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How Can My Business Use The Internet?


Brought to you by: Ray Merry

Professor Ray's English Classes 
Vila Velha Centro, ES, Brazil 
Tels: (27) 3034 1650

Web Site: www.raymerry.com 

Introduction

Most people that want to do business on the Internet are not sure where to start. Some will want to start taking orders immediately. But before you attempt to start with order taking, take a careful look at the big picture. Often -when you dig deeper- you will find that you may want to actually begin with marketing or service oriented activities on the Internet. For example, you may wish to enhance the firm's image with an attractive Home Page, list your organization's activities, or learn how to automatically capture new business leads.

We suggest that you set your expectations by implementing Internet installations over time. We also pass on important guidelines for building Home Pages and provide you with ideas for building traffic to your new Home Page.

Progressive Installation

There are 1001 ways to market on the Internet. You need to begin by developing a strategy. This section lays out a sample Internet installation that progressively adds features and functions.

Your Internet service strategy must help set your expectations correctly. The Internet is a blank canvas, and projects on the Internet require the control and mastery of a trained computer consultant. Good consultation leads to excellent results. Successful Internet Consultants (IC's) spend time up-front managing yours expectations. If you are serious about your business don't attempt to save a few dollars by trying to do the work without an IC. Even if you have staff which will do the work you may want to hire an IC to initially consult with you about the necessary skills your staff will need, the amount of time necessary for training, installing, and running your site, potential additional staffing needs, hiring tips, screening, and other needs for the different aspects of proper Internet use. It may take weeks of research, study, and additional software expense and equipment and lots of frustration before you can do simple tasks successfully that a consultant can do for you in days or weeks. In addition you may have found that you invested in equipment you don't need, or outmoded technologies, and that to do what you want to do you must start all over! You can expect that in a few years much of your business will be done over the Internet. Well set up plans like customer service can greatly cut telephone and labor costs and improve customer satisfaction. Many businesses quickly increase their sales dramatically over the Internet as well! A small investment now can lead to large rewards. On the other hand a poorly planned or implemented Internet Strategy can be a sink hole of money!

Your can gain real benefits from the Internet long before you have fully integrated your accounting system with order taking from the Internet. Start with Email, and then your Internet marketing and progress to order taking. Most clients will need the help of an IC to stage an implementation to spread the cost over three months or more.

An installation that occurs over time will allow you to learn Internet concepts and refine your strategy. You can learn about the Internet, how your business can use the Internet, Consulting needs, and software such as shopping carts and other accounting products over time, and you can spread your investment in information systems over time. This allows you to make the implementation of the Internet installation more attractive and affordable.

Here is a sample sequence for a full Internet installation:

I Want Access to the Internet:

  1. Hire a Consultant.
  2. Get a list of things you think your business can do on the internet, and the funds you have available, and have it ready for the first meeting with your consultant.
  3. After planning session you will set up a plan with goals and time frames, and start accordingly.
  4. These are some phases your consultant will likely take you through.

Phase I: "I want access to EMAIL!"

Setting UP Email Accounts with a full function Email software package.

Email means electronic mail. It is a series of electronic signals sent over the internet from your computer through some intermediary computers until it ends up on their computer. If the person or company you want to mail to has an Email account, and you have their address, you can send correspondence to them over the Internet instead of using the U.S. Mail or other surface carrier. Since there is no postage fee, your company can save postage and speed delivery by using Email inside the Company and outside. Email can arrive in minutes, and it is very easy to reply to someone using EMail since most Email software allows you to respond to someone's letter automatically inserting their return address and including their text in front or behind your answer. Email requires a computer, Email software and an Email or Internet Provider. It does not require sophisticated PC's on every desk to work effectively.

You can send simple text messages that you enter on the computer and you can attach computer documents, graphics, and even sound files to your Email. This means you can include photos, pricelists, or any other information that you can store on the computer. The only trick is to make sure that you can get it on the computer and the people on the other end have the necessary software to decipher it when they receive it!

There are some free Email Accounts, but Email is included in many systems which provide other Internet Services with monthly costs of $9.95 to $24.95 per month. Setting up individual Email Accounts and related sofware and training can cost as little as $75. Setting up Company Wide Email can vary in cost from hundreds of dollars to thousands or more depending on the number of users, the type of existing internal computer network and software available internally.

Phase II: "I want access to the Internet Browsing on the Web!"

