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All Business is eBusiness

In this new Internet era business has undergone a fundamental change; websites, networking, data storage and even telecommuting are changing the face of business in ways that even the science fiction writers of the Thirties never dreamt of.

The common denominator among all businesses large and small is the absolute necessity for a proprietary website. This website serves as the core marketing identity of the business around which all other aspects of the company revolve.

The primary goal off all advertising today is to attract the largest possible number of viewers to your website.

It is not to get them to remember your phone number or street address so they can call or buy in person at some point in the near or distant future as was the case before the Internet Era.

Advertising must reference your business name and Internet address (It helps if the names are identical or at least similar).

Your website is the core of your marketing message. It is an online brochure that allows customers to comfortably search for and receive any desired information about your business 24 hours a day, every day.

It saves time and the expense of taking phone calls for mundane information such as your address or hours. It qualifies customers in just seconds; if they dial a phone number that is only published on your website, you know that it is an incoming call from a motivated customer. They have judged for themselves that you are or that you have what they're looking for. It removes much of the anxiety suffered by customers who fear high pressure salesmen.

The Internet can deliver an unoppressive and unassuming sales pitch that says who you are and what you do, while offering descriptions of your products and/or services and every method of contacting or visiting you. It can do so in any and, indeed every language in the World. Multiple websites can accommodate various monitor sizes and modem speeds. Multiple domain names can target different markets. Photo albums can show off a family business or corporate culture while multimedia presentations can awe clients.

A properly designed website will answer nearly every business question and offer online orders or payments. Would you believe that Caterpillar sells multimillion dollar giant trucks and earthmovers online?

The Internet can be anything you want it to be for your business and customers. If you choose to ignore its potential, your competitors certainly will not. There is no valid excuse to avoid the eCommerce era; especially when the cost of a developing a professional website is so inexpensive, more or less equal to a single newspaper advertisement.

Hosting a typical website is just twenty five or thirty dollars a month. Compare that to printing a catalogue or brochure that is dated from the day it comes off the presses and priced by volume and quality. A sizable ad in your local phonebook can run hundreds, even thousands of dollars each and every month including the long months after you realized not one call came in from the ad during the first half year.

A website is a live brochure that can be updated regularly and in real time offering product and service information, scheduling or pricing.

Historically, business counted on advertising and word-of-mouth to attract new business. Word of mouth is as important as ever though you can’t count on it to get you by, especially if yours is a new company.

These days it is far more likely that the “word” will pass via Email, including clickable links to what else? Your website(s) of course.

After all, the fuel behind the historic economic bubble was driven by the incalculable savings and profit potential of the virtual nature of business including electronic mail and commerce. True, the bubble has burst; but not because the potential of the Internet was invalid. It was just premature. eCommerce sales are rising not in terms of percentages but in multiples (as in ten times and twenty times previous numbers).

Society is being transformed as network connections and the World Wide Web reach to, through and around every aspect of human communication. Children’s dolls will hold two-way conversations via speech recognition processed through a wireless connection through the Internet. Refrigerators will order your milk for you when you do not return the empty carton. Your home’s doorbell will signal an incoming video conference to your cell phone or Dick Tracy Watch that will let you unlock your door remotely. This is already happening today. Where will we be in five years? In ten?

What communications concept is affected the greatest by the World Wide Web? Marketing.

Advertising in all of its many and varied forms broadcasts your message to the buying public. Unfortunately, much of it costs more than you can afford. For instance, a single newspaper advertisement in a local paper can cost thousands of dollars for a black and white add large enough to catch the reader’s eye. A major metropolitan paper can cost exponentially more. A long term advertising campaign can cost a fortune.

A similar budget awaits the business considering a direct telephone or mail campaign. A list of current addresses, and maybe pre-qualified to fit your target market may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and are often “rented” for one time use. The labor for these marketing solutions can be costly, often including a fat commission. Of course, the cost of office space, phone lines and postage adds up exponentially with the scope of the project.

