Does My Business Need a Website?
With the economy at crisis levels, a natural inclination is to tighten belts and avoid extra expenditures. But as markets shrink, it's even more important for your company or organization to attract new business and retain current clients.
So what's the most cost-effective method of promotion? A Web site.
Q: WHY A WEBSITE?
A: First of all, the public now expects businesses and organizations to have a Web site -- one that can, at the very least, supply basic information and a means of getting in contact. A Web site has become nearly as essential as a telephone or fax machine or printed brochure.
But apart from fulfilling the public's expectations, a Web site will also help your business increase profits. Increasingly, people search the Web rather than the Yellow Pages when looking for a service or product. Yes, even in Israel.
If they don't find your business represented, they will find your competitor 's.
Q: WHAT CAN A WEBSITE DO FOR ME?
A: A few examples of immediate, practical benefits:
Expand the effect of a print ad. Addition of a Web site address to an ad, even a very small one, means that anyone intrigued by the ad can immediately access much greater amounts of information about your company. The effect is heightened when you add suitable photos to your site.
Save time. Much company time and effort is often wasted by repeatedly providing the same information either by phone or in person. Have a section on your site that provides answers to frequently asked questions.
Make it easier for potential customers to find you. Include a detailed road map on your site, and make things even easier for customers by indicating parking lots and bus stops.
Q: WILL A WEBSITE MAKE MY BUSINESS IMMEDIATELY MORE SUCCESSFUL?
A: Does a phone, or fax machine or brochure? All are tools for communication and promotion, but need to be used effectively. On the other hand, neglecting to have one of these tools can put your company at a serious disadvantage. No company operates without a phone. A Web site -- and the services it can provide -- is equally essential for a 21st century business.
To get some indication of how immediate your need for a site is, check out the Web presence of your competitors. None of them have Web sites yet? Lucky you -- you've not only got some breathing space, you also have a good shot at being the first to attract new markets. Your competitors already have Web sites? Get to work -- fast.
Q: GIVE ME SOME EXAMPLES OF HOW A WEBSITE WILL HELP MY SPECIFIC BUSINESS?:
A: The possibilities are limited only by imagination and budget, but following are some benefits that can be provided by even the simplest, most basic "brochure" site:
People choose restaurants not only for their food, but also for their ambiance and convenience.
Show attractive photos of the interior, and sample entrees on a beautifully set table.
Have you had good reviews? Reprint them on your site.
Show your menu.
Advertise special offerings and services such as business lunches, catering, etc.
Post testimonials from satisfied patrons.
Include a printable map, which shows the location of parking and bus stops.
Professional services (attorney, doctor, dentist):
For these services, which can't use conventional advertising methods, a Web site is especially valuable. Here is an accepted way of showcasing your areas of specialization. Do you have publications? Cite them. Awards? Display them. Articles or case studies that demonstrate your credentials? Place them online.
Design services (architect, interior designer, home renovator, illustrator, etc.):
Here a picture isn't worth a thousand words. It's worth a million. Before & after pictures can tell your story -- without the costs of 4-color printing, plus distribution.
Here, too, pictures are a great tool. Show off properties with lots of full-color, large-format photos. Sites are easily kept current with new information and properties.
Even if you're not yet ready for the expense of full-blown e-commerce, a site can effectively promote your business. A user-friendly online brochure is easily done -- and saves thousands in printing and mailing costs.
You can publicize sales and special offers.
Looking for employees? Post the positions and let prospects contact you by e-mail.
Post a printable map showing your location.
Customer service is faster and friendlier when customers can contact you immediately, 24 hours a day, by e-mail -- rather than have to wait on the phone, listening to Muzak, and getting more impatient by the second.
Post clips with copyright information, and refer editors to this page in your queries.
Promote published books.
Sell your books from your site via an affiliate link to an online seller such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You'll earn up to 15% in referral fees, apart from royalties.
It's important to establish credibility -- especially when you're engaged in fundraising. Document your organization's progress, achievements, contributions. Once your site is launched and properly registered with search engines you may be found by sectors of the public that you'd never have been able to otherwise identify and reach.
Q: WILL I BE ABLE TO AFFORD A WEBSITE?
A: Prices vary widely, depending on the specifics of each individual site. But when considering the benefits that even the simplest Web site can provide, the question to ask is less "Can I afford to have a Web site?" than "Can I afford not to have one?"