"Do You Need A Web Site?"
A "red hot" question for the small to medium sized business. There are factors pressing in from all sides ... you've worked hard to build your organization, you're a master at being flexible with new challenges, and out of the blue ... you are presented with nothing short of a revolution. A revolution in thinking, marketing and competition.
Let's step back for a moment and consider a couple of things. Let's assume your business is service oriented - you are in the medical profession, or a tradesman, or a crop duster. You're not selling products that can be sold from a catalog. You exercise your experience and education to provide a service that can't be transmitted through an email and delivered by Federal Express.
A while back, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corp. was quoted as saying, "By the year 2001 there will be only two kinds of companies ... those with web sites and those that are no longer in business."
Why should this apply to you? It seems a little silly, actually. How could that be? --- But, you know the answer. Because this is NOT just a technological improvement for marketing or advertising - The Internet is changing how we live, eat, sleep, love and work. And the reason I say that is, is because it's changing something profoundly basic to humankind --- the way we communicate.
The real question isn't ... "Do You Need A Website?". The real question is ... "When do I do this?" You know that there is a revolution going on. You know that in 1994, a little over $100,000 was made on the Net and in 1999 over 270 Billion Dollars was spent on the Net. Five short years.
Another Internet "sage", Stewart Giardina, puts it like this, "The Internet explosion will only happen once. It didn't happen for your parents; it won't happen for your children. It is happening today! What will you do with it?"
So let's get at some considerations ... and let's do it by working backwards, so that I can arm you with the most information ... so you can make the best decisions.
Perhaps the most frequently asked question after an individual or company has gone through the process of creating an online presence is "How are people going to find me online?. Unfortunately, in many cases, the question gets addressed after the entire "online budget" has been committed.
The reality is your online presence is only going to be successful by attracting people who have an interest in buying your products or services for themselves or others, or the information you are sharing.
The great news about the internet is you can broadcast your presence to a world of individuals who will be delighted to know you exist online provided you match their needs.
With the advent of the World Wide Web, a whole new era in personal communications was born. As the Internet grows to become a universally appealing, dynamic medium, where people can gain access to information, entertainment, products and services when they want to, ... if it's not part of your media mix ... you ARE losing business.
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It's an amazing story, isn't it? The Russians sent Sputnik into orbit in 1957, and the Americans responded by setting up the Advanced Research Projects Agency. Huh? What? Wait, the chapter title asks, "Where am I now?" What does all that have to do with the Internet?
Where am I now?
In 1957, a group of governmental (I love that word), military and academic leaders very concerned about an "apparent" technological disparity, were startled into the conclusion that a single strategic attack could, very well, incapacitate the nation's entire logistical communications.
They set out to implement a plan that would allow computers in far flung locations to store and share information, rerouting it as it was needed. An added benefit, was technological research could be shared, minimizing duplication of work.
As more and more governmental, scientific and educational agencies realized the benefits of "networking", the demand for high speed transmission equipment developed --- and the "Internet" was born.
In 1986 the first E-mail carrier began commercial links on the Internet.
The National Science Foundation lifted its "restrictive use" policy for commercial use of the Internet in 1991. The result was the "part" of the Internet we all know as the World Wide Web - a graphical interface with "mouse click" navigation.
Here are a few other "milestones" which might interest you:
1993 - First Web Browser.
1994 - First "spamming" - mass E-mail advertising. (I just have to share this with you.) Two lawyers posted an ad in over 8000 Usenet groups. They created an indignant outcry of protest from early Internet users who were against commercial activity on the "Net". Remember, this was a vehicle of scientific and educational research for over 35 years. They also generated over a $100,000 in a little over two weeks. The business community sat up and took notice.
1994 - First "cyber" mall, bank and commercial shop taking orders.
1995 - The "mega" Internet Service Providers (I.S.P.), America Online, Prodigy and Compuserve offer access.
1996 - Search Engines, Java (allowing animations and calculations), Internet telelphones and Web TV were developed.
From that $100,000 first commercial marketing in April 1994, it is estimated that consumers spent in excess of $1 billion "on-line" in 1996. (and businesses spent over $200,000 million on Internet advertising.) In 1999, consumers spent over 70 Billion dollars "on-line" and businesses spent over 200 Billion dollars on Internet development and advertising.
"Where am I now? You stand poised at the very beginning of the second most important technological revolution in human communications and commerce.
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Where do I go from here?
When will I be seen?
Let's assume you have a brand spanking new web site with all sorts of dancing bears, firey dragons, loaded with frames, popping consoles, scrolling ticker tapes and huge beautiful graphics showcasing your "real time" store front in Burbank, California or hi-liting your state of the art manufacturing plant in Topeka, Kansas.
AND...Let's assume this marvel of Internet technological prowess was NOT designed in the studios of Web Design by Galileo.
AND...Let's assume you weren't told the majority of browsers out there read 640 by 480 pixels (a standard VGA monitor), perform on an "operating" platform using 4 to 8 MEG of RAM and have a 14.4 Modem.
AND...Let's also assume you weren't told all search engines rate web sites differently; your web site Title, Head and Alt commands are just as important as your Meta Description and Meta Keyword commands; AND..."posting" to 500 URL posting sites (for $69.95) is akin to a brain surgeon putting up 500 fliers on telephone poles.
AND...Let's assume you weren't told the majority of Internet users are college educated, double income families, seeking to enhance their life style, don't want to see out of date material and don't want their precious time wasted waiting for your technological marvel to load; AND...You are competing for the attention of these discriminating "surfers" with an estimated one million accessible web sites.
"When will I be seen?" hmmmm.......
How can I pull people into my site?
An excellent question! First, do your homework....get your URL (that's your internet address http://www.myhome.com/ontheweb) printed on your business cards, letterheads, telephone yellow pages and any other media vehicle you may be using. This may sound pretty fundamental, and it is, but many people overlook the cost involved. Just thought I'd remind you.
Remember your "astute" and discerning internet user. Everyone loves to find a reference to a site they might think is interesting ... and your web site quietly goes about the job of serving, educating and marketing you, long after you have succumbed to the need for sleep. Your professional presence on the web speaks for you in a way like no other media marketing does with perhaps the exception of a half hour long "infomercial" on television.
In the table below you will find rates for some basic services suggested for all web site owners. In addition we can develop a targeted marketing plan using these items and/or other vehicles including but not limited to electronic press releases, wire news announcements, bulk e-mailing, site linking, web rings and electronic classified ad placement.