  • Let the Consultant Train your staff on the basics of "surfing" the World Wide Web.
  • Let the Consultant show your staff some useful URLs, such as Yahoo, Google, UPS, and Federal Express.
  • To Make the Best of The Internet you should have high resolution color monitors and fairly fast Computers and a high speed internet connection.
  • Let the Consultant get you started in a list of "Do's and Don'ts" for the Web.

You can expect to pay $200 or more depending on Training and Staff Needs to get started.

Phase III: "I want my own Presence on the Internet today!"

How Can My Business Use The Internet

  1. Let your consultant decide what type of web site is best for your financial capabilities and business image.
  2. Work with your consultant to pick a name.
  3. Search for and reserve a suitable domain name for your business.
  4. Hire a Consultant for four or more billable hours towards development of an Internet services strategy specific to your business.
  5. Assign one of your employee's with at least part of their time each day devoted to necessary internet jobs such as retrieving Email, or doing Web Marketing.
  6. Start a long range plan for training or staffing and developing your site.

Phase IV: "I want my company to have visibility on the net today!"

  1. Determine look your Web Site will have and what functions it will perform.
  2. Work with your consultant to inventory any company logos, photos or other graphics (if you use those on the web make sure they are not copyrighted), or discuss using digital photos, paying for a creative artist to do a flash design or other options..
  3. If digital photos or art is not available discuss scanning appropriate materials.
  4. Discuss the purpose of the site, determine the basic and most important pages, and set up an appropriate organizational structure of the site, with everything of course linked from the organization Home Page.
  5. Train someone at the client site to access or update any necessary data on the web site.
  6. Make a commitment to spend time or money each month maintaining web site.
  7. Consider adding an input or feedback form for prospects to communicate easily without having to expose your email address to spammers.

Clients can invest $2,000 or more to get a good Home Page fully deployed.

You can invest as little as $500 to get started. There are companies which offer to set up sites as inexpensively as $99, but they are very simple sites like the personal home pages described below. You may also need to pay monthly fees to keep your home page current, since things change so rapidly on the web.

Types of Addresses on the WEB:
User Addresses User addresses are addresses with your name following your provider's names like
http://www.provider.com/~company/myname These names may be very long, are hard to write and remember, and are subject to change.

Domain Names are nearly any names you want which no one already has. These are more expensive as they must be registered every year and hosted. Registration charges are $10-$35 per year, and about hosting domains runs from $10/month and up depending on the amount of access, size, etc.

Types of Presence on the WEB:

Personal home pages: These are often single pages with or without links to others, mainly a form of self-introduction for making contacts regarding hobbies, business affiliations, political activities, and other interests. They may include e-mail addresses for further communications.

Educational sites: These sites provide access to research materials, articles, and other data from universities, think tanks, and/or libraries. They may include links to bulletin boards, chat rooms, or other discussion forums.

Government sites: These sites may include full text of legislation being considered, information on government regulations, electronic access to individual government officials including members of Congress, status or results of government studies, and so on.

Business sites: These are usually multiple page sites marketing products or services, possibly linked to related sites, and include some way to respond to server such as an order form, survey, and/or e-mail address. Another business model is the "cyber mall," which represents a variety of businesses from a single site with multiple links.

Online publications: These are electronic versions of print publications such as magazines and newspapers. They can also be unique electronic publications or compilations and reviews of other media products.

Corporate sites: These are large, multiple-linked sites with detailed product and service information, and the capability to conduct transactions electronically. They may include employment opportunities and R&D information. This Internet-accessible information that these sites offer may be part of a larger, protected intranet used for internal communication.

Phase 5: "I want people who see my Home Page to contact me."

  1. Design and add Lead and Survey forms to your client's Home Page. 

Clients can expect to invest $1,000 or more to get e-mail, Lead, and Survey forms functional.

Phase 6: "I want to capture my leads and surveys in a database."

  1. Tell your consultant or web master to set up database functionality of your web.
  2. Train the client to use the results to market and monitor the site.

Clients can expect to invest upwards from $500  for database automation.

Phase 7: "I want to take orders on the Internet."

  1. Install Shopping Cart or other Internet Sales Systems.

Clients can expect to invest upwards of $1,000 for e-mail post office operations and $3,000 to $8,000 or more for a Multi-User accounting system.  Where clients need real time accounting data on the web, and large catalogues, etc. prices can be significantly more.

Rules for Successful Home Pages

Think Retail

The Home Page is a company's "virtual storefront." Therefore, in order to have a successful Home Page you must adopt a retail mentality in how you present your company on the Internet.

