practically nonexistent.

This is sometimes called a “broken link” – an element in a company’s marketing that doesn’t match up with what the customer needs to understand the company’s value. Considering I would have to stake my company’s performance — and reputation – on a piece of their marketing that was substandard and not controlled by us, I had to decline the business, even though I really wanted to help.

The worst part is that their product is truly unique, and much needed in their marketplace. They have a one-of-a-kind approach that saves people thousands of dollars. Most of their competitors can only promise what these guys can actually deliver. But when I suggested their website needed an upgrade before the lead gen program could occur, they begged off. Too expensive, they said.

What they, and many other companies are missing is this: in the digital age, your website is your storefront. Your customers will either decide to contact you, your competitor, or no one at all  based on how your site and its messaging is perceived. Considering that 70% of all web traffic is generated on mobile devices, the importance of a solid website that rescales to smart phones and iPads is even more evident.

There’s even more to it. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as they call it, is now primarily based on content — especially written content. Through years of analysis, Google has honed their algorithm to detect the cheap tricks companies used to use — repeating a long tailed keyword describing your business multiple times on a series of pages, for example. Like a kid that continually lies to his parents and gets found out, Google detects these website frauds and marks them negatively. Google now prefers sites that have lots of original content and are added to consistently.

Therefore, if you want to stay competitive, your site is really never finished. It must continually be updated with new content as your business progresses, and be well designed, mobile accessible, and pleasing to look at.

If you really want to market your company well (and in the long run, less expensively), do this one thing first: start with a well-designed, well hosted website that you can add to. Create content that expresses your business’s unique position, as well as your unique perspective on the market you’re in. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do have to start with something you can build on.

Marketing wise, it’s the first thing you need to do before you do anything else.