By developing an Internet strategy, businesses can reach more people, make more money and better serve the needs of their customers than ever before.
More and more people are surfing the Internet. You can purchase everything from airline tickets to zebras and anything in between. People read e-mail more than they read the daily newspaper. This is not just young people, but a growing population of savvy senior citizens with time on their hands. However, despite the rapid growth of computer literacy in America, few businesses are taking advantage of the tools available to them.
An Internet strategy should be just as important as any other aspect of running a business. Your Internet strategy should include using e-mail and websites. Imagine the time your staff could save by simply asking individuals to go on-line and "download" a document instead of copying and mailing budgets, minutes, and order forms etc. Just think of the money saved when e-mailing a newsletter to your customers instead of sending it through the Post Office.
Do not be scared off by the process. Developing websites and using e-mail is far more easier and less expensive than you think. I have been designing and managing my two websites for years, and have never taken a class. Each month an average of 9,000 people visit my websites, and 5,000 have signed up for my electronic newsletter, the Navigator. You probably have business members who would gladly volunteer to help you get started, or even manage the entire process.
Do it yourself or hire an expert? Your budget and time will dictate whether you keep it in-house or hire outside help. Before you hire someone, make sure you know exactly what you want. Not knowing will always cost you more money. Check out the reputation and reliability of outside vendors. You do not want to hire an outside firm, have them design, host, and maintain your website, only to find out they closed down and moved away, taking your website with them.
If you want to do it yourself, consider purchasing an off-the-shelf web design program such as Microsoft FrontPage or Dreamweaver. These programs retail for approximately $150. Depending on your computer skills, expect to spend three to five hours learning how to use these programs. Once you are familiar with them, it will only require 10-15 minutes to update or add new pages to your website.
In the beginning, my recommendation would be to pay a professional a small fee to design your homepage, and then have them show you how to update it. Take on the responsibility yourself, or have a staff member update the site as needed. Expect to pay a professional designer anywhere from $300 for a single-page template design, and upwards of $3,000 for a fully developed, multi-page website including maintenance. As I said earlier, "Let the buyer beware" when dealing with designers and other vendors.
The advantage of updating it yourself is time and convenience. Personally speaking, I find it easier and quicker to do it myself than leaving voice mail messages with an outside agency, having to explain the changes I want, then waiting days or even weeks before it is finally updated on the website.
Gregory P. Smith is an organizational growth consultant. He shows people how to build and grow organizations that attract, keep, and motivate their members and employees. He is the author of four books including The New Leader and Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention. He speaks at conferences, conducts management training, and is the President of a management-consulting firm, Chart Your Course International, located in the Atlanta, Georgia area. You may reach him at 770-860-9464. For a complete list of available articles, see http://www.chartcourse.com