Here are the basic components of an effective Internet presence:
Internet Access is most commonly referred to as your dial-up account. (It costs about $20 a month and you buy it from an Internet Service Provider (ISP)). This is where you hook your computer up to a phone line using a modem. You tell your computer to dial a telephone number that connects you to another computer. After the computers are connected, you are asked for your username and password. Once you have successfully entered those, you are connected to the Internet. (If you're one of the lucky ones, you might have access through a high-speed service called DSL or Cable, which are always online/connected and you don't have to log in every time you sit down.)
- Internet Access
- E-mail Account/Box
- Web Site Design
- Domain Name Registration
- Domain Name Hosting
- Attracting & Converting Visitors
At this point you can open a Web browser (i.e. Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.) and "Surf the Web", but you won't be able to effectively use e-mail to promote your Internet presence. (Yes there are Web-based e-mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail but they lack critical features.)
You use an E-mail Account/Box (usually provided by your access provider - for free) to receive and send your e-mail. After you have connected to the Internet, you can check your e-mail by logging into your e-mail account/box. Your e-mail service does require another username and password, but you normally have to enter them just once. After that your e-mail program (i.e. Outlook, Outlook Express, etc.) will take care of it.
Many critical e-mail features and issues are covered in our E-mail specific workshops, but here are the two most important features your e-mail service must have. It must have 1. The ability to automatically add an e-mail signature (a closing salutation with a small marketing slogan/message) to your outgoing e-mail messages, and 2. The ability to include your Domain name in your return address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org).
Web Site Design is a biggie because it includes the costs and considerations associated with your initial design PLUS Web site maintenance, updates and upgrades! Once again this subject is covered in greater detail in the Design specific workshops. For now, you simply need to know that your Web site design considerations include text and image content and the programming required for turning it into HTML (computer code that Web browsers understand). The average price range for an effective Web site design is $1000 to $2500. An effective design should convey your message in a clear, fast and professional manner.
Special Note: Your Web site should be easy to access, navigate, bookmark and share with others. Some designers get too cute with slow loading graphics, a feature called framing, or require visitors to download plug-ins. Know your market and be careful.
A Domain name (e.g. yourchoice.com) is a musttherefore Domain Name Registration is something you have to deal with. For now, all you need to know is that Domain name registration is the process where you reserve a unique name that points visitors to your Web site. You don't own the name. You are just reserving the right to use the name in one-year increments. As long as you keep it registered no one else can use it. This also means that if a name you want to use is already registered by someone else, well you can't use it unless they let the registration lapse or they sell it to you. Domain name registration normally costs $20 to $35 a year.
Domain Name Hosting is another necessary consideration and expense. This is a service you must have in order for people to actually see your Web site. For now just realize that you need the service and the average price for quality, business class service is about $50 a month. There are other less expensive hosting services but you must carefully understand the limitations. Don't let the money you save cost you the customers you're trying to get. Don't forget to ask for annual or semi-annual discounts.
Attracting & Converting Visitors is going to be your biggest challenge. We definitely can't cover this subject in this 5-minute workshop. There's only enough time to say thatů
People will not and can not visit your Web site if they don't know it exists. You must market, advertise and promote the heck out of your Internet presence. At every opportunity you must present your Web address. That's why it's important that you pick a good Domain name. Use your Domain name as part of your e-mail address. Add your Web address to every bit of marketing material you hand out. And design your Web site to be Search Engine Friendly.
Even after they visit, you must use good old-fashioned sales and customer service to convert each prospect into a client. Respond to inquiries quickly and professionally. In other words, check your e-mail often and reply ASAP!!!