The Pros & Cons Of Running Your Own Business Website

Young man working on home business with his laptop by a lakeWhen considering anything in life there are always pluses and minuses on each side of the equation. However, even if you have a traditional bricks and mortar business, chances are that you will benefit more (than not) from having your own dedicated website, and which will prove advantageous both for you and your customers. The advantage for you is it allows you to be open outside of normal business hours, yet without having to physically be there. For the customer or client it provides access to information and even the ability to buy products when it is convenient for them, rather than having to wait until you are open, which may be awkward for them if they are at work all day. If they phone they may have to negotiate a telephone system with umpteen options to wade through, or if they want to speak to someone in particular there are a whole host of reasons why that person may not be available, which then involves leaving messages and waiting for return calls… all of which can make a simple process long and drawn out, and may even put them off altogether.

Having a site can also minimise your marketing costs if you put any brochures or catalogues online. As paper-based products these are costly to produce, and if you need to make revisions or update prices, reprinting is time-consuming and increases expenditure. However, any changes you need to make can be easily accomplished with a few clicks when all your info is already on-site. Additionally, a special section for frequently asked questions (FAQs), manuals, and any other documents that may be of use to your customers, for easy access day or night, can be a positive boon and save both you and them a lot of time. (You may be surprised how many visitors you get in the wee small hours when you’d think people would have much better things to do… like sleeping!)

A website can also give your business extra credibility and even the appearance of being a bigger concern than it actually is, especially if it has been well designed and looks professional. Conversely, a badly designed site can have the opposite effect, so if you’re going to do it at all, it’s far better to do a proper job.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, despite how it may seem, not everyone has access to, or even wants to get involved with the Internet, so don’t be tempted to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and abandon the more traditional forms of marketing and advertising, such as newspaper ads, mail shots, etc.

There are several factors that may dissuade folks from going down the online path. A significant amount of people still like to have the physical sensation of being able to handle the product before committing their cash, rather than doing the deal ‘on spec’, as it were. And then there’s the perceived fear of credit card fraud to contend with, or the fact that it may actually be easier and quicker to get the item at a local shop.

If you decide to take the plunge and join the current wave of businesses going online, unless you have the know-how to do it yourself, you need to factor in the various costs, such as… site design, web hosting and domain registration, and other service costs – i.e. you may want to use the services on an online e-commerce company like 1ShoppingCart (www.1shoppingcart.com) to handle functions like autoresponder, payment facilities and e-mail programs.

You also need to bear in mind that it’s no good creating a site and then leaving it to fend for itself. There will be various admin and maintenance tasks to do. In this respect, you’ll need to update the site on a regular basis, as information that’s several months out of date will only end up annoying your site visitors and send them elsewhere (i.e. to your competitors). Other little jobs are… adding new content (important for search engine optimisation), repairing broken site links, and generally making sure that everything works as it should.

Finally, once you’re up and running, don’t forget to use every opportunity to get your site (domain) name ‘out there’, and that includes putting it on all your printed stationery, and setting your e-mail signature so that it gets tagged on at the end of every message.

As the saying goes… if you’ve got it, flaunt it!