Broadband is becoming a more attractive option with the drop in prices (see later). Not only does it allow the same Internet facilities as in the office, it makes sharing an Internet connection feasible. With the right kit, a portable used in the office can be linked to a home network just as easily.
With just a little bit of help from on-line documentation, the supplier Helpdesk or a savvy friend, it's now cheap and easy to install a shared Internet link. These usually take the form of a 'Router' box that sits between your broadband connection and all of the PCs in your house. The PCs connect to this 'Router' by cable or wirelessly depending on the model you buy. As long as you take the security aspects into consideration, wireless linking makes the sharing of Internet connections (and printers etc) across the whole house a realistic option.
Of course, you need to be a little brave (or experienced) to tackle this yourself but it really isn't beyond the ken of the average businessman. As long as you treat the advertising material with a pinch of salt, and don't spend more then you need to, all the benefits of shared Internet in the home are achievable. Linking two PCs to the Internet needn't cost much more than £100 (incl VAT) - £150 if you want to do it wirelessly.
Everyone knows that a website needs to be found before visitors can begin to take an interest in your products and services. Having the website address (domain name, URL) on your business stationery, vehicles, your adverts and Yellow Pages entry is good, but it's important to be found on the major Search Engines (SEs) such as Google, Yahoo, MSN etc.
You can spend time and money optimising your site so that it rises to the first three pages on one or more of them but there is a short-cut.
Pay per Click advertising (PPC) offers you a way to get to the top pages of search result pages in very short order. It works this way:
You bid for a search term with one of the PPC SEs - for example "Hospitality Berkshire" or "Builders Merchant" - and commit to paying 50p. Each time someone performs a search using that SE where you appear on the search result page and they click on your advert/link, you pay the PPC SE 50p.
The idea, as with the main search result pages, is to be in the top few entries. The amount you bid will vary depending on how popular your chosen search term is. If there are 20 other people bidding for the term you might need to spend more than 50p per click. With only a few, you'll probably be able to spend less. The point is that you only pay when someone searches for your term and then clicks on your advert.
There's a minimum of 4p per click with Google, no minimum sign-up period and a daily spend limit that can be set so you can't get burnt. You set how much you're prepared to pay per day and if/when that's reached, your PPC advert is removed for the rest of that day.
There is a small downside to this though as a substitute for getting your web pages optimised for the Search Engines. Not everyone clicks on the adverts or 'sponsored links' on the search result pages. Some people don't even see them whilst others view it as more overt or agressive advertising and shun them.
If the number of visitors you get to your site through Pay per Click advertising generates enough purchases or quality enquiries, fine. If not, perhaps you should consider the more traditional Search Engine route as well?
Link to Overture/Yahoo Pay per Click advertising
Broadband is now available for as little as £15/month. For a guide to broadband providers check out the ADSL Guide.
Flat screens for your PC are now available for as little as £100 for a 15" screen, £150 for 17" and 19" or more from only £200. With the greatly reduced footprint, these screens can ease eye strain and give you more room on your desk. See Scan, Ebuyer, and Novatech for examples.
Free banking is now a reality through the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). They have an agreement with the Co-operative Bank where member accounts (with a few small restrictions) are free. The Internet banking interface is a bit clunky but it works. See the relevant FSB pages for more information
Tip 1: If you receive spam (unwanted e-mail) through the general enquiries mailbox on your website, consider getting your webmaster to change the way the e-mail address is presented on the pages. Spammers can 'read' e-mail addresses that are coded normally within web pages. There are several methods that give some protection and all are easily implemented.
Tip 2: If you use Internet Explorer as your web browser and haven't already got the Google toolbar, try downloading it. Sitting at the top of IE's window, it can be used to block those annoying popups that some commercial sites love to surprise you with and give you ready access to Google searches. Link to the
Tip 3: Although it doesn't work with all websites, changing the default font size in Internet Explorer can make it easier to see text. From the top menu, select View, Text Size and pick a larger or smaller size as required.
Tip 4: Did you know that you can have multiple addresses for your website? Different URLs/domain names can be set to point to the same address. This means that apart from having www.mycompany.co.uk, you can have www.bestwidgetsever.co.uk and greatwidgets4you.co.uk all pointing to your single website.
We met at an FSB networking dinner last year. James had not long started Total Hospitality after having worked in different parts of the catering industry.
With his background in catering management and a desire to provide excellent food at sensible prices for people holding events and celebrations, James realised the need to reach a large number of prospective clients quickly.
Based in Reading, Total Hospitality can cover almost any venue in the Thames Valley and West London. With their HEAT home delivery service they can also provide a great change from the usual chinese/indian takeaway fare.
After discussing the requirements for their website, we developed the design and built it ready for launch in late April. The need for quick results meant that Google's Adwords was the way to go. Within two weeks Total Hospitality were getting an average of five serious approaches per day and business has started to take off.
If you have a special occasion coming up (company event, wedding, family get-together, barbeque) why not give James and his team a call on - or visit their website at www.total-hospitality.co.uk/