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the naked truth
about business web sites:

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why your business needs a web site

Nine times out of ten, a web site is the first element of a marketing program that we implement. Why is a web site such an important promotional asset for so many of our clients?

First, because your customers use the Internet, and the best way to reach customers online is with a web site.

Second, the bottom line: a web site has low, predictable, and fixed costs. Web sites have the potential to influence millions of people. A web site gets your message to each potential customer at a miniscule cost compared to advertising in other media. Small businesses have the most to gain, perhaps, as the economics of the Internet level the playing field in this market place, standing small businesses on even footing with their larger competitors.

Third, incomparable versatility: no other medium offers the flexibility of a great website or fills so many roles. It is completely adaptable. It is a branch office, open 24 hours and 365 days a year, within mouse-clicking distance of customers anywhere in the world. It acts as a virtual corporate brochure with unlimited space and no printing costs or paper storage. It allows you to create whatever first impression of your business you desire. It has the potential to attract new customers to your business on a local, national, or global scale. It provides customer service that rivals the capabilities of the very best sales associate.

Whether you own a sole proprietorship or an international corporation, the Internet provides the most economical, versatile, and effective means available to promote your business. Your business web site can tap the Internet to your best advantage, and the sky is the limit on the results it can produce. Let us help you put your business on the Internet!

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what your web site should do

The Internet is a unique business venue. Whether you are selling products or providing services, of course, conventional business principles still apply. But in the online business world, new elements impact your success just as dramatically. Success online requires a bit of a twist in perspective.

Whether you maintain a brick and mortar store, a brass and glass office, or are conducting your business from your home office, the first impression that your online clients will get of your operation is the one your web site presents.

Your web site is a virtual store, office, or showroom, and it might even be your primary "location." What perceptions should your visitors get when they walk in the door? Whether your business has a theme that is serious or whimsical, traditional or contemporary, its location on the Internet should portray your business as trustworthy and capable.

Beyond appearances and presenting the image of your business, your web site serves customers. It is designed to sell your products and services, to answer the questions of potential clients, and to effect the transfer of money from the customer to your coffers. Your business web site is more than a virtual store ... it is a virtual employee!

Depending on the nature of your business, your web site customers may never meet you face to face or even talk to you on the phone. Their only contact with your business might be your web site. Considering that responsibility, this virtual employee has quite a job description — it single-handedly mans the online branch of your business!

It must be the assistant you would always want in your office, the expert sales professional you would love to have working in your showroom. It must be knowledgable about your products and provide answers to your clients. It must be someone that you would trust with your career, your livelihood, capable of attending business meetings on your behalf to woo clients and close deals. More importantly, this "employee" must inspire trust in your customers, as you must rely on it to collect their sensitive personal data, including their credit card information.

If you already have a web site, does your online "location" create the best impression of your business? Does your current Internet employee measure up to the ideal?

Whether your business is just starting out online or already has a web site, you deserve to have that perfect employee on your team. We can help you get one.

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what great business web sites have

Since the introduction of the "new medium" — the Internet — countless focus groups, research surveys, and usability studies have been and continue to be conducted to determine just what makes a web site successful. Some of the results from leaders in the field may surprise you.

As a practical matter, the first key to success of a business web site is that it can be found. An otherwise fabulous web site that no one knows about is useless. Great web sites are made "findable" by

Moving on to the site itself, "beauty" is not as important as "content" and "usability." Here we draw a distinction between web design — the appearance of a site — and web development — the content and structure of a web site. And research shows that function trumps form. In fact, many of the most successful web sites — in terms of traffic, return visitors, and user preference — are amongst the least pretty! Consider Google.com, Ebay.com and Yahoo.com ... not exactly eye candy, but one could hardly argue their success.

Appearance is important. No one wants a purposely ugly web site, one that people don't want to look at. A survey conducted at Stanford in 2002 on the credibility of web sites demonstrated that visitors were influenced by a web site's design 46% of the time. Visitors will judge a business "book" by its web site "cover," so a great web site looks good and presents a solid impression. But great web sites do not necessarily have to be elaborate.

The real point of a business web site is for visitors to use it to find information, so content and usability are the primary considerations in building a great site.

A great business web site has a purpose. Is the purpose of your web site to educate about your business, products, and services? To invite employment applications from visitors? To book appointments? To sell products? To provide customer service?

Whether the site has one purpose or several, it must be focused. All of the material — words, images, and other content — contained on a great site is geared toward meeting an identified purpose. Web site content that does not further the purpose only frustrates visitors, and forces them to look elsewhere for information.

The great web site's content is fresh. In most cases, the goal is to encourage visitors to return to the site: to get more information, buy more things, or get to know your business better while they think about inquiring about services. Ideally then, new information is added often, to give visitors something new and exciting to see.

A great web site is usable, and that usability is contributed by several factors, such as:

Finally, a great web site is engaging. Great web sites invite the visitor to take an active part in the web site "experience." A site best meets its purpose by calling as many of the visitor's senses into action — sight, sound, touch. Each sense reinforces the message conveyed. Great sites are interactive and involve the visitor.

Why wait? Get a great web site and put it to work for you!

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modified September 9, 2006

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