Business owners can be rushed into creating Web sites, perhaps because "my competition has one", or because "it's hot thing right now".
But, as with any aspect of your business, some preliminary thinking will help to maximize return on your investment in this key part of your marketing mix.
Here are seven key issues to consider from outset:
1. Are your markets online?
Who are your customers, and are they currently using Internet? Try a customer survey if you don't know answer to this yet.
Alternatively, there may be new markets that you would like to tap, who are already online.
An excellent Web site for researching Internet demographic information is at: http://www.nua.ie/
2. Where is your geographic focus?
Is your operation confined to a local area, or can it have national or even international appeal?
It is not currently possible to restrict display of Web pages within geographic boundaries (e.g. "only Illinois"). So if your business is only local, or you only serve U.S., you should state that clearly on site, otherwise you may receive leads and orders that you can't fulfill.
3. What are specific goals of your site?
What outcomes do you want from visitors to your site? Will you be selling product online, or are you generating leads for a product or service? Do you want visitors to leave their contact details? If so, how will you encourage them to do this? Do you have a newsletter that they can subscribe to, or a competition, or a free offer of some kind?
And don't forget your existing customers. Will your site also be providing ongoing support and education for these clients?
4. How will you engage your visitors?
Remember that your Web site may be first and only contact that a prospect has with your business. Make their experience as close as possible to actually speaking with you.