You may not believe that the Internet is critical to your success, but if you’re not on the Web, you’re ignoring a vast pool of potential customers
It’s clear that the Internet has reshaped the face of commerce both in the US and internationally. Small businesses are not only immune from the effects of the Internet; they are often in the forefront of making the Internet work to their advantage. However, many small business owners remain hesitant to create an Internet presence for their companies or to expand what they already have, because they fear the technical issues involved.
We offer the following questions for small business owners to consider when evaluating their firm’s Internet strategy.
According to most experts the answer is a resounding yes. No matter what size your business is, or what industry you’re in -even if you never plan to handle any transactions online-the value of a web site as a marketing tool vastly outweighs the cost of creating and maintaining the site.
In the U.S., recent Pew surveys found that 73 percent of American adults currently use the Internet, with almost 42 percent of American households now possessing broadband (high-speed) Internet access. Mary Madden, a researcher at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, notes that 32 percent of adults say the Internet has profoundly changed the way they shop and gather information. “Many people begin their shopping with a visit to Google or another search portal,” she says. “More and more people look at online phone directories before they pull out the Yellow Pages.” And, of course, Internet use by young people, especially teenagers, is even higher than that of adults. Today’s children and teens will become tomorrow’s consumers, likely to consider the Internet an integral part of seeking out product information, locating businesses, and even purchasing products or services.
This means that if your business doesn’t have a presence on the Internet, you may end up overlooked by potential consumers, including many from outside the geographical area in which you normally operate and advertise.
Getting your business onto the Internet is easy. As a full web service provider (i.e., Internet strategy, web development, web design, site hosting, maintenance, etc.) you can partake as little or as much as you like in the process. Spire Express can obtain a domain name (Internet address) for your company’s site, put together email accounts, and establish the site architecture. We walk and talk you through the entire process to make sure you receive the website that you need.
While eCommerce — buying and selling merchandise online — is a major buzzword, and surely a growing trend, not all businesses are suited for eCommerce, and not all need e-commerce capabilities to have a successful web presence. Professional practices, for example, may benefit from simply having a web site that outlines the services offered and the professionals available, gives office hours, and lists contact information. A service-oriented firm, on the other hand, might offer a way for online visitors to schedule an appointment. Businesses that do sell products, on the other hand, can make use of an array of e-commerce options. These include credit card and payment processing, secured online transactions, billing and shipping notification, and customer feedback.
Since most small business owners don’t have the technical knowledge to create their own web site, it’s important to choose the right company to help build your site. Since keeping a web site current is often important to a business, we make it easy for you to change your web site, if the need arises, adding or deleting information or changing the site’s appearance.
You’ll also want you to keep track of your web site’s usage. As part of our comprehensive services, we offer an excellent online statistics package that lets you see statistics showing how many people are visiting the site, where they come from, and what they are looking at on the site. Such statistics will be useful in evaluating what elements of your web site are attracting consumers, and what your geographical reach may be.
Since your web site may be the first exposure a consumer has to your business, you want to keep your web site as professional as possible while making it absolutely clear exactly what your business does.
Equally important is providing contact information. So make sure that your web site at least features your business address and telephone or fax numbers. Email is another great option, which provides web site visitors the chance to communicate directly from the site. If you offer email contact information on your site, make certain you have someone check the incoming email regularly. Unanswered email is a surefire way of irritating a customer.
Internet users have become accustomed to up-to-the-minute news and information, so it’s a good idea to keep your web site as current as possible. Not every web site needs to be updated every day, but you want to make certain that all the information you have on it is accurate. When aspects of your business change, make sure that your web site reflects those changes as soon as possible. This includes people, who join or leave the company, changes in client-relevant company policies, events sponsored by your firm, or products and services offered.
Even if your business isn’t a whirlwind of change, it’s probably a good thing to alter your web site’s appearance every so often, or add company news and information that can be updated weekly or monthly. This is especially important from a search engine marketing (SEM) aspect.
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