Surefire Tips For Your Online Business Development

Whether you’re putting together an offline or online business, certain things stay the same. You can almost always count on going through “growing pains” as you expand your business enterprise. Most of us can easily remember the steps that a child takes through their early years and into adulthood, and we can draw from this example a very good analogy with the business world. Numerous fundamentals have to be addressed and attention given to each stage of growth before advancement to the next level can occur.

If you’ve got an extraordinary idea for a new business endeavour, don’t even think about rushing into anything before you have a definite plan in mind. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t start without a solid foundation, and the same holds true here.

No amount of experience in the world of business will allow you to take shortcuts with any new project. You should always lean on your marketing and customer relations experience if possible, but remember to take a fresh approach to each new enterprise, and you’ll be pleased you did.

The process of creating your unique angle, also known as a USP, requires you to determine the makeup of your typical client and what sets your service or product offering apart. Preparation is everything at this stage, and you shouldn’t even think about website development just yet. If you don’t thoroughly analyse your operation and break it down accordingly, you’re likely to run into confusion and uncertainty down the road.

A well-planned business enterprise is a good base from which to launch from, and it should help you to ensure that your delivery is consistent and goes beyond what the customer should realistically expect. This will give you the ability to gather exceptional testimonials and referral work right from beginning. It’s good to know that your “baby” is up-and-running, but be sure to continue to provide outstanding high levels of customer service even as you focus on growth.

As you begin to acquire momentum, stay focused and become the very best at what you do before you even think about investigating new directions. Don’t cut yourself too thinly and be tempted to take on too much, as your core business will likely suffer.

Some business owners attempt to micro-manage every element of their operation, and are afraid to delegate. As your business grows, there will come a time when you have to delegate, and as such, there are certain parts of your operation you’ll need to entrust to the care of an expert virtual assistant, and in this instance – just like any other, your choice of qualified team-mates is of the utmost importance.

You’ll know that you have a business based on solid ground if you have loyal customers, a good reputation, a productive referral and marketing system, and built-in safety nets. When your strengths generally overcome your weaknesses and you see more opportunities than threats in the market, then your successful business is destined for stardom!

Social Networking As a Business Development Tool

Social Networking can be leveraged as an innovative opportunity to generate new business and drive sales. It generates opportunities that are additional to, and supportive of the results of more traditional selling methodologies. It does this by leveraging the capabilities and characteristics of social media platforms to virally propagate the personal and product identity of the agent. It significantly increases the capability of existing clients to deliver high quality leads and introductions while effectively distributing the work associated maintaining multiple relationships over time.

Socially networked selling becomes particularly powerful when targeting customers in technical and start-up companies where familiarity with social network platforms is the greatest. This community is already sharing information and insights within this space as well as using it to organize, communicate and create face to face networking opportunities. The agent can develop a virtual identity that exponentially increases his exposure and visibility within his targeted community. This identity will take on the characteristics of an actual brand and, as such, can be search engine optimized, shared, re-tweeted and otherwise rewarded for quality products and services that are well delivered. Face to face networking is supplemented by its digital footprint in communities like Twitter, Facebook and Plancast and allows for the establishment of relationships to validate the highly mobile, virtual identity.

Of course bad news travels as quickly as good but the real relationship that is established by the agent and the client mitigates the risk of negative press and allows for effective issue tracking and trouble shooting within a highly transparent and real time virtual environment.

Web Business Development – The Rewards and Pitfalls of Going Online

Introduction

If you have never considered a web site for your business, ask yourself how much business you would have without your telephone. For centuries, businesses worked just fine without them, but now it’s hard to imagine operating a business without one. At some point, every organization had to make a choice to install a phone line or risk going belly-up. A similar make-or-break point is quickly approaching for businesses without a web site. What debatably is a luxury now will soon become a necessity. But as scary as this scenario may seem, there are steps you can take to make sure your business enterprise makes the transition successfully and, in the process, capitalize on the new avenues to the customer that a web site creates.

So, What is It and What Can It Do? To get us started by using the simplest of terms, the internet can be considered a network of computers around the world sharing information. An individual personal computer that requests the information is called a “client” and the numerous computers that store and dish out the information are called “servers.” A web site is simply a collection of related web pages served from a single server. Pages can be “static” (displaying predetermined pictures and text, also known as “content”) or “dynamic” (interactive pages that can be changed by the visitor). Most web sites for small businesses are stored and operated by a server maintained by an internet service provider, or “host.” Before a web site can be exposed to the world, a host must be chosen. Common considerations in choosing a host are cost, storage space, reliability, security, programming languages supported, and speed (if you’ve ever wondered why some web pages take so long to download to your browser, the speed of the host server is one limiting factor).

The name of the web site (www.getsolidblue.com for example) is called the “domain name.” A master list of domain names is maintained that tells a client which server to contact when a page from a given domain is requested by a browser. Before a web site can be opened, a domain name must be purchased (these can be cheap — mine was $5 per year — or expensive, if the domain name has already been purchased by a “broker,” who holds the domain name hostage until it is sold to the highest bidder). A fancy, expensive domain name is not necessary for most small businesses (all of the common variations on solidblue.com were already taken, for example, so I simply named my site getsolidblue.com instead).

