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Is It Too Late for You to Finally Get Your Business on the Internet!

It’s a little past midnight…

Joanne has a pain in her lower back and can’t sleep. She logs on to the Internet and looks for a chiropractor in Des Moines.

Ellen is frustrated by her teenager daughter’s eating habits and mood swings. After the kids are in bed, she starts Googling – looking for a counselor, therapist or coach who specializes in adolescent girls with eating disorders.

That slow drip finally drives Jim crazy and he swears he’s calling the plumber tomorrow. He types “plumber Fresno” into the search box.

Many small business owners tell me that all of their business comes to them by word of mouth. They don’t feel any need to proactively market their services because they are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Really? You don’t want or need new customers? You can’t handle any more business? Are you going to be able to sustain yourself in this economy without continuing to add new clientele?

And don’t you think your referral customers might want to check you out before hiring you?

More likely you just don’t want to get into that marketing and advertising thing (especially on the Internet), so you are in avoidance mode.

Or maybe you think it is too late for you to jump on the Internet bandwagon.

But stop for a minute and look at the statistics: Over 77% of Americans are online: the penetration among the high household incomes (your target market) is even higher.

To stay competitive, you have got to be found by those searchers. The big companies have invested in their websites, so say goodbye to all your business when they find Roto-Rooter instead of YOU.

At this point, you are conspicuous by your absence.

Your Internet presence can be a simple, templated website, as long as it presents a professional image that is consistent with your image and messaging.

Or you can get more sophisticated with dynamic content, interactivity, online commerce, email newsletters to build customer relationships.

Every marketing website must have:
* Your business name, logo and tagline on every page.
* Complete contact information, including address, phone number and email.
* Information on your products and services and what makes you unique.
* Your biography and photo if you are in a personal service business.
* Legal terms of service.

As both a business coach and an Internet marketer, I am uniquely positioned to see one of the big follies of our day. Every day I see examples of entrepreneurs spending too much time and energy on the Internet efforts that they lost focus on what is really important and what makes them money.

Some folks are Twittering, some are creating extensive and lengthy email newsletters, some are blogging. Many of them are spending way too much money on fancy, over-the-top websites that are overkill.

Remember, unless you are strictly an ECommerce site and all of your business comes from Internet customers, it is most likely that you make most of your money OFFLINE by providing a service or selling a product.

Your website and internet activity should flow from smart business decisions, not the other way around.

Some examples: A consulting client hired me to work on their “web redesign.” We started to analyze the current site and think about the next version.

It quickly became clear that they need to make some bigger decisions about their brand, their products and service offerings.

They needed to tackle some staffing issues in order to deliver on the promise they were making on the Internet. Doing the website first just didn’t make sense.

We had to figure out what they were selling and THEN develop a website to showcase and present that to the world.

I cringe when I hear about an entrepreneur pouring their startup capital into a fancy, designed website. Spending thousands upfront, they are then held hostage by their web designer if they ever want to make a change!

Virtually every early-stage business will evolve and change in its startup period and if you’ve over-spent on a deluxe website that you can’t change, you are stuck. Be practical. What do your prospects need to know about you?

Create a good-enough website that accurately reflects what you do with a content management system. This is a much more practical approach and will allow your site to evolve along with your business.

Another client is a small business owner with a physical product that she sells through various channels, stores, distributors AND direct sales. It is a modest success in the first few months.

But if you go to find this entrepreneur, you will find her in front of her computer, trying various ways to create buzz on the Internet for her unique product.

Nothing wrong with that—except she is so “busy” and she hasn’t done anything else! Her time could be more productively used lining up new stores and distribution channels rather than selling one at a time to consumers (though creating this buzz will help) It’s a matter of balancing your Internet efforts with your overall business goals.

Figure out what you need to accomplish for your business and then make your internet decisions!

You can build a simple site yourself with a content management system or template where you make some easy choices and fill in your own copy and images.

With the right tools and support, it’s not to late for you to create your own website!

Deborah Gallant is an internet marketing trainer, author and business coach in Thousands Oaks, California.

Her company provides affordable website design & development tools for service professionals. Visit their website (http://www.WebPowerTools.com) for a free 30-day trial and a free copy of “Five Steps to Finally Getting Started with Internet Marketing”.

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