That famous line from The Music Man is as valid for virtual marketing (Internet) as it is for marketing on Main Street. The success or failure of a small business website depends on how well the owner or manager understands the framework of the Virtual Territory of the Internet.
Here is what knowing the territory means when it comes to constructing a business website that works (spurs someone to act):
Your opening (landing) page needs to be crystal clear as to what your website is about and should also provide a darn good reason for someone to venture further into your virtual store. A darn good reason is all about language (words) describing what is in it for ME to keep your site on my screen for more than 5 seconds and needs to be light on glitz (pop-ups, banners, etc.).
Effective business websites contain quick, simple navigation systems. They have a bar of buttons (menu) at the top, side or bottom of the web page that tells the visitor where to go . . . in a nice way!
Resist getting sucked into the World of Links (other websites) unless you have a valid reason to link. Linking can be beneficial but always be sure whomever you are linking TO links back to you. Your site visitor hitting a link is akin to their leaving your store for another store. They probably will not be back!
If you are selling something (products or services), make it easy to buy by investing in a shopping cart system. If you are not selling something, think very hard about why you are investing in a website at all.
A brochure website is pretty much the same as a printed brochure. Think about the business meetings you have attended where you were simply handed a brochure. What did you do with it? Now guess what people do to most website brochures?
Be sure your website loads rapidly . . . on a 13 inch monitor with a DIAL-UP connection. You or your web master might own a super-duper lighting fast computer setup but understand that a large portion of computer users do not. Ask someone with a dial up connection to access your site before you publish it to the world. Slow load means NO load. Speed counts.
Look before you leap regarding a service provider (host) for your website. Every one of them will promise you the moon. Many do not deliver. Before you sign on the dotted line ($20-$50 month) with a web site host, take the time to check out other sites the provider is hosting. Bring these sites on line at different times of the day and on different days of the week. Pay attention to how they load and what the sites look like.
Examine the look and content of the Top Ten sites in your area of expertise that come up on the first page of different search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) Delve into the tricks of the trade that will get your site on the first page. Clue: it will cost you some bucks!
Careful here! Seeing does not equate to staying, buying or taking action of some kind. Many people SEE your newspaper ad but few if any will take any kind of action unless your offering incites them to do so. Ditto websites.
Setting up a successful website is much like baking a cake. It is the icing on the cake that whets the appetite. Icing on a website is nothing more than effectively creating opportunities for interaction between your prospect (site visitor) and your business; i.e., establishing a discussion group (blog), setting up a topical bulletin board, signing up for a free report, etc.
It is vital you understand that when you create any kind of website you will still have to seek out your customers. They will not seek you out. Think of winking at someone in a dark room. You are the only one who knows you are winking.
If you think your local bricks and mortar marketplace is getting crowded, competition in cyberspace makes your Main Street location seem like it is on a desert island! The sheer number of websites make our national debt look like pocket change. Think gazillions!
Just like Harold Hill in River City, Iowa, you better know the territory if you expect to construct a business website that works. Remember that a website will cost you money to build and money to maintain . . . and you will still need to conduct your traditional marketing program.
If you do decide to enter the online battlefield, prepare and organize in advance. That means decide what you specifically intend to accomplish with your website and then set up a budget and a plan to make it happen.
Bob Schumacher books and articles give entrepreneurs a clear coffee-shop English perspective on how to steer their business or profession into the top 20% who achieve 80% of the business and profits. Visit http://www.20do80.com for a complete directory of his articles and books.