EVERY small or home-based business should consider a website. There are certainly some businesses where a website offers nothing of value but for the vast majority, a website can be a very effective sales channel and marketing tool. I’ve listed just a few reasons why a website can be such a powerful tool but before you continue – and just to underscore how valuable the Internet can be – consider these statistics:
- Two billion orders will be placed over the Internet this year.
- E-commerce revenue will be $95 billion by the end of this year and will exceed $1 Trillion by 2002.
- Holiday purchases have increased from $141 million in 1995 and are expected to be $9.5 billion this year.
Utilizing the Internet for your business is very inexpensive. Unlimited connect accounts are generally available for less than $20/month and include Internet access and e-mail. You can start with just using electronic mail (e-mail) as a way to communicate with existing customers and new ones.
Communicate anywhere in the world with customers and employees and pay NO long-distance telephone charges. And while you’re at it, you can “attach” other documents to your e-mail. For example, you can send an updated proposal to your representative across the country – quickly and at no cost.
Provide personalized support for your customers with answers to common questions; assistance on specific products or services, provide a variety of ways in which you can be contacted. Do all this without answering the phone or hiring additional staff.
Be Open For Business 24 hours a day
This sounds bad but in reality, it’s a big plus. With e-mail, people can contact you anytime it is convenient for them. You can respond anytime that’s convenient for you. Of course, we suggest “timely-response” just as if someone called you. When you have a website, potential customers can find out about your products and services 24 hours a day. Isn’t this much better than getting a call at 5:00 AM from a customer in a time zone that’s 3 hours ahead of yours?
The Internet is being used regularly by millions worldwide with more “connecting” every day. Many of the new users come from countries around the world. They want to buy the “latest and greatest” products. They have money. With the Internet, they can become your customer! How much do you think it would cost you to advertise in the Times of London, the Tokyo Daily, and Moscow Today? Compare that to the cost of a website. The information you provide on your website is instantly available to every one of these users
Reach customers that speak a foreign language
Why restrict your market to the “English-speaking” world? Translate your website into several languages and offer a choice to users when they come to your home page to further increase your exposure.
Today your long-distance phone bill can run into the hundreds of dollars. Using the e-mail to talk to your customers, suppliers, partners, etc., can save you a large portion of this expense.
Try new ideas
Since the Internet is a “brand-new” medium, no one (including us) knows all of the ways you can make money from the Internet. We do know there are a whole lot of great ideas already. When you use the Internet, you can try new ideas usually with little investment on your part. It doesn’t work, OK, you learned. Modify your idea. Improve it. At the very least you’ll know more than your competitors. Who could imagine that authors would put their books on the Internet? Well, that’s what people are trying with the hope that customers will like what they read enough so that they’ll buy the paper version.
Update or Change your products and services easily and for a low cost
If you have produced “paper” catalogs, brochures, sales collateral, you know how difficult and expensive it is to change them. You want to add a new item. Oh no! The phone company changed your area code. No, no! What a pain with paper. With your Internet site, changing anything is a simple and inexpensive process.
Say you just received a new product and you want to advertise a “special.” Reaching your customers via the phone, sending a letter, or FAX would be time-consuming and expensive. With the Internet, you can send out an e-mail to 500 of your best customers with the click of your mouse. You can put a “SPECIAL” notice on your website advertising the new product.