Enterprise: Darren Advises on Making a Date with Internet Success
Web-based innovations can quickly fail if their creators are not clued up on budgeting and marketing, the founder of the UK's biggest online dating agency has warned.
On the run-up to the Best Business Innovation Awards, Darren Richards has given The Birmingham Post his top tips for internet success.
Mr Richards founded Birmingham-based DatingDirect.com in 1999 after running a successful business importing children's toys.
Realising the potential of the internet as a dating tool, he gave up his business to launch the website.
The gamble took off and the service now pulls in more tha 4 million members and a turnover of about pounds 12 million.
Mr Richards said a big pitfall when launching online was to underestimate startup costs.
"People often assume that a online business doesn't have start-up costs," the entrepreneur said.
"But you have to pay to set up a website properly."
Mr Richards said he had seen many projects fail because people believed they could set up a website "on the cheap".
"It is one of the biggest mistakes you can make," he said.
"Customers can decide in a millisecond whether you are a professional business or not.
"It doesn't matter if you think you've got a good product, if your web page doesn't look right, there's an error message or it takes a long time to load people will go elsewhere."
Mr Richards recommends getting five good quotes from web developers before building a site.
"If someone says they can design a website for a few hundred pounds, you will get what you pay for," he said.
"Remember that the website is the face of your business, make it work for you.
"When DatingDirect.com began we were only two people, but we looked like a big organisation. …