Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Webify Your Trade

Over the last couple of weeks, I spoke to two people I know who sell things as a secondary source of income. One of them sells clothes, shoes, perfumes and accessories. The other person sells cars. In the two separate discussions, I asked for their website so I could go online and check out their wares. I was half-joking, since I really wasn’t interested in anything they were selling, but it made me think when both of them told me they didn’t have one. What made this particularly thought provoking is that both of them are IT professionals in their day jobs and I would have thought that would have been a pretty obvious tool for their businesses to have.

So I started thinking about how easy it would be for them to set up a very professional looking website for free without too much effort. Having recently discovered a site that inventories all sorts of web building tools I felt I could look one or two of the better ones and do some sort of high level “how-to”. It’s not like I haven’t touched the subject of how easy it is to get really productive with the internet before. Maybe I just needed to be a bit more specific and talk through actually building a site.

On the other hand, perhaps I should step back and look at the basics again: why should you have a website for your business? Is it really worth the effort? What are the wins? I tend to assume that this is 2009 and everyone appreciates the Web and what an enormous opportunity it is. Maybe not. Some of these points are almost childishly obvious, but I think it is worthwhile to talk about them. Well, here goes.

 

1. A website is a worldwide catalogue of your products and services.

When you create a site and post your goods or services to it, anyone and everyone can have access to it. There are currently 10 million Nigerians on the Internet and that number is growing every day. Those are potentially 10 million people in your backyard who could see what you have to offer – never mind the other 1 billion people worldwide who could see it. Now you could decide that the only people you actually want to have access to your business are the 1000 or so people you can reach with your business card, phone calls, and pounding the streets under the African sun. Perhaps you prefer to stand in your shop door and hope they see your signboard and stop by. Otherwise a website is a great way for maximum exposure.

 

2. You are easy to reach.

Assuming you provide an email address on the site (I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t) then you have provided an easy means for customers to reach you for inquiries and to place orders. If you invest in a Blackberry or even a low cost data-capable phone and a Zain N1,000 internet connection, you can check for messages on the go.

 

3. Always open for business.

A website is a shop that never closes. When you have turned out the lights, closed the curtains and turned the key in the lock, a website is still running providing people with access to your business. The more capability you provide on a website, the more of your business customers can experience.

 

4. You Build a contact list.

The secondary benefit of email is that you can now build up a contact list in a digital form. Just from the email addresses of people who email you, you have a growing list of people that you can contact with targeted marketing and product offers. You have to do this (the marketing) with care and permission otherwise it will be seen as spam. Aside from the email, you could have a contact form on your site that can captures more useful details from the customer. This is actually a method of market research. You can get a sense of what your customers want. Customers will be more willing to do this if you provide some kind of incentive or the other. For instance, you could offer a 10% discount on their first purchase. You can even have one of those features that asks them to invite a friends. These referrals are great ways to increase your customer base as people are more willing to accept offers or solicitations that come through people they know and trust.

 

5. You can update changes to your business information or service profile without much expense.

When you print a business card, handbill, or print catalogue, if anything changes you have to reprint, or as some do, modify things by hand. While having a website doesn’t eliminate that entirely, with a few online edits you can ensure that the largest part of your potential audience always has the most current and accurate business information.

 

6. You can actually make money from it.

You can set up your site to be a proper ecommerce site where people can actually pay for goods and services that you then deliver to them. Now this will take a bit more effort and a bit more money to set up than just setting up a site, but if your product is the kind that can be sold this way (and it will surprise you what can be sold this way) it is worth the effort and the investment.

 

7. It makes you look good.

Having a website improves the value of your brand, especially if your site is well designed. It makes people believe that your product is as good as your site is.

 

These are just a few simple reasons to set up a site for your business. Did I mention you can do it for free and in a short amount of time? Like everything else in life, there is even more that can be accomplished than what I have listed here, but that also requires a lot more work and I have mentioned them in various forms in older posts and will talk about them in through the lifetime of this blog. If anyone has more reasons to add the ones I have listed, please feel free to post them as comments. With next post I’ll do a proper how-to. I’ll setup a site using one of the free tools and let you see how it turns out.

Dej.

2 comments:

Nnanna said...

Those people may not actually be as foolish as you think.
Do you know any one in Nigeria who is making money directly as a result of a website?

Digital Crossings said...

Hello Nnanna, I don't think them foolish. I just saw that the have nothing to lose by having a web presence and it is easy to setup.

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