There was a time that if you owned and operated a small business; you depended mostly on word-of-mouth and customer referrals to get people in the door. After you started building sales and you could put aside a little money for advertising, you might print up some fliers or even take out an ad in the newspaper. Now there is a new generation of customers who don’t rely on the traditional ways of finding out information about where they want to shop and which services they wish to use.
Having a Web site in this day and age is almost as important as having a computer, fax, and a telephone. Even if you are a one or two person operation on a very limited budget, it makes sense to advertise on the Web. With all of the do-it-yourself kits, freelance designers, and development firms around nowadays, almost any business can get a presence on the Web. I was recently involved with developing a Web site for a local band here in St. Louis. With a budget of, well there wasn’t really a budget; we started out with a sort of barebones stripped down version of a Web site. It wasn’t all that interactive, but we were able to purchase a domain name really cheap, and the site contained all of the basic information about the band and even a few samples of their songs. After awhile we found a local freelance designer who really liked the band’s music and now we have a really nice looking, flashy Web site and the only charge was to allow him to put a link to his own site on ours.
A good Web presence allows even the smallest of companies to compete on the Internet with the biggest. They even have an advantage in that smaller companies can update their site more quickly and frequently than their larger competitors. One thing that is almost as important as having a good Web presence, is maintaining it.
Here are a few tips on how you can make your Web site effective:
Be sure to choose a domain name that is short and easy to remember. Nobody’s going want to try and remember Freddy’firstname.lastname@example.org, for example. If you have a web development firm create your Web site for you, make sure that the site name is in your name, not theirs.
Update your site frequently. There is a Web site for a local bar/nightclub that has a calendar of events on it that is about two months behind. If you call the number listed, you have to leave a message, and maybe they’ll call you back. Seems like a lot of trouble to find out which band is playing. It’s a shame too, because it’s a pretty kickin’ Web site. If someone has designed your site for you, try to find a user-friendly program that will let you edit the site yourself, so you don’t have to call the company each time that you want to update your site.
Keep up with the competition. It’s always a good idea to know who your competition is and what they are up to, so go to their sites frequently and try to make your site more interesting than theirs. Make sure your site is well organized. The easier it is for customers to find information on it, the more they will use it.
And finally, use some kind of counter or statistics program that will allow you to track the number of visitors to the site and how long they stayed.
Do-it-yourself kits start at a few hundred dollars and highly customized interactive sites can go all the way up to $100,000. So, with such a wide range of prices and services, you’re sure to be able to find something that fits the budget and gives you more “bang for your Web buck.”