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A Vision, Plan and a Goal!
"Without a Vision, or a plan, a Goal cannot be achieved. Everyone has a vision and everyone has a plan, but, at times life slows the vision down and circumstances alter plans. If you never lose sight of your vision, then your plans will continue to make progress until your Goals have been achieved." Raphael..

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Why You Need a Website

Even if you're not planning on selling online, a well-crafted site is essential for any business.

Q: My business is very small, just me and two employees, and our product really can't be sold online. Do I really need a website?

A: That's a good question. In fact, it's one of the most important and most frequently asked questions of the digital business age. Before I answer, however, let's flash back to the very first time I was asked this question. It was circa 1998, during the toddler years of the internet.

I was giving a speech on the impact of the internet on small business at an association luncheon in Montgomery, Alabama. Back in 1998, which was decades ago in internet years, the future of e-commerce was anybody's guess, but even the most negative futurists agreed that all the signs indicated that a large portion of future business revenues would be derived from online transactions or from offline transactions that were the result of online marketing efforts.

So should your business have a website, even if your business is small and sells products or services you don't think can be sold online? My answer in 1998 is the same as my answer today: Yes, if you have a business, you should have a website. Period. No question. Without a doubt.

Also, don't be so quick to dismiss your product as one that can't be sold online. Nowadays, there's very little that can't be sold over the internet. More than 20 million shoppers are now online, purchasing everything from books to computers to cars to real estate to jet airplanes to natural gas to you name it. If you can imagine it, someone will figure out how to sell it online.

Let me clarify one point: I'm not saying you should put all your efforts into selling your wares over the internet, though if your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly be considering it. The point to be made here is that you should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.

That said, it's not enough that you just have a website. You must have a professional-looking site if you want to be taken seriously. Since many consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like it was designed by a barrel of colorblind monkeys, your chance at making a good first impression will be lost.

One of the great things about the internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big boys. As mentioned, you have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well-designed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I've seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.

You also mention that yours is a small operation, but when it comes to benefiting from a website, size does not matter. I don't care if you're a one-man show or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don't have a website, you're losing business to other companies that do.

Here's the exception to my rule: It's actually better to have no website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, "Hey, look, we take our business so seriously that we have created this wonderful site for our customers!" or it screams, "Hey, look, I let my 10-year-old nephew design my site. Good luck finding anything!"

Your website is an important part of your business.

Make sure you treat it as such.

Tim W. Knox is the founder, president and CEO of four successful technology companies: B2Secure Inc., a Web-based hiring management software company; Digital Graphiti Inc., a software development company; and Sidebar Systems, a company that creates cutting edge convergence software for broadcast media outlets; and Online Profits 4U, an e-business dedicated to helping online entrepreneurs start and prosper from an online, wholesale or drop-ship business.

Why a good (cheap) website is vital for small businesses

An online presence is crucial to a small business, but getting it wrong can do more damage than good.

 Anthony Karibian of bOnline offers tips for creating the perfect website Anthony Karibian, Thursday 24 January 2013 09.58 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 21 May 2014 15.10 BST

 A good business website will attract visitors and convert them into paying customers.

In its annual survey of small businesses, the government revealed that the number employing nine people or fewer now stands at a massive 4.5m. Between them, they are involved in more than £600bn pounds of commerce.

Inevitably, the tightening jobs market, with its ever-shrinking number of permanent, full-time positions, is playing a role as increasing numbers of fledgling entrepreneurs set up their own businesses and create their own work.

It's a crowded and highly competitive field, with small companies fighting tooth and nail to attract the attention of would-be customers. At the risk of stating the obvious, a quality website is essential if you want your business to punch above its weight.

Unfortunately, on this point there's a mixture of good and bad news. On the positive front, bOnline's survey of 10,000 British micro-businesses has shown they're more digitally aware than previously believed, with 81% running a website. Hitherto, estimates tended to hover around the 50% mark.

Despite their enthusiasm to get online, most of these sites – a worrying 80% – simply aren't fit for purpose in today's digital age. The vast majority of micro-businesses are using sites that are based on out-of-date technology. They tend to be "static", limited to five pages and offer no content management. Hence they can't perform basic but essential marketing tasks, such as posting photos and publishing customer testimonials.