Thinking like a retailer means that you always want to keep your display window (the first page the prospect views on the client's Home Page) interesting, inviting, unique, and ever changing. People go window shopping to see what's new-the same holds true for surfing the `Net. There are three basic concepts to keep in mind:

Make the Home Page an "Electronic Jungle Gym"

A way to attract prospects to view a Home Page is by providing non-linear paths (or HyperLinks) to other unique and interesting Home Pages. For example, say you sell stereos. You can greatly enhance attention to your Home Page by providing a HyperLink to the latest records and videos from Sony at www.sony.com or MCA/Universal at www.mca.com.

The Internet is the only marketing channel that allows you to build traffic and increase visibility by linking your business to big name companies. The more interesting and relevant the HyperLinks that you create for your Home Page are , the greater the number of prospects who will come back to it time and again.

Keep the Home Page Current

How many sporting goods stores stay in business by displaying hockey uniforms in July? How many car dealerships build foot traffic by having the same car in the showroom window? If the prospect surfing the `Net views a Home Page for the second time and it has not changed, they will move on. And chances are slim they will every return.

The Home Page is a virtual storefront where the display window should change often and remain current. Unlike a brochure or ad, the costs are strictly in the your modifications. Make your Home Page like a newspaper and people go to it often to see what's new.

Here are ways of keeping a Home Page current:

  • Think of the first page as the cover of a newspaper or weekly magazine with a new date and feature every week
  • Include calendars of dates and events important to that your prospects
  • Change visuals often on the first page
  • Design and store up 8-12 interchangeable first pages for switching to.

The Best Virtual Storefronts Are On "Two Way" Streets

Unlike print or broadcast marketing, the virtual storefront on the Internet is the only marketing channel that provides instant two way communications. By providing Home Pages with e-mail addresses and forms for ordering products or requesting additional information, your client is empowering their prospect. The two way communication draws the prospect into the decision making process and provides your client with data or leads that would normally be obtained by more expensive traditional means. The interactive capabilities of the Internet acts as "electronic flypaper" to attract prospects to your Home Page.

Building Traffic

Listings and Directories

Your Home Page will only work for you if people are able to find it. Listing your Home Page in directories will help achieve this goal. The most common directory is Yahoo. Yahoo allows Web users to search the World Wide Web by subject. Yahoo's Web address is http://www.yahoo.com. (See Rays Hot links for more search engines. http://www.shadow.net/rmerry/hotlinks.html)

Some Web browsers have their own directories. Most directories publish a "What's New" section. Typically, your Home Page can be considered for a What's New mention by sending an e-mail request to the appropriate individual.

Malls

Web malls are like shopping malls, with Home Pages replacing stores. To gain attention, some Web sites will pay to have their Home Page linked to a number of other Home Pages. The mall owner will often provide other interesting information-pictures, news, games-making the mall a popular place to visit for Web surfers. A directory of the Home Pages in the mall is usually included.

Virtual Office Inc., for example, has a selection of multiple malls through their "shop" directory. Home Pages from a variety of companies are found in each mall. The Virtual Office mall can be found at http://www.shop.com. SBT has two new malls on SBT's WebStreet server:

  • business1.com - Commercial organizations and Chambers of Commerce
  • sbt.com - SBT VARs, SBT VIPs, and Internet Service Providers

Many of the established Web malls are difficult and expensive to join. This may present an opportunity for SBT Resellers to set up their own Web malls with their customers.

Offline and Online Adds

Like any business it takes advertising to attract customers. You can advertise your Web Site any place you can advertise your business, and everyplace you put an add for your business add your web site and your email address. You can also find online sites which attract lots of visitors you think would be prospects and pay them to put an add linking to your site. Some newsgroups also can be useful.

Search Engines

Unless you advertise your web site people will find you by going to search engines.  When people do a search they pick some words, such as "Digital Camera".  The search engine then returns to the user all the web ages which have those words on some them.  For popular items, such as digital cameras, there may be millions.  However the search engines rank these results by what they think the importance of the page is.  If your page is not ranked in the top 10 or so no one will probably see it because people usually only go to the top 2 or 3.  For you to get money from searches you must be ranked high.  This is a special skill called search engine ranking.  You will have to pay a consultant for this service, otherwise ask your consultant to find you places you can advertise.  You can for example pay search engines to list your web site when people type a certain word.  This can be expensive but it works fast.  Ask your consultant to find the best method for you.

Groups and Associations

An opportunity to generate traffic for your Home Pages lies with creating Home Pages for local groups and associations or putting their information on your page. CPA organizations, manufacturing organizations, and other professional groups are eager to make their information available on the Internet. Putting their information on your page means when they tell people where to get stuff they will go through your address, increasing the chance they will stop there! 

 

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