Dear StartupNation: I’m convinced that the internet will be vital to my startup business in more ways than one. My website, although on a limited budget, needs to stand out. I also want e-commerce and interactive features. And I plan to use the web myself for researching, purchasing and other purposes. Can you help me get the most for the least cost?
With every passing day, entrepreneurs are finding ways to leverage the power of the internet to help them build profits, save money and operate more efficiently. Businesses just starting out have an edge in this regard because they can use these features from day one.
Established small businesses must sometimes work harder to adopt what the web has to offer and replace methods of doing business that worked well in the past. Here's our startup business advice on a few things small companies, or even solo entrepreneurs, can do to leverage the web for their internet startup business:
- Make your website more interactive. Add surveys, guest books, auto responders, downloadable documents and maybe a newsletter. Your current web host may offer some of these.
- Add a simple shopping cart feature to your website and take orders online. A couple of popular options include PrestoCart and MyCart.
- Submit invoices by e-mail. Sending invoices over the internet is fast becoming accepted practice for many small businesses. It’s easy and cheap. No money spent on postage. The two primary methods include creating your invoice in a standard Microsoft Word document, and sending it that way as an e-mail attachment; or create the invoice in any software format and convert it to a PDF file that anyone can read. Both methods work. In all cases, ask for confirmation of receipt.
- Research your competition. The web offers tremendous potential for researching your markets and competitors. A few top resources — some free, others fee based — include Business.com for general business research, KnowX.com for public records research, and Hoovers.com for company profiles, among others.
- Get proactive about driving visitors to your site. Make sure your website is listed in search engines and get more out of your listings. You’ll find just about all the search engine submission help you need at a site called Search Engine Watch. This premier site for search engine marketing, part of the JupiterWeb network, offers search engine submission tips, searching tips, search engine reviews and resources.
- Add interesting and timely content to your site. This is something you may need to do yourself. Consider hiring a freelance writer to produce original news, features and how-to articles for your site that are related to your small business. Look for someone locally or post your needs at a web-based service such as eLance. Putting fresh content up monthly could cost as little as a few hundred dollars.
- Order supplies online for huge time and money savings . Whether it’s basic office items, bulk shipping supplies or maintenance products, you can get great prices, quick delivery and excellent service.
- If you don’t already have one, get a high speed internet connection. This is a must for making better use of the web. Call your cable TV company, phone service provider or national long distance firm to inquire about a cable modem connection or DSL service.
Our Bottom Line:
The internet isn’t a “separate” technology any more - today it’s an integrated part of business. And the opportunities the web presents for most small businesses are truly extraordinary. So whether you’re just starting out or years into the life of your internet startup business, our business advice is that now’s the time to put the web to work for you!