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Internet for your business: Having a Website
 
Opening the full potential of adding a web-precence to your company
 
By: Cas Mollien
Last modified on: 04 July 2008, 0:24h




 
"I really don't see it. What good can a website do to a local bar???". Rob looked at me in a confused way. He really did not understand why email and internet could actually be an additional value to his local, small business.

Unfortunately, I have seen this happen many times before. Many small business owners do not see an additional value, just an additional cost. Many more small businesses feel the desperate need to have an internet precence, but have no clue how to go about it. Even worse: some actually took the step of 'going digital', but never followed up on the results. I will explain this a little bit later on.

The biggest obstacle in most cases, is cost. The general impression seems to be, that having a website is expensive and takes a big byte of your advertising budget. Now, what if I told you that you can have a website, including your own domain-name and your own email addresses (yes, more then 1), for under $10 (US) per month!

What I am not saying is that this is the best solution for your needs, but when e-commerce is an addition to your physical business instead of one of the pillars that keeps your company going, then why shouldn't you just go ahead and try it out?

Let's start out by looking at the negative side, since this is what most people tend to do: If it does absolutely nothing for your company except establish an online presence, the ONLY cost is less then $10 per month. I can hear you say: "But 10 bucks a month for something that does not generate anything, is 10 bucks waisted, right?". Wrong. Let me try to explain it, by using the the following analogy:

A shopping mall has certain opening hours, lets say from 8am to 8pm on regular days. Most shops open and close during these very hours. However, some shops, especially the smaller 'boutiques' choose to open at 11 am, and close at 5 pm. Per day, this decreases their selling ABILITY by 50%. While the times that the shop-owners descide to close their shop are not the best times to do selling and the reasons that they choose to do this are valid, even if it is only in their own mind, they still miss out on a major part of the 'buying' public, doing their spending in the late afternoon or before going to work. With e-Commerce, more and more people are doing their shopping online, whether this regards groceries or luxury shopping. And guess what: most people do this from the comfort of their own home, whenever they are actually at home. As we all know: this is during the evening, at night and early in the morning: the exact time that your 'shop' is closed!

By creating your own internet precence and spending those 10 bucks a month, you increase your selling ABILTY by an enormous amount: The hours that you are closed now become potential opening hours. Even if you do not SELL anything on your site, being present when people search for a keyword, being present when people look up businesses in a region, being present to find out where you are located, to find out your opening hours or contact details, is worth far more then those 10 bucks!

Taking it one step further: Most small businesses do something about advertising. In whatever form; direct mail, advertisements in papers, on radio or local television.

What if you would actually take that advertisement and publish it on your website. If you do radio or television, let people see or hear the advertisement when they open your site. If you do direct mail, especially the periodical ones, publish your specials and do this every time a new special comes out!

Look at the ratio of interested people being confronted with your advertisement on traditional media versus the internet: People that come to your site are interested in what you have to offer in the first place, with our without a direct intend to spend, the interest is there. Anything you have to offer will be accepted better and easier then when you try to convince somebody that is not interested in the first place.

The only thing you have to do now, is make sure that you can offer an advantage over your competitors to your potential customer. This could be physical, such as being in a great location, maybe even 'around the corner' from where this person lives. On the other hand, this could be pricing: Ordering over the internet gets the buyer a discount of 10% (yes, this is possible to do, but let's talk about the mechanics of this process another time). Or it could be easy communication, good references to related sites, additional information about the product and it's potential uses; such as a butcher adding his favorite recipies to his site and adding links to other sites containing recipies.

You can also use it to expand the reach of your advertisement beyond the reach of traditional media. Remember that on the Internet, the world is your backyard!

Use your website to expand the reach of your advertisement to:
1) People that are interested in what you have to offer! Otherwise they would not be looking at your website, right?
2) People that are not likely to watch a local TV station or listen to a local radio station.
3) People that do not read the local newspaper or advertisment magazines (I know I don't!)
4) People outside of the delivery route of any printed advertisement. Think about the millions of prospects outside of this area. Look for yourself and find the percentage of customers you currently have that come from there: You will be amazed with the numbers if you actually measure them!

And maintaining a website is not a problem, once you include it in your daily or weekly routine. Somebody is creating 'next weeks advertisments' anyway, so why not spend an additional 5 minutes to copy your add online?

The possibilities are all there, even with a 10 dollar budget and 5 minutes a week.

There is one more obstacle which is a problem for many:

- Setting up the website.
If you are, as many (if not most) others, totally in the dark on creating a web-page, there are 2 things you can do:
1) Have somebody create it for you. This could be a professional company or 'little Johnny from next door'.
Remember that if you want regular updates, you should be able to do it yourself instead of having to request this party to do it every time (and ofcourse agains a nice ammount each time). If a professional or a professional company does it for you, make sure they use a database and simple entry fields so entering your data is a piece of cake. Getting a representing website this way could cost you anything from $0 to sky-high, but consider any ammount between $500 and $2500 to be fair, depending on your wishes. A graphically demanding site will cost more then a non-graphical one, and a heavily database-driven site (when you want to do lots of updates) will cost more then one that's almost static.
2) Do it yourself anyway, using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor such as MS Frontpage or Macromedia Dreamweaver. Many small businesses have MS Frontpage already since it is included in many versions of MS Office. Even MS Word can help creating internet pages, eventhough getting the result you are after is often easier said then done. The cost in this is time. Your time. Your VALUABLE time. But if you learned how to work with email, Word, Excel and Quickbooks for your business, then why not add Frontpage to your list?

I know you are not a webdesigner, but learning Word does not make you a writer and learning Quickbooks does not make you a CPA, right? There are many ways to learn on the internet, and you will find people everwhere who will teach you how to use programs like Frontpage.

In short: Getting a website is the biggest obstacle, mostly financially. However, when it is running, the costs are low and updating it regularly is a matter of minutes when added to your advertiment-tasks. Your website will always be 'open for business' and may even expand to becoming one of the pillars that your business leans on!

In whatever field you move, a website will extend your business in ways that you would have never imagined. It never fails. If you do not know how technology can help your company without doing major investments, visit one of my seminars or contact me for an objective view on the possibilities for your company.
 


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