If you have information to share, the World-Wide Web is a tool that you can't afford to ignore for long. It will allow you to reach more people more efficiently and more economically than you probably ever dreamed would be possible. You can be sure that your competitors and customers will be out there. You should be out there with them. Read our IMS newsflashes for e-commerce insights
Why Should You Establish a Web Presence?
You've almost certainly noticed it by now: everyone seems to be jumping on the Web bandwagon. Thousands of companies of all types and sizes have put up "home pages" on the World-Wide Web, supplementing their print advertising and disseminating news releases. Everything from multinational corporations to retail franchise outfits to neighborhood "Mom and Pop" stores can be found announcing their products and services online.
But why should you join them?
The Internet has for years been considered an essential reference tool. More recently, as businesses and consumers have begun to realize its commercial potential, it has come to stand with more traditional media outlets as an essential marketing tool, as well.
The World-Wide Web has been called the "new paradigm" in advertising and publicity. It's a brand new method of disseminating information, which simultaneously gives more immediate control over the process to both the provider and the consumer. And online promotion is both inexpensive and effective, which is why it probably won't be long before advertising on the Web becomes as important to business success as advertising in newspapers or on radio and television.
But you've probably already heard all of the hype. So it might interest you to cut through it, and see first what a Web presence won't do for you.
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What Isn't the Web?
Art work by our IMS webmaster..click for more art
First and foremost, the Web isn't a doorway to easy riches. Anyone claiming you'll make money on the Internet without substancial effort is just plain lying to you.
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Sure, you've heard the stories...see our FAQ section for examples
Understand, though, that these cases are by far the exceptions, not the rule. If you expect a Web site to have an immediate and profound effect on your bottom line, you will most likely be disappointed.
The simple fact is that the return on investment (ROI) for most business-related Web sites is much more difficult to quantify. The vast majority of Web sites do not show any clear profit unless they charge browsers for products or information. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, quite frankly, lying.
And yet, even so, the majority of businesses with Web sites consider those sites to be well worth the creation and maintenance costs. Web development budgets are now standard in all fortune 1000 companies. Why is that?
Simply put, although the World-Wide Web is still a long way from becoming a valuable direct sales tool, it has already become a vital promotional and marketing tool and customer support vehicle.
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What Can You Do on the Web
Serve your customers. Increase sales. Conduct surveys and contests. Provide product specifications. Stay in contact with salespeople. Get feedback from customers. Provide staff bios and contact information. Test-market new services or products. Reach the media. Reach the education and youth markets. Open international markets. Serve your local market or sell items not sold anywhere else but via ecommerce web sites
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The possibilities of the Web are all but endless. You can adapt virtually every marketing tool you've ever created for other forums, and can update, add and change things at will. And what's more, you can do it for an amazingly low cost. You can advertise on the Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for an entire year, for less than the cost of a single large newspaper or magazine ad!
What's more, the online medium is unique in that you are only limited in how much information you can provide by the consideration of how much information you want to provide.
There are already millions of potential customers online, and thousands more arrive every day.
Whoever your target audience might be, you can reach them on the Web. And, of course, the communication works both ways. Just as the Web can facilitate getting information to your audience, it can facilitate receiving feedback from them, as well.
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So what can you actually do on the Web? Sell -communicate- display -convence
What About Small Businesses?
Even the smallest of businesses, or those serving very well-defined local areas, can benefit from a presence on the Internet. Even though a Web site's potential audience is global, it can be just as effective in reaching customers locally, especially when used in conjunction with other advertising. And the value of a Web site as an information resource is just as important to local customers as it is to those thousands of miles away.
It doesn't matter if you're a local contractor or an international computer wholesaler. There are potential customers that have never heard of you and who are looking for what you have to offer. The Internet provides an inexpensive and effective way of reaching them. And if your Web site provides them with valuable information or special deals on a continuing basis, they'll keep coming back.
The Internet offers the closest thing the advertising world is ever likely to see to a "level playing field." While nothing will ever completely erase the advantages gained from multi-million dollar advertising budgets and brand name recognition, the well-designed and maintained Web site of a small company can be just as useful to the consumer as the site of a major multinational corporation.
A good Web site won't put you on equal footing with Cisco or IBM, but it just might help to give you an edge over your more immediate competitors.
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