NASE News

Weaving Your Web

Web Sites Lure Customers To Home Businesses
By Mark Landsbaum

Amazon needs a Web site. Sears needs a Web site. But does your home-based business need a Web site? The answer to that question has as much to do with your customers as it does with you.

The answer is an obvious “yes” if, like Sears, you sell a good deal of your wares online, or, like Amazon, everything you sell is sold on the Internet.

But what if you sell nothing online? What if you’re a plumber or a house cleaner or a landscaper?

Even then, you may find that the increasing reliance of businesses and consumers on the Internet probably justifies you having your own home-based business Web site.

First, it’s vital to understand what a Web site can and cannot do.

It cannot fix a customer’s leaky faucet or clean his house. Many services cannot be delivered or performed online. They are simply unsuited for Internet sales. Counseling services, for example, are much more compatible with face-to-face encounters. And many types of clothing really should be tried on before they’re purchased.

But a Web site still can help to sell even those kinds of services and goods. And a Web site can be a vital link in your sales chain. How?

By letting consumers that rely on the Internet touch your business. Consumers use the Web for comparison shopping and for finding vendors. They turn to the Web for checking out inventories and reputations, for getting preliminary questions answered and for a myriad of other ways to narrow their search for the right product or the right service at the right price from the right seller.

A Web site can be a hub of information for addressing these types of consumer issues. A Web presence can also serve as your ongoing customer relations tool, your easily updated brochure, your means for customers to track their orders or to register their complaints, or your lure for new customers who otherwise wouldn’t even know that your home-based business existed.

Google, the popular and powerful Web searching engine, conducts more than 200 million searches a day. It has become an indispensable tool for those hunting down solutions to problems, including what to buy and from whom to buy it.

Although your home-based business Web site may not turn up on the first page or two of most Google searches, many search engines now provide local options for Web users to narrow their searches geographically. And if your business isn’t limited by geography, a Web site provides you a doorway to the world, not merely to your neighborhood.

Needing a Web site is almost a slam dunk for every home-based business. But, before you sink your hard-earned money into developing and maintaining a site, here’s a brief quiz to help you determine whether an Internet presence can boost your profits. Answer the questions then tally up your score

Questions

  1. Can you afford to pay as little as $10 to $35 a month?

  2. Do you need new customers?

  3. Do you already advertise?

  4. Do you already hand out flyers, brochures or business cards?

  5. Are you comfortable using the Internet?

  6. Do your customers have Internet access?

  7. Do your customers comparison shop online?

  8. Do your customers already buy online?

  9. Are your competitors online?

  10. Do your customers need to contact you after hours?

  11. Would you like to make it easy for customers to learn about your new products or services?

  12. Do you have a price list?

  13. Do many customers ask the same questions over and over?

  14. Do you offer a variety of services or products that can’t be adequately explained in brief verbal conversations?

  15. Do you ever forget to mention some of your business’ benefits?

  16. Do customers often request more information about your products or services?

  17. Do you want to reach customers outside of your area?

  18. Do illustrations or photos help sell your goods or services?

  19. If you don’t now, is it possible in the future you may directly sell products or services online?

  20. Do you want a low-cost means of collecting information about customers and potential customers?

  21. Do you want customers to have easy access to a map of where you’re located and how to get there?

  22. Would you rather have a virtual venue for dealing with customers without them coming to your home office?

  23. Would a high-tech appearance improve your business image?

  24. Could you benefit from referrals from complementary, but non-competitive, businesses that have Web sites?

  25. Would a slide show or video clip help attract customers or close sales?

  26. Would it help to have a way for customers to connect with your company when you’re vacationing?

  27. Would it help to screen out looky loo’s who take up your valuable time only to discover that what you sell isn’t what they want?

  28. Would you benefit from getting customer feedback?

  29. Would you benefit from another source of sales leads?

  30. Would your mother be proud of you if you had a Web site?


Grading Scale
  • Internet Phobic – If you had fewer than 10 “yes” answers, stick to the Yellow Pages. You don’t need a Web site.

  • Web Wannabe – If you had 10 to 20 “yes” answers, it’s time to consider your own Web site.

  • You’ve Arrived – If you answered more than 20 questions “yes,” it’s definitely time to put your business online.

  • A perfect 30 “yes” answers out of 30 questions means you should have had your home business Web site up and running yesterday. What are you waiting for?


How The NASE Can Help

Market your home-based business on the Web with one easy-to-use service. Members Online provides Web site development, hosting, site maintenance and toll-free technical support.

You can choose from three packages to fit your Web site needs and budget.
  • iDesign – Design your own Web site for promoting your services. One-time $15 setup fee and $19.95 per month.

  • The Professional – Get a custom-designed Web site for showcasing your services. One-time $75 setup fee and $24.95 per month.

  • E-Commerce – Sell your products online with a custom-designed Web site that’s e-commerce enabled. One-time $150 setup fee and $34.95 per month.

With any of these packages, you can purchase a domain for a yearly registration fee of only $12.50, a savings of 50 percent. To learn more, go to www.NASE.org. Enter “Online” in the Quick Link box.

 

Mark Landsbaum is a freelance writer and the author of Streetwise Low-Cost Marketing: Savvy Strategies for Maximizing Your Marketing Dollars (Adams Media, 2004), available at Amazon.com. He uses Web sites to find services and products of every conceivable type, from a handyman and dental implants to movie theaters and remedies for acid reflux.