The end result is their site ranks very low on a Google search – and even when they do attract visitors, they rarely convert them to paying customers as they project a poor image online. These businesses are effectively operating off-line and are missing huge opportunities to grow. Of the businesses we speak to, 90% want to do more in this area – but most don't know how they can start the process without spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds. With this in mind, here are the four essential points you must bear in mind when setting up your website.

Dynamic content

A dynamic and up-to-date website will be more relevant to a visitor and it will also give repeat visitors a reason to return. News, specials and testimonials are a few ways of making a website more exciting and dynamic. And best of all, updating your content regularly makes it more search-engine friendly.

Customer management tools

Some websites come with CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities to help manage your existing customers. Tools – such as a customer contact list, email marketing, custom enquiry forms and SMS alerts – will significantly improve your ability to stay in contact and engage your customers. And if your site has an appointments-booking system, you can enjoy a big boost in productivity while also improving customer experience with email confirmations and text reminders.

Professional design

First impressions count, and a professionally designed website with professional images makes all the difference. An important factor many people overlook is the colour of a site. Whether it's a subtle hint to complement your logo – or a full patterned background – the right colour scheme plays a big role in catching a visitor's eye. Unfortunately, a lot of amateur web designers go overboard when it comes to choosing a colour palette.

It's also worth remembering that high-quality images make a great first impression and can help make your site look professional. Pictures of your products and services can clearly showcase what you can offer customers. And the use of top-quality images also offers another advantage: your business is more likely to get noticed on image-heavy media sites such as Pinterest.

The importance of visibility

With nearly 130 million websites in the UK alone, the internet is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace. You must make your website visible to your customers and the way to do this is to climb search engine results, the king of which remains Google.

If your website hasn't been optimised to help it up the rankings, you can't independently reach out and help potential customers find you; instead you're relying on them stumbling across you by chance. If this description fits you, despite having a website, you're effectively working off-line and in the dark.

Anthony Karibian is chief executive of bOnline, a website design company aimed at small businesses

Over the next few months the Guardian Small Business Network will be offering detailed insight and advice on getting your small business website right. Sign up to become a member to ensure you keep up to date with our latest digital technology advice

• This article was amended on 25 January 2012. The original referred to more than £600m pounds of commerce - the correct figure is actually £600bn. This item has been corrected.

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5 Benefits of Having a Website for Your Small Business

Aug 30, 2011 by Lisa Barone In Marketing Tips 31

Last week at SmallBizTrends I shared the statistic that 47 percent of small business owners still weren’t using social media because they didn’t feel it was important to their business. That post spurred a lot of strong comments, both on site here and on Facebook. Eventually the conversation went from whether SMBs should invest in social media to whether they even need a Website or an Internet presence at all.

You probably know some businesses who are doing phenomenally well without a website. I do, too. But I often wonder how much better they could be doing if they took the time to invest in one. And when I say “website,” I don’t mean an electronic version of that brochure they’ve been handing out for the past 10 years. I mean a legitimate, well-thought-out site that is designed to inform, engage and convert their audience.

Here are just a few benefits that come along with creating a usable website for your small business. Let me know why you think it is (or isn’t) important for a SMB to have a website in 2011.

1. You stop being invisible.

I’m not trying to be flippant, but by creating a website you stop being invisible to the people trying to find you online. More and more studies are telling us about the ROBO effect where customers are learning to research online before buying offline. They’re typing their problems or needs into the search engine of their choice and are researching the companies that appear for those queries. If you don’t have a Web presence, there’s no chance of you showing up and you never even enter into their thought process. In 2011, you can’t afford to be invisible.

2. You help control your rankings.

While you can’t simply rattle off a list of search terms you want to be found for, you can use search engine optimization basics to help control where your site shows up and for which queries. By creating optimized content, building relevant links and creating a brand that customers want to engage with, you set yourself up as an authority in the eyes of the search engine and increase your chances of appearing for the right queries – the ones paying customers are using to find businesses just like yours. Creating an optimized website helps you to gain important visibility for the right terms.