A wildcard is the new national "do not call" list. It may spell the end of direct marketing as we know it.

TV and radio cost much more; a properly structured advertising campaign can cost tens to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. This concept is reserved for the serious advertiser who understands the direct correlation between advertising investment expense and return.

The problem today, however, is that the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people seek, investigate and transact business across all industries.

Some advertising can produce immediate results, but most rely on customer recall at a future time of need. Unfortunately there are thousands of advertisers both locally and nationally peddling millions of goods and services. The sheer volume simply drowns out your message.

To obtain maximum benefit from your advertising dollars, you need a point of reference for customers to obtain further information without having to pick up the phone to call a sales or marketing rep. People just won’t do it. They are intimidated by the person on the other end whose sole purpose is to get an order from every caller.

If by chance a customer does want to call, is the business open? Do they remember the name or phone number from the ad? Do they speak your language? Are they interested in talking to a cliché-spouting salesman like that that from a used car lot or health club?

If anyone, for any reason wants to follow up after reading, hearing or seeing an advertisement, they can easily type the domain name referenced in the ad for more information. A good website will answer every possible question, display every possible product or service and maybe even process orders then and there for eager spontaneous buyers.

Should anyone for any reason search the Internet for your business, they must find their target. Otherwise they are bound to find a 3rd party business listing your company’s name just for the purpose of attracting your customers to their website. For example, there is a dry cleaner in Silicon Valley who has listed every business in the San Francisco Bay Area in a database directory. The information may be wrong or outdated, but the search engines find these businesses every time, especially when the company has no website of their own. It is a marketing ploy that is very effective at driving local web surfers to their dry cleaning business, no doubt paying for their minor expense and trouble several times over.

Competitors will use your business name in the code of their website to attract your customers looking for your products or services. Why not? It is not illegal unless your name is trademarked. Use Google.com, the number one search engine and search for your business name, adding some extra terms like name + city or name + phone number. See what you find. That is exactly what your customers find. If they don’t find your “.com”, they will find another.

And then there are the chat rooms and websites expressly for the purpose of sharing opinions about local businesses. You might look up a restaurant in a search engine and find someone’s opinion about the good, bad or ugly of a place. It may say that the restaurant is “pricey” or that a dish is excellent or disgusting. They can say that they found a cockroach in their salad whether it’s true or not; perhaps they work at a competing restaurant. Maybe they were embarrassed by their credit card being declined… Maybe they are a disgruntled ex employee.

There is little or no recourse for the restaurant and the anonymous information will remain posted indefinitely for all web surfers to read including existing and potential customers.

It is a waste of expensive advertising dollars and effort if you don’t offer a website for customers to follow up with. It is still worse, even counterproductive if customers search for you and find negative or unrelated websites like the above samples. If they find your ".com" they won't even notice the other listings that follow.

The bottom line is that if a [potential] customer wants to obtain information or place an order with your business, they better find your company website and no other. They should see who you are, what you do, what you’ve done and how to reach you. They should see this information in your words and your pictures.

The cost is minimal to own your own domain name and have a website hosted; perhaps just $250 per year. To have a “brochure” website created for you costs about the same as a single small advertisement in a newspaper or phonebook, or printing a color brochure. The miniscule costs of multiple language versions of a website command the appreciation and respect of your local customers, and mean expanding a previously local business to global proportions. eCommerce-enabled websites with databases, shopping carts and payment processing that open your market to the entire Earth may cost a few thousand dollars and up depending on the scale of the business you want to build.

Another point to consider is that an AOL or Yahoo Email address is unequivocally negative. It is cheap. Every mail you send advertises another business and not your own. Use your own Me@My.Com Email address. Create an Email stationary that matches your website and use a signature block referencing your website address to promote your business identity. It all adds up.

eCommerce is inexpensive and can save and make fortunes.

And finally: After just ten short years, the term eBusiness is redundant. All business is eBusiness. Even a gas station needs a website. If your company does not have an Internet presence another company will. Who do you think your customers will find?

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