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Using the web to strengthen your business

Using the web to strengthen your businessIgnore the web and chances are consumers will ignore you.

That doesn’t mean business owners need to spend thousands on an elaborate site. If you have the money, the time and the skills to do it, go ahead, your business will benefit. Not only will your products and services be more visible, accessible and acquirable but your business, brand, and presence will instantly be more recognisable.

For as little as $50 you can build a site sans any e-commerce, or the ability to sell products and services online, functions. Keep in mind there are recurring fees such as domain renewals and monthly hosting charges. With e-commerce, a basic but fully functional site selling about 50 products costs just under $1,000 with an extra $70 or so in monthly fees.

Still, a website may not be the vehicle of choice for every business. If yours is one of those, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a presence on the internet superhighway. There are a host of effective and inexpensive ways to get any business on the internet.

The Google empire, long-established as the world’s leading search engine and more recently the top online advertising mode, now offers Google Marketing Tools. Most are free and will benefit businesses by helping attract as well as retain customers. The latest version of QuickBooks provides a facility that makes it even easier to set your business up using Google Marketing Tools.

Google Maps is invaluable, particularly for webless businesses. When Google users search for local merchants, businesses appear along with the address, hours of operation, products offered, parking and any additional information the business owner chooses to display.

For those businesses with a website, take advantage of other free Google Marketing Tools such as Google Analytics and Froogle. Analytics shows how many visits a website has had in a given period, how many pages were visited and how long each visitor stayed on a certain page. Froogle is Google’s online price directory which lists the cheapest prices for different products on the web.

Of course Google doesn’t do everything for free. Its Adwords program allows business owners to reach consumers directly. A few words about the business is enough to get started and customers can be targeted by location or a number of other criteria. No programming or technical knowledge is necessary.

An advertisement using Google Adwords appears as a Sponsored Link on the results page when a search is conducted on Google. How successful a campaign is depends on a number of sometimes complicated factors. These include the content of the advertisement, its relevance to the business owner’s website, how common the key words used in that message are, and how much the business owner wants to spend.

A budget is required for all Adwords campaigns and that budget can be set up to have the advertisement run for as many days, weeks or months as desired. Google displays it as often as possible within that set budget. Each time the advertisement is clicked, the business owner is charged a small portion of their budget.

Businesses would be at fault in neglecting other electronic marketing projects as valuable methods to increase sales and profits. E-mail newsletters can be created using InDesign and even Photoshop.  And Zoomerang allows you to create customised electronic surveys.

— Gavin Dixon is the CEO of Reckon Limited’s (www.reckon.com.au) Business Division. Reckon is the supplier of QuickBooks accounting software.

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Gavin Dixon

Gavin Dixon

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