3. You create another sales tool.

A website is a powerful sales tool and one that allows you to address your customers’ concerns, give them the information they need to make a decision and create compelling calls to action. Sure, you can keep placing ads in the Yellow Pages and hope that word-of-mouth generates on its own…or you can build something that inspires it to happen. Your website is your home turf where people can go to seek out trusted information about your company and engage with you on a more personal level. Use it to build confidence in your brand and to give customers important buying information (and incentives).

4. You build authority.

Though the Web has been around for some time, it’s true that you didn’t always need a website to find your audience. It was a lot easier to market via direct mailings, Yellow page ads and local word-of-mouth. However, today your website and your social presence are the factors that customers are looking for when they research a small business. They want to know that you’re stable enough to have a dedicated Web presence. That you’ll be around tomorrow should something go wrong. That they can get ahold of you when they need to. By creating a website, you set up shop on the Internet and show customers that this is where they can come to find information about you, to read articles that you’ve written and to learn more about your company. All of these things build authority. Without a website, you’re at a huge disadvantage as a small business owner trying to speak to your customers.

5. You build an email list.

Even if you hate the Web, you probably still like email. I bet you even collect emails from your customers by hand so that you can keep them up to date on what’s happening in-store. Having a website allows you to do all of that better because it makes it easier, faster and provides even more incentive for someone to sign up. Create a site that users can trust and then use it to build your email list. Along with your website, that list just may end up being one of your strongest sales tools.

Those are just five important reason for a small business owner to create a Web presence. Why do you have one? Or why don’t you have one?

10 More Reasons Why Owning a Website is Beneficial for Your Business

The success of a business depends on its popularity. It is pretty obvious that your business can become popular only when lots of people come to know about it. The best possible way to expose your business to wider audience is to create a website for your business. These days the most preferred way to find information is internet. Hence, exposing your business on internet through your website is very important.

Here are 10 reasons on why owning a website is beneficial for your business.

Accurate Information of Your Business

If someone wants to know more about your business, he can simply visit your website. Through your site, they can learn the products and services you are offering. Visitors will be able to read and understand the features of each and every product and service that are available through your business.

Lets You Attract Targeted Customers

Through proper search engine optimization and internet marketing, you will be able to reach your site to audience who are interested in doing business with you. Since it helps in finding targeted customers, chances of achieving sales is higher.

Your Business Will Never Sleep

Since websites remains active 24/7, your business will never sleep. This is beneficial for all kinds of business and especially if you own an online shopping site, your customers will be able to make a purchase any time.

Reach Out to Wider Audience

As mentioned before, websites allow you to reach out to wider audience. Even though people from across the world may not want to do business with you because of the distance, they will be able to access your site and come to know about it. You will be able to reach out to your customers both locally as well as globally.

Good for Customer Service

Through your website, you can offer downloadable materials such as user manuals, ebooks, tutorials, etc that can help your customers. You can conduct surveys to understand what people think about your business. It also serves as a great platform to receive feedback from your existing customers and potential clients.

Cheaper Mode of Advertising

Placing an advertisement on a local newspaper or Yellow Pages can cost you lot of money every year. On the other hand, launching and running a website cost less money. Website is like a pamphlet that can be quickly shared with others. You will be able to provide your customers with good dose of information. It also gives you ample amount of space to display advertisements.

Professional Appeal to Your Business

Even if your business is small, your website can give a professional appeal to your business. When a person notices web address of a business listed on a contact card, he will feel that it is a professional and established company.

More Opportunities to Market Your Business

Internet marketing is one of the most powerful marketing techniques ever. You can popularize your site on social networking sites. You can also advertise on popular sites that are relevant to your business and receive good traffic and potential customers.

Keep Your Visitors Informed

If you have thousands of customers and your are doing good business, what is the best possible way to make announce on the launch of new products? Websites serve as a wonderful platform to keep your visitors informed on new products and services in real-time.

Compete With Your Rivals

If you want to stay in competition with your rivals, you need to have a website. Having an online presence for a business has become very important. Your rivals are doing it and putting lot of efforts to attract lots of customers. If your business is without a website, it cannot compete with the rivals.

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