Having a presence on the Internet is becoming a requirement for any small business. Increasingly, people are choosing to shop, find product support information, and do other business transactions online. Without a site on the Web, potential customers may pass you by.
There are numerous ways small businesses can use the power of the Internet. Some open actual “storefronts” on the Web where buying and selling is done. This is one common type of e-commerce. Others use the Web to promote or supplement a physical location. The website can do things a local business location cannot—reach large numbers of people beyond local geographical limits, update information quickly and easily without printing and mailing costs, provide an opportunity for customer feedback through forms and e-mail, and make a small business appear larger than it is.
If you decide to build an Internet site, begin by clearly defining the purpose of your site. Do you want it to promote your business, make direct sales, provide customer support or product information, get customer feedback, build community, or …? This is a chance to be creative. As with any publication, your website must be designed correctly to best achieve your goals.
Design is all important. The website should project the image you want for your business. Navigation around the site must be clear to avoid frustrating your users. Pages should download quickly for those with slower modems and the site should be accessible to people with disabilities. Design tips and tricks are easily found on the Internet using any search engine. There are a number of programs that will allow anyone to build a competent website, or you may want to hire a professional web designer.
Plan your content to bring people back to your site again and again. A simple brochure or flyer may not be enough; many businesses offer information. Others sponsor contests or offer free giveaways. Many companies provide technical support for their products.
Just having a website isn’t enough, though; the chances of people stumbling on it by accident are slim. Promoting a website can be endlessly time consuming, so it’s important to have a plan for doing so. There are a number of steps you can take to help people find your site. Advertise it through all available avenues—your business card, brochures, fliers, newsletters, etc. You may want to buy banner space on other appropriate websites. Integrate your marketing so that all aspects work together. There are also a number of tricks to help your site show up toward the top of search engines.
Marketing your website includes periodic analysis of your traffic statistics to find out who is visiting your site and where they are going. You should be able to obtain these statistics from your server or from commercial services that track this information. This information can then be used to refine the navigation or other design features of your site to accomplish your goals.
Use of the Promoting Your Business Internet by small businesses is still a relatively new frontier. As people explore new techniques and the technological capabilities improve, the possibilities for the future are endless.