Is Small Business Website Marketing For Me?

The thought of small business website marketing, scares most small business owners. In particular, if they have an offline business, but have not yet got an Internet presence.  Small business website advice is at hand all over the Internet, but if you employ someone to do your small business website marketing for you then you might be making a mistake!The reason is your full knowledge of your business! No one, but no one knows it as you do, so you are the best placed person to develop a new small business website.There are really only two ways to do this, the first is to brief someone, who probably has absolutely no knowledge of your industry or your specialism. Sometimes this will work well if you reach a good working relationship quickly, but this is very time consuming and experience says that time is always scarce.You will, of course have to inspect every bit of work they do to ensure it is in keeping with your thoughts on your small business. Again, time is of the essence.Now let’s look at you for a moment, you have a business that you would like to expand, into a new area, the World Wide Web. You might be in the unfortunate position that your business has suffered a little in the recession, so you want to build some more sales and more importantly profits.Let’s assume that you have been successful with your business in the past, which you should take as read as you have an up and running business, most people will never do that. The point being made is quite simply, you are successful because you have the ability to be successful.Which brings us neatly to the point, you can do small business website marketing yourself. You have learnt so much about your business that it would be easy for you to build a website for your small business with the right tools.You might decide that you don’t have the time to learn a new skill but you should set out the ground rules yourself. Do you have someone that works for you or in the family that would like to learn how to design a web site for you?It’s understood that there is some learning to be done here on your part, but don’t be too concerned it’s not “rocket science”! Even if you decide to employ someone to do what you want by following some advice, you will achieve your goal. 
You will need to think about your business to be able to decide in the first instance the correct course of action to follow (hints in brackets!):
What you want to achieve (more sales, more exposure, more profits, more recognition etc)
How you can accomplish it (website for online or offline sales, local, national or international sales)

What you need to get across as the public face of your business (efficient, innovative, friendly, local, national operation, large small, good customer service, expensive, cheap, value for money etc etc.) 

How you want to say it (in a friendly tone or from an expert viewpoint if the product is a bit technical or maybe medical, but do remember that your aim is to gain sales so don’t be offhand friendly but authoritative is the way forward) 

Where you want to target (as above but suggest that you start with a localized plan and get used to the success and then expand carefully so at no time will you let your customers down!) 

How you will manage it (if it is an online sales of a physical product how will you despatch it do you have the capability, another reason to start small) 

Will you do it in house (you or someone else) or outsource it? 
So once you have a clear idea then write it down and start taking action.

The Phone System – Small Business’s Most Important Tool and Why They Should Never Buy One Again

The telephone, since its inception has been embraced by business and used to its fullest potential. It was business that drove the increase in feature/function choices in phone systems resulting in the world connecting systems we see today. It was the larger corporations that always led the way starting with their own switchboard operators, whose job it was to answer and route the calls to there proper destinations. The need for more sophisticated systems gave birth to companies that started manufacturing the Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) that were housed on the premise of these large corporations. In fact it wasn’t too many years ago these systems were found almost exclusively in only large corporations or government entities that could afford them and the expensive T-1 circuits needed to allow them to perform at their peak potential. Phone system manufacturers saw the huge potential market in the small business sector but economic reality combined with the phone company monopoly conspired to hold back the technological changes that were sweeping through other industries. Small Business phone systems were slowly becoming available, but even for the smallest of businesses a decent phone system often cost more than a car. Most bought them with long term leases and they were then strapped with maintenance agreements and vendor costs. The phone companies themselves, protected by their government approved monopoly helped fill part of the demand by rolling out features like hunt groups, centrex and more recently, feature packages and voice mail but always at premium prices.The entire telecom landscape started to change after the Telecom Reform Act of 1996. The phone company monopoly was broken and the genie was freed from the bottle. It was in this brave new world that many of the early stage start up companies were founded. Most were modeled after the Bells and their first order of business to capture market share was to provide dial tone at a cheaper rate. Real change and creativity from these new carriers would have to wait while service costs continued to plummet including the previously beyond SMB reach, T-1 circuit. At the same time service costs were dropping, advances in software finally allowed equipment manufacturers to jump head first into the small business market with multi-featured key systems and phone systems with multiple options. The down side was that the capital expense required could put a tremendous strain on small business and the cost to maintain the systems continued to be an ongoing burden. When you couple that with the frustrating finger pointing between equipment manufacturers and service providers when trouble arises, it is easy to see why the small businessperson has always felt caught in the middle when it came to their phone systems. Worse yet, many small businesses never took the plunge and still operate, to their detriment, with the limited features listed earlier, provided by their phone or cable companies.. Not only are they inefficient productivity wasters, the appearance they give to their customers and potential customers is a turn off to today’s savvy buyers.To see what office phone systems are starting to look like and the performance that is demanded of them you can turn to the cell phone market. Here communications technology has flourished unencumbered by a monopoly and look how far and fast it has come. The average small businessperson, operating his business on antiquated phones and feature packages, probably has a 16 year old daughter walking around with more communications power in her smart phone than he has in his entire business phone system. Those same technological cell phone advances and the advent of IP Communications are now taking place and shaping the future in the business phone system field. Once again though, the system manufacturers and large corporations are leading the way with phone systems having multitudes of features running over improved networks that are allowing corporations with multiple locations to appear and act as a single organism. Today it is commonplace to make a call to NY, be put on hold by the receptionist or by the prompting of an auto-attendant and then be automatically transferred to the proper party in Houston or Los Angeles without ever losing the connection or being given another number to call. Up until very recently the expense of these systems has been hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to purchase, set-up and maintain. Most small businesses don’t have the resources to purchase this type of system or the IT departments necessary to maintain and operate the latest IP Communications system.This has put an extra burden on small business as they feel the same type of competition as large organizations with little margin for communications breakdowns. Phone equipment malfunctions can cost a small business far more dearly than large organizations with built in disaster avoidance/recovery plans.Just when it appears that it might be time for small businesses to wave the white flag and surrender “Cloud Based” communications is starting to change everything. Hosted IP platforms have made it possible for knowledgeable small businesspeople to have the power and features of an enterprise system with little or no capital expense. Multiple auto-attendants, individual Voice Mails, Voice Mail to email, call groups, transferring calls between offices and disaster avoidance set-ups can transform the communications capabilities of a small business virtually overnight. In the best offerings even top of the line handsets are provided all for a very low monthly license fee. The real beauty of these systems is that the best of them will never become obsolete. Developers are constantly improving and updating the “Cloud Based” platforms to the small businesses benefit. You never have to worry about replacing your phone system, maintenance and vendor costs disappear and even your phone handsets can be upgraded like cell phones to the latest and greatest models as they become available. Best of all, technology and competition allows a small business to have one of these systems packaged with unlimited calling for less than he was paying the phone company for just his monthly service in 1995.In this new world it is the smart, agile small businessperson that has the upper hand. Those who embrace the new technology can now connect offices, make home based tele-workers appear to be “in office”, just like those large corporations and do it all without the high capital and associated costs needed just a year ago. All of this helps business communicate and serve their customers better and ride the explosive communications wave that is upon us and that is why today’s small businessman should never buy another phone system again. These systems are reshaping the entire industry and the way that small business should look at their phone systems and service.