Web sites used to be the tools of High Tech, High Expense companies; back during the dot-com boom, companies were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on domain names, and millions of dollars on web site development, often trying to carve out niches in the “new economy” (anyone remember the pet-food delivery service?).
If that’s your deep and abiding impression of business oriented web sites, it’s worth it to update it. The Internet’s list of web addresses continues to grow, and it provides a great leveling effect between small businesses and large. It’s impossible to tell how large a company is from its website, though some national and international brands will, with a bit of thinking, show the difference.
Done right, web sites should be easy to maintain. Investigate getting things set up on your site so that the site is easy to maintain. What killed a lot of business web sites early in the days of the Internet was that maintaining a site meant that the business owner had to be something of an HTML guru, and keeping your HTML skills sharp on top of running a business quickly turned into a mess. Now, with content management systems like forums and web-logs, you can get by with just typing text up like you would for an email message.
Your web site gives your business a national and international presence. It is, in effect, a brochure or flyer that costs you fractions of a penny to distribute to interested parties, and it’s a brochure that can be updated as easily as editing a document in a word processor – as opposed to printing 30,000 of them, mailing them out with 30 cents each in postage – and having them become obsolete the next month.
Even more than being a brochure, a presence on the web for your business allows you to interact with your customers, and to make a community among them. Customers who give and receive feedback on web sites have a strong tendency to refer other customers to your company – they drive business through good old “word of mouth” advertising to people they know, who come in, see an active community, and decide that your company and its products are interesting.
Your web site also becomes an active point of sale, if you have the right solution set up. Amazon.com is the pioneer in web sales, but every company can handle some sort of web based transaction, though some will take more technical know-how than others.
So, if you’re looking to grow your business, one of the keys is letting customers know about your products and what you’re doing. Web sites are the most effective way to reach your target audience as cheaply as possible.
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