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Are you considering putting your business or organization on this "Information Highway" you've heard so much about? Many businesses have already done so, but why should you? After all, you've probably heard news, both encouraging and alarming, regarding this mysterious entity called the "Internet".
In the last 5 years, the internet has been heralded as one of the greatest things to happen to modern-day businesses, and more recently as one of the most over-hyped failures. The sheer number of dot-com businesses that have gone belly-up in the last three years is staggering, and enough to make any business considering entrance to the Internet Age buckle its knees.
However, we need to separate the dot-coms from you, the successful businessperson and eager entrepreneur. Perhaps you are considering equipping your business with a new or updated web site. Maybe you are curious about using the Internet to empower your clients to transact business with you over the web, freeing up your time for more important business goals. Sure, you wouldn't mind thousands of shareholders throwing money at you based on your sure-to-be-successful business idea, but knowing what you know now about the dot-com bust, you want to make sure you can deliver the goods before you accept too many personal checks. And hey, you've got a family to take care of, and you just don't need that kind of pressure!
On the other hand, you are a person of the new millennium, right? You are poised for success, and you want to make sure that your business utilizes all reasonable avenues for marketing your product or service.
Let me assure you that you are on the right track. The power and potential of the Internet has not changed, and the increase of internet users (your potential clients) has steadily risen since the mid-1990's. In fact, according to the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 53.9% of the U.S. population (143 million citizens) logged on to the Internet as of September 2001.
So okay, you're convinced that people are using the 'Net, and you're such a pro, you've even started using the term "the Net", and you know that the Internet ain't just a fad, it's… well golly, it's great, and it's catching on.
Now, here's some good news. It's pretty cheap, too, considering what you get. Let me give you an example. You've got a fantastic new product that people are bound to buy, you just need to expose it, but you're just not sure how your target market operates. Ideally, you'd want to hire a salesperson who is available to answer the phone and talk about your product enthusiastically when prospects call to enquire. And you don't want to miss a call, so the salesperson will have to be available and enthusiastic at all hours of the day and night. Oh, and he has to be adept at talking to several people at the same time about different facets of the product, and in accordance with the readiness of the prospect to receive more product information. Of course, you'll want someone wholly dedicated, so let's take his weekends away so he works 7 days a week, and while we're at it, let's force him to work on holidays, too. Vacation? Sorry buddy, not for this product. We need you here!
Now what would you pay such a salesperson? If he actually fulfilled his obligations as described, he'd be worth a mint, I can tell you! But you can't afford to pay him what he's worth, so let's just give him a salary of $5000 per year, with no health or dental, no 401K, no pension, and no commissions.
Now, let's open the front door and wait for the applicants to rush in...
Not a very appealing career option, is it? Of course no right-thinking human is going to sign up for such a job! No human could perform such a job; it would be impossible. However, build a smart-looking, dynamic, and visually appealing web site, and you've got your bases covered for those targeted prospects who are interested in your product.
Let's get some perspective, though. I don't wish to paint a rosy picture of the process and lead you believe that websites are "magic bullets", because they are not. If you build one, they will come, but only after you put forth the effort to invite them to come through various traditional marketing methods.
A healthy gut, a lot of nerve, and hardcore dedication are required to build businesses whose sole presence is its website. Can it be done? Yes it can. (Just ask Sondra Whaley of Gift Baskets by Heather) It is easy? No. (Just ask Sondra Whaley of Gift Baskets by Heather) On the other hand, if you already have a business, and you wish to round out your marketing program by building a website that appropriately reflects your products and services, then you will get results.
Let's look at another example. L&D Self Storage in Morrisville, NC did not have a website until about a year ago. They offer packing supplies such as boxes, tape and markers to their customers, but the products were moving slowly. JMD Web Design suggested a new website that prominently placed information about its packing supplies on the homepage, and do you know what happened? The awareness of the packing supply business increased, and as a result, new customers started buying supplies when they signed their contracts, increasing L&D's retail revenue 24%! We expected and hoped for this, however, we did not anticipate the other dramatic benefits. Prospects from all over the country planning a move to NC began contacting L&D about storage; Students and their parents began contacting L&D regarding summer storage, so much so that L&D could hardly keep up!
L&D had a great advantage first, because of its superior product and service, and second, because of the ability to capture online traffic through the new website. In fact, most prospects who view the L&D website gather most of the information they need online, and are eager to buy when they finally make the contact by phone! Now those are results!
There are lots of reasons for you to move ahead with your website, and there are also some valid reasons for hesitation. But I hope that any hesitation is not due to your lack of faith in the technology. If it is, then we need to talk. Every business and every organization can benefit in some way from having a website, a domain name, and a bunch of branded emails, and I want to make every effort to ensure that you have one or all of these. However, I am sensitive to all of the issues surrounding having a business, and I want to make sure that it makes sense for you. Chances are, it will make a great deal of sense, and you will kick yourself for not having done it sooner!