Opportunities on the Internet
The Internet is changing
the way we live, communicate and buy. It has quickly become the communication
of choice for many consumers and many businesses. While not every business
needs an Internet presence, more and more businesses are using websites
as an integral part of how they do business. This article is meant to
provide some ideas to consider as you think about a new or enhanced Internet
What are you trying
Most business websites fall into one of four categories - basic information
about your business, information on your products or services, electronic
commerce or communication channel (email). One of the attractive aspects
of the Internet is the ease with which changes can be made. As such, many
businesses are regularly modifying their websites as they find out what
works and what doesn't work. If you are considering establishing a website,
remember that you will probably want to change it often. If you already
have a site, don't forget to evaluate it periodically and enhance it as
the market or your business changes.
Be sure to include information about your business. This should include
making it easy to find phone and fax numbers, your address and probably
some information on the principals of the business. Many consumers and
business prospects use the Internet instead of a phone book. It is easier
and often more convenient.
Product or service
Tell web visitors what you offer. With the difficulty of making actual
phone contact, enabling a customer or prospect to learn about your products
at your website saves time and frustration. Most product descriptions
on the Internet are relatively basic. They don't have to include everything
you would normally include in an actual presentation. A visitor should
be able to determine if the product or service is likely to meet his or
her needs. Most websites do not include pricing, especially if the product
is higher priced or has some pricing flexibility.
More and more business websites are incorporating the actual sales process.
They are becoming somewhat like catalogs, only faster. There are services
available that can enable this with "shopping carts" and credit
card processing. However, most small businesses usually do not have the
volume to make this feasible.
An Internet website can generate leads effectively. Many businesses are
finding that by including a "Contact Us" section, they are getting
more leads than by direct mail. The key is to follow-up quickly on these
leads. Including an "Email Us" section also is highly advisable.
Visitors often use this email function to provide information, request
calls or simply to communicate because it is the easiest way to send email.
Be sure to check your incoming email frequently.
Be sure to include your website address on all your materials. This includes
business cards, sales literature and other advertising. Another way to
attract visitors is through listings in online directories. Many trade
associations and commercial entities offer directories. Sometimes they
are even free of charge for basic listings. Be sure to be included in
those directories that your customers and prospects are most likely to
use. For websites aimed at consumers, your website designer may be able
to use special "meta-tags" to make your site more likely to
be shown in various search engines.
Web design and
This often the most intimidating part of the process for those considering
establishing a website. Using an outside service to create, manage and
host your site probably makes sense when you first start. You can find
many such services by just asking others or by searching the Internet.
As you get more comfortable with the entire online process, you may want
to take over the managing of your site.
A presence on the Internet is fast becoming a necessity for most businesses.
The sooner you get started by looking at your competitors' sites and considering
what you wish to accomplish, the sooner you can start enjoying the rewards
of Internet marketing.