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How to Bring Your Business Into the 21st Century

-- 2011-07-12 2:00 am --

There's no longer any debate as to the pros and cons of taking a business online: it's simply a requirement for any serious business to have a website and a serious online presence that engages current and potential customers. But many business owners simply don't know where to get started when taking their business digital. There are a few key concepts and options to consider when beginning this process.

Get a Domain Name

Before anything else, you must secure a domain name for your business. Due to the way search engines discover and rank these domain names, it is most beneficial to secure a ".com" domain name rather than the lesser-used ".net" or ".org" options that are available. Remember that a website is first and foremost about recognition in a new marketplace, so there is really very little room to make compromises on this most basic of elements.

Secure Web Hosting

Next, it's time to start shopping for web hosting plans that fit your business' needs. If you don't plan to engage in e-commerce, and are instead simply looking to set up a site that explains your business, shows customers how to contact you, and is more basic in nature, you can get a consumer-grade hosting plan that will cost as little as $3 per month to maintain.

More ambitious online businesspeople will be interested in high-level hosting plans or dedicated servers that are capable of handling the large amount of work and traffic needed to operate a business that engages in e-commerce. For those plans, it may be best to speak with a prospective hosting company via phone or online support to make sure that their features fit your company's needs.

Hire a Web Designer

A basic website will communicate a lack of interest in serving customers online, and they'll simply find a competitor who does a better job at presenting themselves in a web browser. The easiest way to prevent your business from falling victim to his perception is to a hire a web designer who specializes in taking offline brands and turning them into online successes.

Be sure to communicate exactly what you want in your website: what it should do, the colors it should use, the message it should convey, and the best way to keep it updated in the long-term. Designers can provide the aesthetics to make your online venture a success, but you must still provide the heart and soul of your business for this new medium.

Communicate Your New Presence

If your business has an extensive offline client list, it's time to start letting them know that you've officially opened the online extension of your business. If you have a list of client emails, send them a friendly message via email letting them know what they can do with this new website and how it benefits them going forward. Otherwise, send postcards or letters and inform customers about this change.

Remember that developing a website for your business is a good thing -- a step in the right direction. Customers want to hear about it, and they'll reward you (with their business) for having taken the time to go digital.