It seems no matter where you turn these days, you can't escape the presence of the internet. The simple truth is that the world-wide web is transforming the way business is done in the U.S. and around the world. If your business is going to remain competitive, there is no way around it. You have to establish your presence on the web.
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Charlie, a friend and entrepreneur who runs Silver Source, a wholesale merchandise jewelery sales business had this to say on the subject: "Without a web presence you might as well close up shop. Web presence is everything." Charlie is right on the money with that statement.
On the positive side, creating a web presence isn't as difficult as it sounds, even if you have little or no computer experience. Here are a few quick and easy steps to get you started.
Step #1: Surf
The best way to get an idea about how to use the internet to your advantage is to see what other entrepreneurs are doing. Go to a search engine (e.g. www.google.com) and type in words that describe your business. For example, if your company sells shoes, type in the phrase "shoe stores".
Take a few hours to explore the websites of the companies that come up in your search. As you do, make a list of the things you like about the sites you visit as well as the things you don't like. Before long, you'll start to get an idea of what you want your company's website to look like.
Step #2: Create your own website
Unless you are technologically savvy, you're going to need to find someone who knows what they're doing to help you accomplish this. Websites can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them. The levels of complexity range from a basic site listing your company's name, services, and contact information to a more complicated site that allows the customer to view products and place orders. The decision is entirely up to you. Just understand that more advanced sites cost more to create and to maintain.
Along with creating a website, you will need to register a domain name. A domain name is a term that describes your presence on the web, usually www.something.com. The person you use to create your website will know how to register your domain name. There are costs associated with registering and maintaining your domain name, but they are minimal.
In addition to registering your domain name, you will need to find a place to host your website. Websites don't magically float around in the techno-sphere. They reside in host servers that are connected to one another through the internet. As you might expect, there is also a cost involved in finding a host for your website, usually billed on a monthly basis. This is cost is also minimal and doesn't come close to the opportunity cost you will incur by not having a web presence.
Step #3: Maintain your website
Once your website is up, it will need to be maintained. You can hire a professional to do this, although with a little bit of training it can also be done in-house. It's not important how you decide to do it. What is important is that your website is updated periodically to accurately communicate your business' products and services to your customers.