I wrote this blog to be included with the materials being handed out at the Crowdfunding Innovation event held in Cambridge last night.

Before you start marketing your product or service, get your website in good shape. It has to be easy to understand and easy to use. Seek out opinions from others, especially those who don’t fully understand what you are trying to do. A good website doesn’t have to be big or expensive, it just needs some thought put into it.

1) Have a brand.

You know what you do, but it needs to be readily apparent to those who come to your web site. Understand what you actually do and do well. How are you perceived and how do you want to be perceived? Also understand your competitors. Essentially, who are you and why should we care?

2) Understand your different target audiences.

Your business will target different audiences. Prioritize them and that will help you to prioritize your messaging. Show this by targeting your audiences with messaging they want or need to hear by identifying their “pain points” first. Yes, you are targeting investors too. But remember – they want to see that you can sell your product or service successfully.

3) Craft your messaging.

Customized messaging can be done once a user “self-selects” who they are by clicking into a deeper page on your site. Your home page should help funnel your audiences to that highly targeted messaging.

4) Have a way to donate money!

There should be multiple ways to donate money. An button on the main navigation bar, a sidebar area, and highlighted copy in the body should all be employed. Consider how you word these appeals. Rather than a blunt “Donate Here” button, it could say “I support x” or “Become a world-changer!”

5) Use other Call-to-actions.

Don’t forget the other actions users can take. If you sell a product, let users buy that product – everywhere! If you’re still in the planning phase, have people sign up somehow or join a mailing list. Even if you don’t have a newsletter to send out, start collecting names now so when you do have an announcement, you have a list to send to. Always use social channels, especially if there is a social cause involved. People love to share good or interesting information.

6) Prove with testimonials or case studies.

Clearly, you think your idea is great. It may sound amazing to others too, but we are a society of skeptics. Prove it. Testimonials and Case studies work best with real people and logos if possible. Statistics and charts help too.

7) Search-optimize your site.

First choose the right keyphrases. If you sell mouse traps, “mouse” or “traps” are not good keywords. “Mouse traps” may not even be possible to get noticed for. But “innovative mouse traps” may be descriptive enough to grab some attention from the big search engines. Once you have a list of key phrases, you need to get those exact words on your website in as many places as often. Place them in headers, page titles, or as links for added weight.

8) Make it sticky.

Update your site with interesting or useful information about your product, service, or industry. This can be done News and Blog content but really any change of content on your site will help. Broadcast site changes via RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter, and Email updates. Get them coming back. The more they engage with you the more they will care about and support you.

Your website is usually your first or second impression on a potential investor. Make it count.