“Small business spending on Web hosting alone will top $7.4 billion by 2009.” -IDC
The rush is among late adopters to Internet, eager to put their businesses online. There are, of course, more numbers that go into greater detail about what businesses expect once they’re on Web. They come from several research houses and their sum total can be dizzying: •The Kelsey Group reports that only half of America’s 20-million small businesses have an Internet presence. •IDC says that by end of decade, nearly 80% of small firms will be online. •The Forrester Group finds that online sales have been growing by double digits for past several years and will top $300 billion by 2010. •CMO Magazine reports that 92% of people who searched online for electronics actually bought from brick-and-mortar outlets.
What does all this mean for you? The halfway point of year is a good time to assess performance of your company’s website and to take a hard look at what you really expect from it. Your web site is a digital reflection of your written business plan, and along with exposure to a global marketplace, it also lets you establish credibility or lose it with possible customers who are far away from your geographic location.
•Are you attracting visitors? Any number of folks smarter than me will be glad to take your money to optimize your site for better search engine results. Or, you could save some of cash and invest a bit your time in searching from a customer’s perspective. More than any expert, you should know who your customers are and how they think. View your product line from their perspective. What keywords would you use to find a business like yours? Test several combinations and compare results; also make a note of where your competitors rank. Check out sites of those listed above you and see if they’re doing something you can incorporate. •Are you keeping visitors? Once on your site, information offered has to be relevant and it has to be easy to find. That means copy that gets to point, clean graphics and pictures, and easy navigation. Browsers won’t be impressed by a Flash movie on your home page; their children might be, but business people aren’t coming to be entertained. Even consumers who don’t buy things online use Internet as a research tool. From a consumer viewpoint, how easy is it to find relevant information? Is information clear and concise? If it’s not, you’re losing business without even knowing it.
For small businesses, web is ultimate equalizer, especially if your area does not have mass appeal. It offers exposure to millions that no other medium can reach for cost. According to BusinessWeek, a marketer 25 years ago could have reached 80% of country by using three major television networks. Today, that same level of penetration would require buying time on 100 channels.