Today, consumers across all age brackets use the Internet and, particularly for computer-savvy users, the Internet is the first place they'll turn for information about a vendor," says Sadie Peterson, president of SDMarCom Inc., a San Diego-based marketing firm that specializes in working with small businesses.
A Web site can be as much about customer service as it is about selling products and services. Blanke says she has limited office hours, but uses the site to stay connected her young dancers' parents. "The Web site allows us to be available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she says. She posts paperwork, maps to dance competitions, even pictures.
Professional Web presence helps potential customers take his business seriously. "Having a Web site does give me some credibility.
When people go to his Web site, they can see pictures of his product, they can see specs, they can learn about the ordering process and they can find out how to get in touch with him.
For Gryfakis, that Web site is the core of his business since products are shipped directly from his supplier to his customers. "I don't have a storefront. I don't need a storefront," he says. "I just need my Web presence."
Clearly there are numerous reasons why even the smallest of businesses can benefit from a Web presence, but here are five key considerations:
Visibility: With more and more consumers logging onto the Web to research products and services, if they are going to find your business, your business needs to be on the Web.
Reach: With a Web site, you are no longer limited to a customer base that is in physical proximity to your shop. Your place of business may be in Bhopal, but your customers can be in Indore.
Customer service: When customers can log onto your Web site and easily find the information they want-when they want it-their satisfaction increases.
Competition: A professional looking Web site can level the playing field for smaller companies trying to compete against larger enterprises. It's also a way to stay in the game; even if people can't find you on the Web chances are they can find your competitors.
Credibility: When you can point customers, partners, even potential employees or investors to a Web site, it tells them you are a serious business.
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