Even if you don’t want to pay for a formal website, you can always sign up for a business page on one of the popular social networks. Communities like facebook and myspace allow you to create a page free of charge. This can be left standard as a simple way to get information out about your home business, or can be customized in a variety of ways to really make your company stand out.
Another social media way to have an online presence without actually having a website is with twitter. Many people think of twitter as a strange and complicated tool, but in reality it’s nothing more than a way to send messages to people who are interested in hearing them. With twitter you can tweet your businesses hours of operation, contact info, and anything else that is relevant. Then you can regularly update this with news about sales or special promotions that you may be having.
While social media is great, having a website is still an important part of the checklist for small businesses that are starting up. In its simplest form, a website can act as a business card, a way to condense important information about who you are and how you operate, into a single easy to read place. When telling someone about your business, you can give them a brief description, and a business card, but the url on that card is where they are going to get any information that is pertinent, and not able to fit on a tiny piece of paper.
While a business card can give someone an address, it’s not big enough to tell them all of the different directions to get there. While a business card can have a name and a slogan, it can’t explain the story of the company, or go into detail about what they can do. That is where a website needs to be used to supplement information in more conventional business marketing and pr means.
In many cases, a website, even a very simple one, will also be picked up by the major search engines such as google and yahoo. While it will take advanced SEO efforts to get any substantial traffic from this, just being in the search engine index means that people will be able to search for the name of your business. If it isn’t a common name, and is very specific and unique, then chances are you will pop up at the top of the search engines for these named queries. This means that you will be getting free traffic to your small business website from the search engines free of charge.
Once you go beyond a simple advertising website, you can start to incorporate features which can help to take your home business to the next level. These are both sales tools, and customer acquisition tools, which can help to change the nature of your company, and how you deal with, and interact with customers.
One of the best ways to acquire more sales is to add a shopping cart function to your website. This can involve purchasing advanced, all in one software which will allow you to completely create a custom online catalog easily, with the ability to accept credit cards and process orders automatically. However if your just starting out with a home based business, then you can use something as simple as paypal, to accept money over the internet and set up your catalog. Paypal is free to use, and they only make money by taking a small percentage of each transaction. They provide you with the ability to easily create purchase buttons, which can take your customer through a paypal run and protected site that will then allow them to pay you.
Another reason that small businesses should have a website is that it makes it easier to capture customer information. By using a simple data entry form, you can request interested parties names, address, email, and phone, giving you the tools to turn a browser into a buyer. Even if you don’t contact them directly, you can use this to build up a periodic newsletter which can be sent out, kepping people up to date on what your business is doing, and any specials it may be offering.
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