If you grew up before the computer age than no doubt like me you resisted
the PC for a while. I was forced to learn the PC on the job as some of
our paper-based processes became electronic. It was required so therefore
I learned. I started with programs like Ventura publishing and Lotus
123. In time, I became hooked. When the Internet arrived I was very excited
to discover what was available online.
I think everybody in business that is serious about his or her business
needs to have a Website in order to be successful. It demonstrates that
you are forward thinking and embrace technology.
If you’re looking for success with your website, the best place
to start is with an understanding of the composition of your Website.
These are the top 10 attributes a Website is:
1. A Website is made up of computer code.
That’s right. All of those pretty pictures and pages of information are
really just a bunch of computer code. It’s written by a programmer. They
call themselves Web designers, but their talent is in their ability to
program your wishes. They know the code, and know how to write it so
it presents that pretty picture you want on your homepage. HTML, XML,
whatever; it’s all computer code.
2. A Website is meant to convey information.
I don’t care if you developed your site to talk about your moss collection,
or if you just want to start a club for left-handed bowlers, everything
you put on your Website is put there to tell others something. Reports
overwhelmingly show that the majority of people using the Internet
do so to get information — not to look at the pretty pictures. The
information part of your Website sets you apart from your competition
because it ttells visitors something they didn’t know before they saw
3. A Website is dynamic, but it can’t sell anything.
All the graphics and flash and loud colors can’t really sell your product
or service. You need a good salesperson. Your Website exists to inform
visitors that you are in business and that you are technologically
current. It provides an easy way for them to order, but it needs backup:
software that handles secure orders and real customer service. Like
your print advertising, it presents your products and services. It’s
up to you to sell them.
4. A Website is cost-effective advertising.
A Website attracts more attention and more visibility just by virtue
of its presence on the World Wide Web than almost anything else. Print
ads reach hundreds of thousands, but who really reads them? Radio and
television have the potential to reach millions but only work on a
repetitive basis, and show it in their cost. The Web is more than 400
million strong, and growing by leaps and bounds every day. That’s 400
million possibilities. Sometimes for less than $1,000. Great return
5. A Website is targeted marketing.
People go online looking for something; looking for you if you’ve marketed
yourself properly. Online shoppers know what they want, they don’t
browse online the way they would in a Kmart. A Website brings targeted
customers to your homepage using well thought out keywords and phrases.
If I’m searching online for a new, educational toy for my niece, do
you think I type “toys” in my search field? Not unless I
want to wade through literally millions of options. I type in: “learning
toys”, or “educational toys.” If you can help me, learning
and education better be two of your main keywords. Beyond keywords
and phrases, there are banner ads and e-mail campaigns. All targeted
to the market you are selling to.
6. A Website is business 24×7.
Make no mistake — the Internet is changing the way we do business. Customers
that need your product or service don’t want to run to the mall anymore.
After eight or 10 hours at their day job, they want convenience. According
to eMarketer, the number of people 14 and over who have purchased something
online will grow from 64.1 million in 2000 to more than 100 million
by 2003. You know they’re not all shopping from 8 to 5, don’t you?
People today research online before buying offline, too. Your Website
can bring you customers all day, every day.
7. A Website is interactive.
When you developed your Website, you sat down with a good Web designer
and discussed your company mission and goals. Then you gave him or her
your current brochure to follow, but did you think to approach your site
from the customer’s point of view? In the old days, the customer came
into your store and interacted with you or your salespeople, helping
you decide what worked and what
didn’t. Grokdotcom.com recently quoted successful marketer Roy Williams
(www.wizardofads.com) saying: “When you’re inside the bottle, it’s
hard to read the label.” You are inside the bottle. Your customers
are reading the label. Ask them for help making your Web site work. Offer
incentives in return for information (think newsletters and surveys —
people love to tell you what you’re doing right or wrong).
8. A Website is a dynamic representation of you.
That’s right. I said, you; not your business, not your store. When a
visitor ends up at your Web site (after actively searching for your
products or services, I hope) what she or he is looking at is a reflection
of you, the owner of the company, the business person, the person in
charge. If you have broken links preventing visitors from getting around
your site, it reflects poor maintenance. If you’re unkempt, with poor
design and development, it reflects sloppiness. If your type is too
small or graphics too big it reflects insensitivity. Pay attention.
Comb your hair (keep your Web site fresh); wear a suit once in awhile
(dress your Website up with colors that compliment each other); and
smile (make sure you welcome your visitors and offer them incentives
9. A Website is original, but it’s not unique anymore.
According to the Online Computer Library Center (www.oclc.org) there
are 8.1 million public Web sites, up from 7.4 million last year. Don’t
try to compete in this new world of business by trying to corner the
market. Be professional and original, but don’t sweat it if you want
to sell widgets and 50 other sites are selling them, too. Think partnership;
the success of the new millennium is in partnering. Links to other
sites that compliment your site are great ways to get noticed by both
search engines and customers.
10. A Website is only what you make of it.
That means updates, fresh content, personalization, ease of use and marketing.
Slapping up a few pages of HTML and some graphics might get you a Website,
but it won’t get you attention. Telling friends and family you have
a presence online at www.meandmine.com means nothing. Your friends
and family are not going to buy enough of your products to support
you. Do the right thing. Build it professionally, maintain it and market
it just as aggressively as if it were a brand new store in the heart
of downtown America.
Now, who needs a Website? You need one. Whether you’re 60 and have been
in business for two generations without computers, or whether you’re
a first time business owner and you don’t anticipate generating sales
from online contacts, you still need a Website. Why? Because it’s here
and it’s now. If you are not willing to accommodate those of us who want
to find you online, you are not willing to make your business a success.
Just for laughs, jump online after you read this and do a Google search
for “funeral directors.” Last time I checked, the count was
300,000. Do a quick Yahoo! search on “dentists.” You will be
rewarded with 1,740,000 sites — many of which are directories. If funeral
directors and dentists are online, you should be online, too.