SEM, and web
marketing to attract online business, leads, and sales.
WHY YOU NEED A WEB SITE
by Robert Sullivan
or home-based business should consider a website. There are certainly
some businesses where a website offers nothing of value but for
the vast majority a website can be a very effective sales channel
and marketing tool. I've listed just a few reasons why a website
can be such a powerful tool but before you continue - and just to
underscore how valuable the Internet can be - consider these statistics:
are some "rules" to follow to ensure the success of your website.
- Two billion
orders will be placed over the Internet this year.
revenue will be $95 billion by the end of this year and will
exceed $1 Trillion by 2002.
purchases have increased from $141 million in 1995 and are expected
to be $9.5 billion this year.
the Internet for your business is very inexpensive. Unlimited
connect accounts are generally available for less than $20/month
and include Internet access and e-mail. You can start off with
just using electronic mail (e-mail) as a way to communicate with
existing customers and new ones.
anywhere in the world with customers and employees and pay NO
long distance telephone charges. And while you're at it, you can
"attach" other documents to your e-mail. For example, you can
send an updated proposal to your representative across the country
- quickly and at no cost.
support for your customers with answers to common questions; assistance
on specific products or services, provide a variety of ways in
which you can be contacted. Do all this without answering a phone
or hiring additional staff.
Be Open For
Business 24 hours a day
bad but in reality it's a big plus. With e-mail, people can contact
you anytime it is convenient for them. You can respond anytime
that's convenient for you. Of course, we suggest "timely-response"
just as if someone called you. When you have a website, potential
customers can find out about your products and services 24 hours
a day. Isn't this much better than getting a call at 5:00 AM from
a customer in a time zone that's 3 hours ahead of yours?
is being used on a regular basis by millions worldwide with more
"connecting" every day. Many of the new users come from countries
around the world. They want to buy the "latest and greatest" products.
They have money. With the Internet they can become your customer!
How much do you think it would cost you to advertise in the Times
of London, the Tokyo Daily, and Moscow Today? Compare that to
the cost of a website. The information you provide on your website
is instantly available to every one of these users
that speak a foreign language
your market to the "English-speaking" world? Translate your website
into a number of languages and offer a choice to users when they
come to your home page to further increase your exposure.
long-distance phone bill can run into the hundreds of dollars.
Using the e-mail to talk to your customers, suppliers, partners,
etc., can save you a large portion of this expense.
Try new ideas
Internet is a "brand-new" medium, no one (including us) really
knows all of the ways you can make money from the Internet. We
do know there are a whole lot of great ideas already. When you
use the Internet, you can try new ideas usually for little invested
on your part. It doesn't work, OK, you learned. Modify it your
idea. Improve it. At the very least you'll know more than your
competitors. Who could imagine that authors would put their books
on the Internet? Well, that's what people are trying with the
hope that customer's will like what they read enough so that they'll
buy the paper version.
Change your products and services easily and at low cost
If you have
produced "paper" catalogs, brochures, sales collateral's, you
know how difficult and expensive it is to change them. You want
to add a new item. Oh no! The phone company changed your area
code. No, no! What a pain with paper. With your Internet site,
changing anything is a simple and inexpensive process.
Say you just
received a new product and you want to advertise a "special."
Reaching your customers via the phone, sending a letter, or FAX
would be time-consuming and expensive. With the Internet you can
send out an e-mail to 500 of your best customers with the click
of your mouse. You can put a "SPECIAL" notice on your website
advertising the new product.
1. Decide if
you are going to develop your own website or contract with a developer.
If the latter, search the web for possible candidates. If you are
doing it yourself, visit a bookstore or search the web and pick
up one of the many excellent references on Web Publishing and html.
If you don't have the time, hire someone and ensure they have the
required expertise. A child can write html code. Getting an online
game design degree takes some skill and education. Designing
an effective website takes an expert. We
2. Apply for
a domain name. (You can do it yourself over the internet via the
Internic, http://www.rs.internic.net, or have your ISP do it for
you. Think up three names ... it is likely you will not get your
first choice. Take your time ... this domain name becomes your identifier!
