While a business website does not, in most cases, create substantial profits in and of itself (the exception to the rule being firms that are primarily E-Commerce based), a website can be a cost effective way to augment an organization’s Marketing Plan. Specifically, a website tailored to an organization’s needs can:
* Provide the organization a portal to worldwide E-Commerce.
* Act as electronic signage for the firm.
* Enable an organization to present itself to potential customers in any manner it wants to (a small organization can present itself as a large established firm, and a large organization can present itself as a ‘mom and pop’ store.) The target market, not reality determines your on-line persona!
* Provide the organization with an inexpensive and effective 7×24 contact point for customers.
* Act as an E-Library for service literature that is easily accessible to customers and the organization’s staff on a 7×24 basis.
* Be an E-Billboard for marketing campaigns.
* Provide pro-active marketing and service information to customers on a 7×24 basis.
* Serve as an ‘evergreen’ products and services brochure and business card for the organization.
* Enhance the professionalism of the organization by enabling E-Mail addresses with the firm’s website in the address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Should I have a website for my Organization?
There’s an old business slogan that says, “A business without a sign, is a sign of no business!” In today’s business environment a website is your E-Sign. Your firm will suffer from a professionalism standpoint if you don’t have a website. Not only will your organization appear ‘behind to times’ to perspective clients, but business cards for your staff will either have no E-Mail address or a generic E-Mail address (i.e. Jones1234@aol.com). This is akin to renting a business location with the building manager’s logo and name on your door!
The real question is what kind of web presence is most relevant to my organization’s Marketing Plan. If the website is coordinated to provide maximum value to the firm’s Marketing Plan, this medium will be a competitive advantage, not just a status symbol or a monthly expense.
So how should I start?
It is best to start with a manageable site. A good beginning website will consist of:
* A home page with the firm’s logo, address, list of product categories and services offered, and a mission statement
* A separate page for each product category and service giving details about how the product category or service can help the customer. A contact form to enable the customer to easily get in touch with the organization regarding the product category or service will also be on these pages.
* A catalogue of specific products available for sale can be linked to the pages noted above to provide an in-depth look at your organizations offerings.
* A page with information regarding your firm’s strengths, accreditations, and awards can also be included.
* The key is to start with a site that meets your current requirements, then add to its sophistication as you become more comfortable with the internet as a business tool and get a better idea of how it can serve your organization’s unique needs.
What about E-Commerce?
E-Commerce can be as simple or as sophisticated as you need it to be.
Forms can be put on your site where potential customers can indicate products and services they are interested in, and contact information. Your sales staff can then contact the customers to complete the sale.
A sophisticated E-Commerce application including shopping carts and credit card confirmation can be set up to provide mechanized sales to on-line customers.
The Bottom Line is that you can start with an inexpensive form of E-Commerce and add more sophistication as sales volume warrants it!
So what does it cost?!
A business website can costs as little as $300 to getup and running with a monthly maintenance expense of $25, or $100,000+ to get up and running with monthly maintenance fees in the $10,000+ range. The key is start with the minimum investment your Marketing Plan requires, then as the internet presence starts to pay dividends to your organization, increase your investment.
Again, unless you are an E-Commerce based business, an internet presence should be an ancillary part of your Marketing Plan, not a major investment.
In closing… Website Caveats
Creating a website for your firm can be a real asset to the organization and a lot of fun as well, just remember the following tips:
* Make sure the website compliments your Marketing Plan
* Provide forms so potential customers can contact you, and set the forms up to auto-reply. Internet consumers demand instant responses!
* Change your site often, internet consumers have a short attention span and will not return unless they believe they will see something different.
* Provide a timely follow-up response to inquiries, the auto-reply is a ‘table stake’, to create and maintain a relationship with internet customers you must give them a meaningful response within two to three business days. Relationships still matter!
* Design you website in a manner that ensures that pages load quickly, internet shoppers will not wait more than about 35 seconds for a page to load.
* Have fun with the site, internet shoppers want to be entertained as well as be informed!