Creating a Successful Business Web Presence [How To Start]

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In today’s environment, people look to the web to learn about you and your work. If you’re a solo-entrepreneur or you own a small business then you probably know that you need to get your business on the Web.

What do you need to know create a successful business web presence? Here are 3 questions (and a bonus for startups) to think about before you hire a web designer, buy a web package, establish a blog, or start taking advantage of social networking.

1. What are your goals?

Take the time to figure out your goals. If you get in a car to drive to Chicago, and have no clue where to go or which direction to head—it’s unlikely you’ll arrive in a timely fashion. A web presence is no different. Knowing your goals, expectations, and what you’re trying to accomplish is critical information for your web team. It shapes your message, web content, and design. Why do you want to be on the Web? Is it to:

  • launch a product or service,
  • sell existing products or services,
  • establish a brand or expertise,
  • extend marketing reach,
  • generate leads, or
  • provide information & resources.

Your web presence should support your business goals and strategy so dust off that business plan (even if it is scribbled on a napkin) for guidance.

2. Who are your target audiences on the Web?

Your business web presence must appeal to the people you’re trying to reach so this is also critical information for your strategy and for your web team. You may have several different target groups. Who are they, in terms of:

  • income level,
  • geographic location,
  • education,
  • needs,
  • wants,
  • purchasing habits,
  • or other characteristics?

Where do they hang out online? What’s the best way to reach them—a website, a blog, twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook? If you aren’t sure then get guidance or do your research. Hint: check out your competition’s presence on the Web and social networks for ideas about where to reach your clients—that way you can combine your research for question 2 and 3 very effectively.

3. Who is your competition on the Web?

Are you familiar with the market and your competition? Although you might be unique in how you provide your services or products, it is unlikely that what you provide is unique. If your business didn’t exist, who else could your clients turn to for similar services? What makes up your competition’s web presence—website, blog and/or social networking? Think about taking the opportunity to branch out and do things differently if it makes sense for your situation.

Bonus Questions for Startups

Don’t forget to start at the very beginning—officially set up your business before you focus on the Web. You’ll need to meet federal, state, and local requirements offline before you start doing business online. How will deal with taxes? Do you need business insurance, contracts for clients, a physical space, etc.? Make sure you consult an accountant and a lawyer for trustworthy advice about your situation. Yes, you’ll need to pay the pros—no one ever saved money by accidentally running afoul of the law or the IRS.

You’ll also need to know what it takes to run your business successfully, so do your homework! If you’re not really sure what you’re getting into, use Google to find business/ startup blogs in your field, take a look at the Small Business Administration website, or reach out to local professional groups and talk to someone with more experience.

Most importantly, only put your business  on the Web when you’re ready and able to legally do business!