When starting a new company it is surprising the number of people who still don’t consider a plan for how they will be perceived online. A web-presence is the digital representation of your company and is a key factor for attracting new business. Often your web presence will be the first point of contact with potential customers so it is important to get it right. A poor web presence can give a similar impression as a boarded-up shop at discouraging people from dealing with you.
All manner of companies can benefit from the right kind of web presence and the important thing is choosing the right type to match your business. A web presence can vary from a simple social media page to a full-blown E-commerce website depending on the size and requirements of your business.
When starting a new company and considering your options online there are some major questions you need to ask yourself:
Do you want to sell online?
This might seem a no-brainer but selling online has its drawbacks. Trying to enter the online market can open up a wide range of new customers but also puts you in direct competition with big firms online. To succeed in online selling you need to have some form of unique selling point; this could be cheaper prices, better quality products or unique goods or services. Before committing to online sales you need to make sure to do proper market research into your competitors and decide if there is room in the market for you.
There are two major ways to sell online:
- Third party sales site such as eBay / Amazon
- Lots of potential customers
- Don’t need to do your own online marketing / SEO
- High competition
- Hard to build own brand
- They take a fairly large cut
- Your own site
- Usually only a small cut of the sales for a third-party shopping cart software.
- More control over branding and easier to gain loyal customers
- Need more technical knowledge to integrate and run shopping cart in your own site.
- Hard to drive a steady flow of customers to your site
- Need to do your own online marketing / SEO
Do you need a website?
Having a website can go a long way in helping to promote and grow your business. A website can be a fantastic promotional tool but also one which can be costly if you are paying a web designer or agency to do the work for you. There are however some great alternatives to hiring professionals to make your website.
Firstly with only a fairly basic amount of HTML coding experience you can buy a website template and alter it to your needs. Website templates are great as they are a quick and effective way to create more basic websites to help promote your company. The major thing to consider however when buying a template is to make sure you buy a quality one. Cheap or free templates can often have lots of hidden coding to put links back to the creators sites and can often look ‘spammy’ or too generic to appeal to your customers.
Another useful way to create a website is using a website building service. Many different companies offer these services which allow you to edit your website live on a pre-built system with next to no technical experience needed. These editors are great as you can keep your site’s content constantly updated with fresh news and deals and requires very little technical skill to set up and run. However make sure to check the small print as sometimes some less reputable sites can add high hosting fees or even worse can claim the creative licence to your domain which they might take back and sell on once your contract runs out.
Some companies however are very successful online even without a website. There are lots of ways to have a web presence without the need of an actual website. Social networks can help give you an outlet for your company’s news and if you get enough followers can be a great way to perform natural free advertising to your customers. Many companies have Facebook pages and use them as a way to advertise themselves and talk to potential customers. Professional business to business services can benefit greatly from Linked-in and for more creative craft style businesses Pinterest is a great way to showcase your work.
What are the benefits of a web presence?
A web presence is great for small businesses as it can open you up to a whole world of customers that you wouldn’t normal get. One of the biggest advantages of having a web presence however is that it allows you to dominate the local market. Through Facebook listings and Google+ local search functions your business’s physical location can be digitally mapped and referenced when people search for your particular type of business from nearby. This means that if done correctly your business will rank highly when people search for your particular niche near you. To do this properly you need to make sure that all your social media information is properly linked to your website or main area of your web presence and your business is listed on Google maps.
In conclusion a web presence can be a great way to present your company’s image to potential customers as well as well as a tool to find and attract new customers. When thinking about starting your business it is important to have a plan for your online activity.
Images from:(CC: image from: The Daring Librarian – http://www.flickr.com/photos/info_grrl/ )
Screenshot from google: when I searched for the keyword “Taxi” showing local results.