Approach

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Support your business direction

It's easy to get mesmerized by Internet technology, but everything needs a foundation in the business, not the technology. Ask the questions :
bulletWhy did we start this business ? 
bulletWhat is our mission ? 
bulletWhat are our goals for the future ? 
bulletWhat is the unique value of our products or services ?

This can set your Internet plans in the right context. These questions are fundamental to your business. They also help you to understand how to get the most out of going online.

There are many possible benefits that are achievable using the Internet and these are examined in detail later. You need to be clear on planned benefits before going further.

For instance, think about:
bulletReducing costs - This is mainly by communicating with existing customers, your sales force, agents or distributors. If you plan anything more than distribution of information, then the cost will be high as specialized programming will be required.
bulletGetting new prospects - To achieve this you need an informative and well publicized web site and easy ways to contact you
bulletMaking sales online - This is similar to building a storefront, except that your store will find itself in many malls.
bulletRetaining Your Existing Customers - Many people now find online ordering more convenient, so some of your customers will leave you if you do not provide this service.
bulletOnce you have identified the benefits, you need to quantify them along with costs. Again, we will help later on. You will need to keep on re-visiting the web site. Hey, we know that you won't do this, but you're supposed to be told, ...right ?

Plan your web site

The content of the site can range from very functional to very attractive. For instance you could just tell people about your company and products, or can have information which will attract prospects to your site. There is no point in having an attractive and even popular site just for the sake of it. If people come you, they must gain from their visit.

Your site must offers real value to businesses. Set up a site with useful advice for business - when people come they get real benefit, but they can also buy products.

So you need to decide on the content. The more content that you have, the more expensive it is to produce and the more work it will take to keep up to date. Yet if possible you need to be different from all of the sites. How will you differentiate yourself from your competitors ?

Also ask yourself the following questions:
bulletWho is my audience ?
bulletWhat will I put on my web site to attract them ?
bulletHow often must I update this information, and am I prepared to put the time and effort into this ?

Finally, you need to decide what your approach is to cost. Will it be minimalist Do-it-Yourself or will it be more professional and expensive.

You need to think all of these things through BEFORE you talk to any web designers or other Internet professionals as you need to ensure that the BUSINESS direction dictates what to do with the technology, not vice versa.

Implementation

You need someone who understands what is trying to be achieved and who organizes the pieces, someone who can do the HTML programming (or someone who can use Dreamweaver, FrontPage or an equivalent web page design package) and possibly a graphic designer.

You may purchase a shrink-wrapped product that is designed to fit in with a conventional site, or construct the entire site, so you might wish to consider each approach.

In order to benefit from the web, you must make sure that time is allowed for dealing with enquiries, building site traffic, processing sales, and so on. You can't just put up a site and leave it, like anything else in business it requires some attention.

Promote

Finally you must remember that for a web site to obtain the full benefits, you must promote it at every opportunity and see it as an integrated part of the whole business. There is a whole section later on explaining how to do this cost effectively.

This is maybe an appropriate point to mention one of the pitfalls of Internet marketing. There are many companies who will offer to "put you on the Internet". If all that they do is to provide your name, address and contact details on a page, with no promotion, then no-one will see it and it will not bring any business benefit. It's just like a yellow pages where all of the actual directories are thrown away.

 

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