Why do I need a website? | What should my website say? | How does my website work for me? | How does a website fit in with my marketing? | How do I attract traffic to my site? | What is a VAR and how do I select a website designer? | How can I do a website on a tight budget?
Any business who has shopped for a print ad, realizes that print "real-estate" is expensive. Whether that real-estate exists in a phone book, newspaper or magazine you will be charged handsomely for the size, color (if available) and circulation. Compare that to a website, which will generally cost you under $500, will include vibrant colors and images, and can let you expound on why consumers should consider your product or service. Once you've paid the initial cost of site production, maintaining your site will usually run you $25/month. Unlike an ad in the phonebook, updates, editions and revisions can occur instantaneously and with nominal expense. With a print ad, you are stuck for the duration of the publication. Why not consider a small phone book ad with your URL so that customers can be directed to your website for current, colorful and well worded information!
Your website should convey a variety of messages. Image, corporate style, professionalism and easy to read content all lend themselves to a pleasing and productive site. A site should strive for the right amount of interest while avoiding "clutter" (cutesy images, overuse of Bold(loud) and Italic(hard to read) fonts). Menus should be clean, easy to navigate, and ideally be placed both at the top and bottom of the page to assist in easy movement. Content should be carefully thought out in order to capitalize on your marketing efforts. Most importantly, your site should inspire the visitor to seek out your business/service by informing them of your company and exciting them about the benefits they will derive by becoming your customer! (Assistance with content development is available).
During the height of the internet boom (late 90's) people mistakenly believed simply having a website put them on the road to riches. Product, service and a business plan existed only as an afterthought. Today's smart business owners understand that a site reaffirms their marketing plan and exists to help those consumers seeking additional information. Today's consumer is more information driven then ever before. By providing interest along with clear and concise information you increase the number of customers who might otherwise seek out your competitor.
It used to be a level playing field when it came to the use of search engines. That is no longer the case, and many of these search engines charge a hefty fee while making no guarantee that your business will appear on any list. The best method is the use of meta definitions within your site along with a good business description on the site itself. Most consumers have become savvy search engine users, and know that multiple terms specific to their search will yield them the best results. Other methods include the use of cross marketing efforts, such as direct marketing fliers, newspaper ads, etc.
A VAR (value added reseller) typically takes original equipment and adds something of value while placing a markup on the item or service. This is often a good solution for highly specialized businesses, but most businesses will end up simply paying a "middleman" fee and receive ordinary "out of the box" products. Be wary of VAR's that offer a multitude of services, as again they are farming out the service and receiving a fee. For website design, deal strictly with companies that create their own design vs. companies that farm out to template factories. Most of these templates (designed in India and China) are sold to the VAR for a few hundred dollars and get resold to you for considerably more --- sometimes for 10 times the actual cost!. (If you are ok with a template, then go directly to the company making the templates and save your money).