|Kathy Biers from Utah State.|
Karen Biers, PhD from Utah State University Extension was the facilitator for a workshop presented at the recent Rural Economic Summit held in Castle Dale. She concentrated on informing those attending how to utilize the internet to promote their businesses.
With the introduction of the internet came a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to earn a living from home. The internet has opened markets for local products to go global.
Depending on the type of website that is selected, a business person can handle advertising, take orders, sell, ship and handle returns from wherever home is located. There are other sites available who will handle all the financial transactions and guarantee security.
Websites selected by people who want to earn a living from home and work for themselves. A profit can be made if the right market is reached. An interactive website is one that offers some registration processes or forms where customers can give feedback, but transactions occur offline. Transactional websites are those that receive orders and process payments.
Integrated sites are completely integrated systems that have back to front end integration including fulfillment operations and workflow information. Fully automated processes are possible with little if any manual input on transactions.
As the decision is made that a person or business wants to reach new markets with a website, several questions require answers. First, objectives must be determined. Do you have something to sell? Is it a product or service? What sort of advertising do you need? Will you provide customer service or support? Will you provide useful information cost effectively? How will you reinforce your brand image? A final thought to remember is that only two percent of the business transacted is done on the web.
Before establishing your website, a business owner must first identify the target market. If your product is directed at teenagers, a design must be achieved that is catchy and appealing to that age group. The site must be designed with the area of service foremost, and then consider what the target market may expect when they arrived at the website. Design the site with the target market in mind. The final key to website design is to keep it simple. A website that is difficult to navigate or with no eye appeal will discourage many customers.
A domain name is of utmost consideration. When the name has been decided, hopefully something compatible with the business or company name, a person must apply for and register the domain name. There are many websites available to do the research and the registration, but prices vary, so shop around. Be sure to register the name for several years. If a successful business would let their domain name lapse, they could lose it to another company within minutes.
Another consideration is to renovate the site often. Most customers do not like busy sites with a lot of moving and distracting pictures and graphics, and they do not like the same thing over and over for months. Change the backgrounds often and make them interesting and appealing to the target market.
Biers suggested another way to reach new markets is to enter chatrooms that are specific to your product. Although most chatrooms do not allow blatant advertising, a service provider can talk with customers to get ideas for improving the product.
By creating and using email address books, a business can offer specials, sales and coupons to existing customers. With an email list, customers can also be notified of any upcoming promotions. When using email, make your subject brief and intriguing. Place the important words first. Everything can be explained in the text of the email if your subject line entices a potential customer to open the email.
In the body of the email, keep paragraphs short, no more than seven lines. Make your point in the first paragraph and be clear and concise. Do not make the line too long and make sure nothing is misspelled.
One more consideration for a web page is to include a What's New page. This will inform customers of anything that has recently been introduced that they may not know about. Use promotions such as free merchandise or contests. Customers enjoy being involved when they may receive a free gift.
Display a calendar of events that may involve your company or product. Let the customer know what is coming up for them to enjoy. A web page may also have helpful related link suggestions. You may also want to post a Tip of the Day. This may encourage customers to visit your site daily.
To close the workshop, Biers said, "Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression."