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Why Do I Need A Website—And Why Now?

When you are communicating with a potential client or purveyor—or acquaintance for that matter,—how many times do you recall them saying something like, “I’ll just check out your Website,” rather than writing down a phone number or address. If someone is in a hurry, they often will ask for your Website address so that they can look at your information later. We are in the age of the Internet. To deny it is counterproductive. It is a simple fact.

When you are dealing with someone and you ask for their Website address and they do not have one, do you not think—even for a brief flash of a second—hmmm. Now you find yourself asking why you need a Website. The question is not really whether you need one, but rather what kind of Website you do need.

Where do I start?

A Website is an invaluable tool for a business professional. There are lots of options. You may need nothing more than a few pages. You can start with the basic “about” information and a way to be contacted by e-mail or phone. That is a stake on the Web just as surely as if you had a huge mega site costing a small fortune. The important thing is to make that first step and join the ranks of the New Media™. Now is the perfect time to analyze your needs and create a plan for developing your Web presence over time.

There are basic things that a Website will enable you to do.

    1. You can use e-mal that is branded with your domain name.
    2. You can generate awareness and position yourself as someone who is technologically savvy.
    3. You can do business online.
    4. You can receive information that will be of benefit to you and your clients.
    5. You can ratchet up your competitive advantage.

Whether you have a two-page Website or a 200-page Website, these are the basic things that we all want from our Websites. Do you need a Website? Yes. Do you have to make a major investment to have one? Financially, no. Intellectually, yes.

Analyze your understanding of the World Wide Web.

Do you use the Web? What are your favorite sites? My guess is that your favorites are the ones where you can most readily get the information you need and move on.

It is nice if the Website is visually appealing, but the most important thing is its functionality. The good thing is that a well–designed site (meaning the infrastructure) is naturally appealing. Not form before function—form and function is the key. A responsible and ethical Web developer will quickly encourage you to avoid the bells and whistles and start out with the basics. A clean, well-organized Website will accomplish several immediate goals. You will be able to communicate with your clients and associates through the Web more efficiently. You will be able to better know what you really need to expand your online presence once you have some experience with a site of your own. You will also be able to get on the radar of the search engines. Marketing your Website should not be the last thing on your list. It should be the first.

Ask yourself these questions:

Know Your Audience:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are characteristics of this audience?
  • Who do you want to engage with the site?

Purpose:

  • What is the purpose of your site?
  • Do you have a clear picture of the business need the site will fulfill?
  • Will your site contribute directly or indirectly to profitability?

Goals:

  • How does the proposed site tie in to company goals?
  • Will you simply sell your services as an agent or add listings as well?
  • Will you provide a sample portfolio of clients or work online?
  • How will the site help you obtain or retain clients?

Size:

  • How big will your Website be?
  • Do you understand that you can start very small and build from there?
  • Larger sites cost more money; will your site be 2 pages or 1000 pages?
  • Have you considered limits for the size and scope of the site?

Marketing:

  • What forms of marketing will you use to promote the Website?
  • Do you plan to place the Web address on all stationery, business cards and brochures?
  • Will you place ads, send direct mail or market the site online, or a combination?

Internet Promotion:

  • Are you planning to register the site with search engines?
  • Will you contact the media to review your Website?
  • Do you plan to buy any specific image advertising on other sites?

Statistics/Analytics:

  • What do you want to know about visitors to your Website?
  • Do you want to know where they came from to reach your site?
  • Do you want to know what pages on the site were viewed?
  • Do you need to know the total number of hits and page views?

Interactivity: (these are things that can be added later)

  • Will your Website offer interactive features to visitors?
  • Can visitors send e-mail, order a service or request information?
  • How can the site give you feedback?

If you are still not convinced that you need a Website—or you know that you need one but have no Internet skills other than what you need to find information for yourself—seek out a Web development or design firm and consult with them. If you know people with Websites—good Websites—ask them to recommend someone. You are an expert in your field. You need an expert in Website development to help you get started. Your cousin’s son who is fabulous on MySpace is not what you need. This is a business decision, not a social one. You can find out a great deal on the Internet itself, so you will have an idea of what you want when you do sit down to talk with someone seriously. Go to business social networking sites and talk to people who have been through this. The questions above are a good start in your conversation with a Website developer or designer. Knowledge is power.

Why now?

One reason this is a good time for anybusiness professional who is ready to make the move to be on the Web is because of the current economic environment. Chances are you are not as busy as usual, or you are extremely busy looking for ways to improve your current position. The Internet will help you. It is critical to your survival long-term. Now is the time to get started. Now is the time to commit yourself to learning about the Web and how it can benefit you in business.

This is also a perfect time to re-evaluate your current Website. If you have a Website now and it does not address all of the issues raised in this article, you need to think seriously about an upgrade. Like anything else, a Website is subject to trends of the times. Take a look at your competition. Do they have a fresh and clean look and you are still back in the early days of Web design? I hate to say it, but I have spent a good deal of time looking at Websites for online and brick and mortor professionals and I have to say the overall grade is failing. In the past year I have seen some improvement, mostly in new sites. However, sites that have been up for a while are sad—very sad. Problems with your infrastructure can be corrected and you can put a new face on your existing Website. I meet so many people who feel that they made a bad investment when they went online early on and have not gotten the boost that they hoped for by becoming part of the Internet revolution. Going online is never a bad investment. The bad investment is in choosing a bad developer or designer to help you.

Look for these qualifications:

  • Candidates should be able to provide URLs of previous work. This is the equivalent of a portfolio.
  • Get references from previous clients or employers.
  • Was this person easy to work with?
  • Did he or she produce a fast-loading, well-functioning site?
  • They should be able to provide you with a point-by-point evaluation of your current site and their possible solutions.
  • They should implement site-optimization procedures within their plan. If someone is building or upgrading a site for you and wants to add site optimization after the fact, they are not factoring it in from the beginning and will not be creating an efficient and searchable site.
  • Follow your instincts.
  • Do not be intimidated.

Be realistic about your expectations.

A Web site is a business. It takes time to get things running as you want them. It takes time to market your site. Anyone who promises you that you will be swamped with business in the first month is misinformed to put it politely. For that to happen you would have to launch a major media blitz-television, radio and print. Like anything worth doing, it takes time and effort to establish yourself on the Web.

 

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