As my wife and I continue to work towards our goal of relocating to the West Country, I often dwell on the some of the benefits of the Internet for business.
Apart from the technical benefits that websites and e-mail can provide over other, physical business facets, there are some less tangible ones:
- A business can be based anywhere. Through your website and e-mail you could be working in an office in Scotland, a corner of a living room in Sonning or in a purpose-built outbuilding at the bottom of a garden in Windsor. Who's to know - or care? As long as you can be contacted and provide your services in a timely and professional manner, what does it matter?
- You can make rapid changes to your Sales and Marketing materials. Once the changes have been agreed and designed, they can be added to your website very quickly - whether this is by you or through your web designer. No sending designs to the printer, waiting for the proofs to come back, making revisions, waiting for the finished item and THEN distributing it.
- Your virtual shop front is available 24 hours a day and accessible from anywhere. There's no need for your customer or prospective client to have your catalogue or brochure to hand when they want to find out more about you.
- The potential market place is huge. By publicising the website address via search engines, Pay-per-Click advertising, e-mail marketing, flyers, adverts etc you can reach almost anyone in your chosen area - be that the town, county, country or the whole world.
Although the telephone is an effective remote communication channel, it doesn't offer some of the rich possibilities that e-mail and Internet communications do. Yes, a phone conversation is immediate but it doesn't allow you to (easily) keep a transcript like on-line chat and e-mail do. It doesn't allow you to pass files and documents to and from your customers and prospects and it doesn't allow you to reach as many people at the same time as your website and e-mail do.
Of course, if you deal in physical products you probably don't have the luxury of (almost) total control over where and how you work. Having worked in corporate offices for most of my working life, the ability to define my own working environment, the lack of commuting & office politics and the flexibility to work when & how I want is something that I very much appreciate.
What makes people return to a site they've viewed and is a key factor in Search Engine rankings? In this month's article I talk about the benefits of fresh website material. Click here for the full article. Keeping your website fresh.
Spam and competitor businesses - an article on the pitfalls of using open or visible e-mail lists is on The Register web site. If you regularly e-mail some or all of your clients and prospects, make sure you don't leave the addresses visible!
Protecting your data - With the continuing drop in hard disk prices and the improvement in transfer speeds, there's no excuse now not to perform regular backups of your data. If you've got a PC or small network that holds important business data why not consider an external disk drive? External enclosures with USB connection, can be purchased with £300Gb disks for around £100. Larger capacities are available. Backup of the data can be performed by a simple copy or using one of the many free backup utilities available. Details can be obtained from most computer suppliers such as Scan, Ebuyer and Novatech.
Latest statistics - The latest figures from Thecounter.com show that larger PC screens are getting ever more popular. Only 22% of people still use 14"/800 x 600 pixel screens whilst 56% have 17"/1024 x 768 and over 16% use larger screens still. Although the old 800x600 screens aren't yet dead, your web designer should be building your website to take account of the bigger screens.
Meanwhile, figures from Publictechnology.net say that 56% of all ISP-based Internet connections (essentially those that are not direct, commercial links) are now via Broadband. This shows that although many people still have slow connections, an increasing number of people can handle downloads of large documents and pictures.
I joined the Reading Business Club in the middle of this year. They have breakfast meeting every fortnight at Sonning Golf Club in Woodley, near Reading. With a good range of businesses, a great bunch of people and an informal, humorous style it's one networking meeting I can honestly say I look forward to. The membership list is likely to close soon but even if that happens, it'll still be possible to visit as a guest. See the website www.readingbusinessclub.com for details.
Tip 1: If you produce a regular newsletter for your clients, prospects and business contacts, you'll probably want it to go to as many people as possible. Here are 12 ways to grow your circulation list.
Tip 2: Do you want to be found by the major Search Engines - Google, Yahoo, MSN etc? It's not a one-off job but an on-going process. It might not require time and investment every month but work is needed on a regularly basis. Read Expert Search Engine Optimisation: Is Ongoing Management Needed?
Tip 3: Is your domain name memorable? Would you be more likely to remember www.hughjohnsonandson.co.uk or www.greatwine.co.uk? Every website can have as many domain names as they want. Co.uk domain names are very inexpensive and .com, .net and .biz don't cost much more. Why not get registered for that catchy name now? Clarihon will register a .co.uk name for you for a year for only £10 + VAT.
Tip 4: If you don't take payment for products or services via your site and are thinking of doing so, have a look at the two most common payment gateways, and Worldpay. They're not the cheapest but they're a good first step.
Tip 5: At some point you'll come across an Internet term that you don't understand. When that happens, try my Internet Glossary and see if it helps.
Advanced Leisure Systems Limited
ALS are a UK distributor of steel outbuildings. With a wide range of sheds, garages, barns and storage buildings, they've got a solution for just about any outdoor storage requirement.
The buildings are available in a number of different colours and sizes and can be customised to suit. They come in kit form and can easily be assembled using the comprehensive instructions that accompany them.
ALS started trading in May 2004 and have already seen success with their Yell.co.uk adverts. To augment this they commissioned me to provide a simple, one page website. The aim is to provide a little more information and a few examples to the Yell visitors.
If you're looking for some inexpensive, robust outside storage or workroom, why not give ALS a call on - or visit their web site at www.alsinfo.co.uk