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Internet

The Internet has become an essential business tool that provides access to many useful services.The three main ones are: Communication, Buying and Selling.

Communication

The two main groups of people you communicate with in business are your customers and your suppliers. The Internet provides a good tool for doing both.

Having a Website allows you to communicate the benefits of your product or service, operating hours, location, and other important information to potential customers. See the Website page for more information.

Email is an excellent tool for customers to communicate with you and for you to respond to customer queries, since you:

  • can choose to respond when it suits you
  • can frame your answer more carefully in the best way possible.
  • have an ongoing record of enquiries that can be fed back into your sales kits, to ensure that common questions are dealt with up front.

See the Email page for more information.

It is important that your customers can contact you easily to find out whether they want to do business with you. Some buyers like to shop around before they make a decision to buy, and they appreciate your efforts to give them information. Although they may not buy on their first contact, they will return if you give good service. The more information you can provide on the website or via email about your product, the more likely it is that they will return to buy.

You can save time by communicating with suppliers and others via email if you learn to use it effectively.

Buying

If you are buying business tools or supplies, you can browse other company websites to compare features and prices, even if you don't feel comfortable actually buying via the website.

The problem is that you are restricted to those vendors who have websites, which may be a very small group in some product types. Depending on how critical the purchase is (and how much money is at stake) you would still be advised to supplement your research using traditional methods such as shopping by phone before committing to buy.

In the near future, many larger suppliers will encourage their customers to purchase via the Internet, so now is a good time to start learning what it's all about.

Selling

It is not necessary for you to pay lots of money for a sophisticated e-commerce website. A good starting point is to provide very detailed product information and a simple order form that buyers can print out, fill in by hand, and post or fax back to you.

As the Internet is a new medium for many buyers, it is important to make them feel as comfortable as possible doing business with you. The main ways to do this are:

  • a well designed website that is easy to get around and doesn't look like someone's personal home page
  • clear company information and contact details, so that you have an identity in the real world
  • clear statement of your policy regarding orders and what to do in the case of a problem
  • very detailed product information

Once you establish your website presence, and make buying easy for customers, there is very little you need to do to sell your product. The two main tips are:

  • Promote your website through:
    • search engine submissions
    • reciprocal links with other related websites
    • print media such as flyers, brochures, magazine advertising
  • Respond within 24 hours to EVERY genuine customer email enquiry. This may sound like a lot of work, but initially you will probably not get more than 3 email messages a day that require a customised personal response. Most enquirers can be provided with the standard printed information kit with full colour photos or a more detailed catalogue than you have on the website.

IN THIS SECTION:
Telephone
Facsimile
Computer
Internet
Email
Website

SEE ALSO:
Finances
Creating a Database

 

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