We can do this for you.
outline and organize the material you want to place on the web.
Don't do it "on the fly."
4. Decide on
the "look" of your pages. Browse the web for ideas.
5. Your website
MUST provide a service as well as present your product or service
that you are selling. In our case, we provide useful small business
related information (tax advice, start-up and money saving tips,
etc). We then gently steer the visitor to the books we are selling.
6. Your website
must be EASY to use. The design of the site must make it easy for
the user to navigate and not get lost. A confused visitor will simply
7. Your website
will go nowhere without a sustained marketing effort. See below
for what has been successful for us.
TIME. Users will not wait. You have about 10-seconds to catch and
keep a visitor. Your home page should load quickly. Ensure this
by keeping graphic files small (optimize all graphics with "Gif
Wizard" at http://www.gifwizard.com), backgrounds simple and by
using height and width tags with every graphic. The height/width
tags will force the text to load first giving the user something
to read while the graphics load. It is also a good idea to use ALT
tags with the graphic tag so that the graphic is identified to the
user while it loads.
FRIENDLINESS. There are many different browsers in use. Ensure your
home page is friendly to all of them. Do this by keeping your page
simple and if you are using frames, tables, image maps and other
enhancements, ensure you have an alternate page available for browsers
that cannot display the enhancements. For example, we use frames
so we provide a "non-frame" gateway for those users with older non-frame
MESSAGE. The user should be immediately presented with a description
of your site ... what it's for and what's in it. Also, make it easy
for the user to navigate your site. For example, make certain there
is always an obvious way to return to the home page from anywhere
within your site.
TAGS. These html tags are used to define the name and content of
you site. Proper use of META tags will ensure that some important
(large) search engines can find and properly index your site. Also
ensure each webpage is property "titled" within the header tags.
Learn about meta statements at http://www.metatag.webpromote.com.
5. UPDATE FREQUENTLY.
Ensure that visitors will return to your site by constantly updating
its content. This cannot be stressed enough - a static site will
FOR FEEDBACK. Make it easy for a visitor to e-mail you comments.
IDEAS (ATTRACTING VISITORS)
We have found
the following to be very effective in building and sustaining traffic
to our website. I hope it goes without saying that website sales
are directly proportional to traffic!
1. Get listed
with the major search engines. Don't do it yourself - it is very
time consuming and there are plenty of inexpensive ways to get it
done. I like the folks at 1-step (http://www.1step.com).
traditional and internet-based news releases.
3. Engage in
strategic mutual link development. This is quite important - 25%
of our traffic comes to us via these links! This takes time but
is worth the effort.
in newsgroups and listservs. Don't advertise - provide useful information.
Let your "signature" do the advertising. Don't become a pest.
your URL on EVERYthing: telephone answering machine, literature,
business cards and stationary, traditional adverts, etc. We had
some T-shirts printed with our homepage on the front and URL on
the back - they are great conversation starters.
a newsletter. (Preferably e-mail based) We did, and in about a year
generated a mailing list of over 5000. This brings traffic ... and
sales. Got a new book? Let your list know about it - at no cost.
7. Write articles
for journals and periodicals that relate to what you do. Include
a byline with your URL, of course.
8. Make sure
you are using a "signature" with your e-mail and include your URL.
content, content. Your site must say something, teach something,
provide valuable useful information. This is the most important
element of any successful website. Furthermore, this information
must be dynamic - kept up to date and always changing.
2. As noted
earlier, website navigation is very important. It must be easy to
find anything within your site and it should not be impossible to
"get lost." It is amazing how many websites ignore this important
element of website design.
it. You can build a successful website if you pay attention to what
has worked for others. The ideas presented here worked for us and
I bet they will work for you. All you have to lose without a website
are sales! Think about it.
the Small Business Advisor can help with your website
to top of page - Return