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"I have a small business with just a couple of employees and I don't think my product can really be sold online. Do I need a web site?"
In this day and time, there is very little that can't be sold over the Internet. There are over 20 million people shopping online, buying everything from movies to cars to real estate property. Research predicts that revenues will be over $200 billion in 2004 and will grow at a rate of 30 to 50 percent over the next few years. These numbers alone should be enough to persuade you that you and your business should be online.
Regardless of whether you sell your product online, you should at the very least have an online presence so that customers, potential employees, partners and even potential investors can easily and quickly find more information about your company, the products and services you have to offer, as well as how to contact you.
But Can I Afford a Web Site?
Given the competition and current market trends you can't afford NOT to. Think of your web site as your new marketing tool which, when applied correctly, will generate a return on investment. Your competition is probably already on-line and you need to use every possible avenue just to keep up. You should look at having a web site as an investment in you and your company's future.
So whatever time or money you currently spend on marketing, supplementing it with a web site is probably a good idea. Your site will help you expand geographically and compete on a much larger scale.
Leveling the Playing Field
One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is that it's helped to level the playing field when it comes to competition with the bigger companies. With a professional-looking web site, your small business can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. It's also a good signal to potential customers that you take things seriously.
Breaking the Ice into e-Commerce
Taking credit card orders over the Internet is quite an investment, especially if you don't already have a merchant account. There are several e-Commerce solutions that can be custom-built for you that use payment gateways such as PayPal, which only requires a bank account and an email address. Customers can pay you through their credit card or even their checking account, and it's a great solution if you're looking to test the waters.
The Bottom Line
To be taken seriously, it's not enough that you simply have a web site, but you must have a professional-looking web site. Many customers now search for information online before making a purchase; your web site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like it was designed by Uncle Bob, your chance at making that good first impression will be lost.
No matter what size your business is, and even if you're not planning on selling online, a well-made web site is essential for any business. If you don't have a web site, you're already losing business to companies that do.
About The Author
Edward Robirds is a success-driven artist and interactive media developer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since 1996, Edward has been building business relationships with several association and commercial clients around the world. Founder of www.DreamseaArtworks.com, Edward uses his artistic skills, expertise and passion to design and develop web sites, interactive CD-ROMs, and print media for his clients. firstname.lastname@example.org