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You may or may not have made up your mind that your future lies on the net. However, if you’re going to take the plunge, and want to be found, know that the web should be treated like any other marketing tool. The development of your website should be guided by a goal. A focused site helps a small business be successful on the web.

Analyze why you want to be on the web--what’s your goal?

Most successful marketing-oriented websites fit one of three goals: image building, lead generation, or direct sales. A site may incorporate all three, but to keep your costs and effort reasonable, focus on one goal.


Image building is part of any business’s overall marketing effort. An image-building website positions a small business as up-to-date and able to keep pace with the times; it is still a matter of prestige to be on the Internet. It reinforces your company’s other marketing efforts.


A lead-generating site is more involved. Beyond image enhancement, it allows you to gather data on potential clients and customers. The data you collect is likely more reliable than from any list you might buy. Those who respond to your site are identifying themselves as interested. They’re self targeting. By their response, you can assume they are likely prospects and send them appropriate information.SALES

With direct sales, your website becomes a virtual store. Transactions can take place through a secure server, or orders can be filled and payment sent later. If your consultancy has products--public workshops, videotapes, audiotapes, books-you can take orders over the web.

Be prepared to service orders worldwide. Depending on the number of goods being offered, this type of site tends to be more complex and more expensive to operate than image-building or lead-generating sites.


No matter what your goal, the world must know you’ve arrived on the web. Register your site on the many web directories; they’re mostly free. Negotiate reciprocal links with friends and associates’ websites.

Your web address must show up on all your other marketing materials--your business cards, brochures, letterhead, etc. List it in any ads or articles you publish. Even if prospects didn’t initially find you on the Internet, they may use it to check you out, if you’ve provided them with your address. When your site is consistent with the image you present in other materials, it helps build a credible impression in the prospect’s mind. It also allows prospects to safely check you out at arm’s length.


Make it easy for people who are searching for services like yours to find you. Many search engines operate by finding the first 200 characters in the body text of your site. You can improve on this by using Meta Tags to create a separate description and key word list that does not interfere with your high-impact front page. List all the words associated with your business, including where you’re located. This way a potential visitor can more easily find you.

Searches also locate your competition, so make your site worth the time it takes to download. Small files make for quick downloads, and for happier surfers. Your site doesn’t have to be full of the latest Internet gadgetry to be successful--but it must have useful information, presented in an engaging manner. Once prospects have found you, make them glad they did.


The great thing about setting up on the net is you don’t put out the massive capital required to open a store or office. But, don’t be fooled into believing the “$89 is all you need to succeed on the web” sales pitch. Sites produced this way rarely get noticed, and when they do, the impression they produce is unlikely the one their owners desired. At the other end of the scale, you don’t have to invest the money asked for by some of the larger web designers. For example, a large Toronto ad agency charges $200,000 to design and build content for each client’s website in their Internet shopping mall. (Plus, the $3,500 monthly maintenance fee.) Yeah, right!

© Keith Thirgood, Capstone Communications Group

Keith is Creative Director of Capstone Communications Group, a Canadian marketing and design firm.

He can be reached at (905) 472-2330 or e-mail him at .

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