The Internet has become more and more mainstream for business owners and most now take for granted that their companies must have an online presence. Some businesses have websites just to say that they have one, while others recognize the important role a website plays in their overall marketing strategy. Whatever your reason, you should know that if you’re going to invest the time and money in developing a website, you should reap every advantage it can offer:
With over 2 billion Internet users and nearly 200 million users in North America alone according to internetworldstats.com, the practicality of taking your business online is obvious. In case you need further convincing, take a moment to think of the number of emails you receive per day, the last time you searched the Yellow Pages for a listing, or the number of times a business associate or prospect asked, “What’s your website address?”
Global Awareness of Your Business – The Internet is made up of multiple distribution channels such as online directories, e-zines, blogs, networking forums and more that can generate awareness of your business, products and services through linking, submitting articles or interactive participation.
Level the Playing Field – Whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop or a Fortune 500 company, whether you’re doing business on Main Street or Wall Street, establishing your business online gives you the presence and image to compete at every level.
Put Your Best Foot Forward – Your website can reinforce or replace your corporate print material and work 24/7 to promote and sell your products and services. Unlike print brochures, catalogs and other static media, your online information can be enhanced on the fly, allowing you to adapt to rapid changes in business climates, inventory, customer needs or to your competitors.
Get More Satisfied Customers – An online presence will allow you to provide your customers or prospects with immediate answers to their questions without their waiting for your physical storefront to open, being placed on hold, or awaiting delivery of your company brochure. Saving your customers time in turn saves you the exorbitant cost of print advertising design, manufacture and mailing – and possibly the cost of losing your prospect during the wait.
Reduce Operating Costs – You can sell your products and services online and automate responses to customers without the need for additional sales or customer service staff.
Minimal Investment, Higher Returns – Whether you build your website yourself, purchase a low-cost template or get a custom design by a professional designer, a successful website produces a higher return on investment than any other medium. Consider the cost of a website compared to the expense of an ad in the Yellow Pages, print marketing materials or the additional staff required to offer round-the-clock service, and you’ll find that a website can offer your business greater exposure, savings and profit potential than other methods for only a fraction of the price.
The fact is that the world of online commerce is thriving and if you’re not there yet you should be – to ignore this trend is nothing short of committing business suicide. To help you get there I’d like to share a few important steps and tips to make your trip to the World Wide Web a success:
1. Know your reason for going online. Whether it’s to replace your company brochure, sell your products and services or lend credibility to your business, knowing your purpose will help you achieve your goals and objectives faster.
2. Hire a professional web designer. Of course you can attempt to build your website yourself or rely on your friend’s nephew, but having an amateur website will only hurt your business. It’s not the image you want to portray to prospective customers and it certainly won’t give your business the credibility it needs to compete.
3. Select an appropriate domain name. Your domain name is your online address; the easier it is to remember the better for business. Keep it simple and make sure it appropriately represents your business. I suggest using your business name if it’s available.
4. Get the right hosting provider. Your hosting or Internet service provider will give you the space you need to put your business online. Make sure they have at least 99% uptime, because whenever your host’s servers go down your website will too, potentially costing you business. Make certain they offer 24/7 customer support so you don’t waste excessive time troubleshooting.
5. Find a happy medium between copy that sells and keywords. Installing the right keywords may make your website more appealing to search engines, but remember that your text is also being used by your prospective clients to decide if you’re the right choice. Hire a professional copywriter if necessary.
6. Market and promote your website. Once you’ve successfully taken your business online, it’s important to promote and market it effectively to reach the 2 billion-plus users on the Web. You can do so by submitting your site to online directories, optimizing your site for search engines, gaining top search engine placement using pay-per-click, and placing your web address on all marketing collaterals including business cards, direct mail, email signatures and more.