Things to Consider Before Staking Your E-Claim The most important consideration before you jump into the online business world is what your site will be used to do and how complex you want it to be, as this will greatly influence your ultimate cost. If you simply want to tell people what products or services you sell, a small static site will do. If you want potential customers to take an action on your site, like purchase your products (“e-commerce”) or request a catalog, you will need a developer to write the instructions for your application (also known as “code”). Brainstorming possible things to put on a site is one of the real joys of owning one. A distinction must be made at this point between “design” and “development.” While the terms are often used interchangeably, they can in fact require very different skills. For the purpose of this conversation, “design” refers to the attractive placement of graphics and text on a page and “development” refers to the creation of a full application which could include forms for the user to fill out, buttons for ordering and paying for products, and so forth. The complexity of the site is usually determined by its purpose. Advertising by itself requires the sound use of design elements, while e-commerce or another functional purpose also requires proper development, including efficient access to product information, secure order processing, and an intelligent storage scheme for customer account information.

Keep in mind that advertising online is completely different than advertising in a newspaper or on television. The latter are passive media, requiring nothing of the consumer other than looking at the message. The web is an interactive medium, requiring the consumer to actively seek you out. A good way to attract potential customers to your site is by offering them something just for visiting. For example, a carpet retailer might offer a tutorial on the best way to install carpet, which might in turn cause the customer to choose that particular carpet retailer when he or she is ready to purchase.

Another major consideration is whether your site will require a “database.” A database is a storage place for information, organized to store information (or “data”) in a logical and efficient manner. The many uses and inherent power of databases can make a dynamic web site a critical business tool. They can be used to store product information (including pictures), customer purchases and preferences, and even the text and graphics that will appear on your web pages.

That last item is called “content management” and is quickly becoming an expected feature of a well-designed web site. It allows the web site owner to make changes to his or her site by simply changing the data in the database, without requiring a call to the web site developer or designer. It can be used to change the price or description of a product, or to promote weekly or monthly specials or promotions.

Jumping In: What to Look For and what to Avoid Finding the right designer is key to the success of your web project. Do a quick search online and count the number of web designers offering “Three pages for $999!” or similarly vague promises. Purchasing a web site for your business should not be treated like a trip to the local strip mall to buy sneakers. It will be the face of your business for every potential customer that visits it, and the first impression it gives will stick in the visitor’s mind, for better or worse. As such a flexible opportunity to express the merits and values of your business, it makes little sense to adopt a generic, one-size-fits-all strategy.

Designers operating such budget shops depend on high volume to turn a profit. You are unlikely to get any kind of individualized attention, and if you want the technical aspects explained to you in even general terms, you’ll probably be directed to a vanilla “frequently asked questions” list. In addition, changes to your initial design may be prohibitively expensive (this is where budget operations make the bulk of their money), the code may well be insecure and shoddy, and proprietary language in the contract may even prohibit you from allowing a third-party to alter the code.

Likewise, designers that charge flat hourly rates for work performed may be a poor bet as well. You may be charged for things that you could easily do yourself, like registering a domain name, or regularly changing content (provided a robust content management feature is not included in the original design). The open-ended nature of the hourly pricing model leaves you open to cost overruns, as well, and you can bet the designer will try to take as long as possible to get the most money out of you.

A much better option is using a local, flat-fee consultant to create your web site. Your project will be given individual attention, and you will actually be able to meet the person to whom you are entrusting the online aspect of your business. A flat-fee model also ensures that you will know exactly what you are getting and exactly what it will cost. Think about it: don’t you feel better taking your car in to a trusted mechanic and securing an estimate before the work is actually performed? Why would your business deserve any less?

Other things to be wary of are promises to submit your site to 10,000 search engines or something similar. In fact, there are only a handful of search engine providers (like Yahoo!, Google, Ask.com, and MSN) and the others use these mega-indexes to return their results. Also, submitting your URL to search engines is often free and very easy to do; don’t pay someone to do it for you unless you just don’t have a few minutes to do it yourself. If you think search engine positioning is critical to the success of your business, find an advertising agency that specializes in it. Similarly, if you expect the content of your site to change periodically, insist on (and be prepared to pay for) a good conent management system.

Conclusion There is no business that can’t benefit from a well-conceived and well-designed web site. From providing a convenient contact point and advertising space to delivering an easy and secure way to order your products to granting others a way to view internal information that might otherwise be delivered by paper, a proper web site can make or break a business in the 21st century. Key to success is knowing exactly what you want your web site to be and finding the right designer to create it. That would be someone who truly is a “consultant” and not simply someone who will throw things together for the lowest price.

With intelligent planning and a little creative thinking, you will find owning and running a web site to be an incredibly rewarding aspect of doing business.