Thinking of starting a new business, primarily internet based? Are you starting a business and not sure the role your new business' website should play? Most find it somewhat daunting starting a new business from scratch, let alone trying to figure out a whole new specialised field, that of internet business management and marketing.
Very often people setting up new websites are first-timers in their own business. In some cases the website is a retail store, while in other cases it operates as an additional virtual store front to a real world shop. Equally often, a new website is simply used as a marketing tool. Whatever your website purpose, both new and existing businesses benefit greatly from an easy to access and use site where customers can find out more information about a sought-after product or service, and make decisions about purchasing.
All businesses should have a website. It's a really important part of setting up and running a successful business, and customers will expect to be able to find information about your products and services online. Your website has a number of very important roles to play:
Whenever you do any other kind of marketing (business cards, flyers, word-of mouth, Yellow Pages, publication, promotion, etc), your website is a key communication point that is easy to remember. You should promote your web address on everything related to your business. People who are interested in your products and services can find out more, and become familiar with what you do easily in their own time.
By implementing good communication tools such as a contact form, membership and account services and newsletter capabilities, you make it easy for people to make enquiries and stay constantly in contact with your business. Additionally, it is a great place to post press releases and important information about new initiatives, upcoming events you will be hosting or attending, and general publicity-generating material.
Whether this be by way of a simple order form, or sophisticated e-commerce software, your website makes it easy for people to buy from you. The online medium means that people can read a lot about your product, see pictures of it, and buy it easily.
As your business grows, so too does your need to manage your business processes and information requirements. Your website database and the tools you use to access that information can be expanded to, for example, keep track of inventory levels, supplier and client contact information, and to generate daily, weekly, and monthly reports.
By designing your systems well up front, you can set up your website to record all important activity as it occurs. You can keep track of how many people visit your site, which pages they visit, what information they search for, what countries they are coming from, and so forth. You can also identify which products and services are most popular, and make changes to ensure that these popular products are best catered for.
As your business becomes known and starts to grow it will start to attract prospective employees. Many business owners regularly get employment enquiries via their websites, even when they don't have a specific recruitment section on the site. Additionally, if you provide an affiliate model, your website can attract people who are willing and able to sell your products in return for a percentage of the sale price.
After-sales support is a key factor in the reputation and repeat business you are likely to achieve. By offering frequently asked questions, product documentation and after-sales support information, support contact facilities, warranty and return policy information on your site, people are much more likely to feel comfortable that buying from you will be a pleasant experience should they need follow up support.
Try and find a good internet consulting business to work with before you develop a website for your new business.
One advantage to working with an internet consulting business instead of simply a web design agency is that you will be able to get good advice on how best to utilise your website to best grow your business. If you need advice and want to talk to someone with experience in business, especially with using the internet to grow your business, an internet consultant can be very helpful. Usually such a business should, as Codevelopment does, have qualifications in business as well as technology, as well as a good deal of real-world experience in implementing internet business services, so they should be able to tell you from experience what does and doesn't work.
Try and put together a business plan for your business up front, as this will help a lot with making sure you have thought through all aspects of what you want the business to accomplish. As a rule of thumb, businesses often take 18-36 months, or even longer, to break even and remain viable, so you should keep that fact in mind in your business plan. Getting your business known, promoting the business online, and building up a good customer base of clients who buy from you on an ongoing basis and who refer you to friends takes a lot of time and hard work. If you are prepared to work hard and speak to people who have done it before, and build up a strong network of other businesses that you work with, it is possible to make your dream business a success.
It can be very intimidating starting a new business for the first time, but the best way to learn is from experience. You'll make lots of mistakes along the way, but the difference between the businesses that are successful and those that fail is good planning, and an ability to see every failure as something learned, and to be able to celebrate and build on every success.