Does Your Business Need a Web Site?
Small businesses are an important part of the national and state economy. They provide an array of products and services that are often part of a niche market. In order to extend their market reach, many business owners have created an online presence.
If you are a business owner considering an electronic presence, it is important to determine where your business is now and where you want it to be in the future. There are several ways to use technology in business. Consider these ideas.
· Internet access. This allows entrepreneurs to establish an email account and conduct market research. Building an email listserv provides a way to keep customers informed about new products and services offered. It can also be used to explain uses for existing products and services and provides interaction with customers. Potential customers subscribe to the email list, and the site should also offer an option to unsubscribe if they choose. If you are considering using email, begin collecting email addresses from current customers. The best list is one you build yourself since it contains the names of people who have shown interest in your business offering. Offer an “opt-in” choice to potential customers, preferably with “confirmed opt-in,” where the customer receives an email confirming their decision to be on your list. Information should be presented in an objective, informational way. Those who choose to be on email lists typically want information about the products and services offered. If you don’t provide beneficial information, your customers may choose to unsubscribe. Also remember that customers expect you to respond to an email request in a timely manner. You can transition from email to a Web site using “click through.”
· A static Web site. This is a more involved presence. A business at this level has a Web site that provides information about the business. If a business provides an offline service, this type of site is a good medium for advertising and marketing. A static site can be used in developing an image for your business as well as building consumer trust and loyalty. The Web site is the important face of the business, and should be carefully considered. As you plan the site, consider what customers expect when they visit. Make it attractive and simple. This type of site should be refreshed and updated regularly so consumers can return for new information. This type of site typically includes a home page, an “about us” section, frequently asked questions, a site map and a “contact us” section. The home page states the purpose of the business (mission statement) and includes a description of whom you serve.
· A transactional site. This type of site becomes an online store and has the added feature of placing and tracking online orders. It should be designed for easy navigation, and the purchasing process should be simple and straightforward. It is wise to spend time researching other sites to see how they handle transactions. This can help you determine ways to make purchasing easy for your customers.
A Web site is one of many ways a business can use technology. Before creating a site, determine your business goals for the Web site. Clearly defined goals will help meet the needs of your business and the needs of your customers. It will also help effectively manage your resources. As you plan the site, remember to allow room for growth.
By: Karen Biers - Apr. 27, 2007