AFRICAN WEB SITES, AFRICAN WEB HOSTING & DOMAIN NAMES FROM WEBFUNDIS


African web sites, African websites, African web hosting, East African websites, East African web sites, Tanzanian websites, Kenyan websites, Ugandan websites, African domain names, African web training, African internet services.


THE INTERNET, YOUR BUSINESS AND THE IMPLICATIONS


1. INTRODUCTION.

2. COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS.

3. THE WORLD WIDE WEB - FACT, FASHION OR FAD?

4. COSTS.

5. SUMMARY.

INTRODUCTION

Often expensive to build, difficult to maintain, and a permanent reflection on you, your company's persona and level of professionalism, the Internet, and more precisely, your website is the most significant marketing tool yet invented. It ranks with the wheel in terms of importance and the impact it will have on the way we lead our lives.

With 231 million people accessing the internet every day, and new registrations "logging on" at the rate of 1.4 every second, along with the declared aims of service providers of free email addresses and internet access to every person, the future implications of this to any sales department is frankly mind blowing.

The Internet provides any individual or company with the permanent means to deliver information about themselves and/or their products at a net cost that cannot be matched by any other medium. A fully interactive method of reaching out and communicating with a local, regional, and global market place. Information, quotations and technical assistance can be passed back and forth in seconds all for the cost of a local telephone call.

The problem is - having got your website, you then have to get people to visit it. On a world wide basis, taking the total number of websites already in existence, the average number of visitors a year per site is three. Cyberspace can be a very lonely place. It is possible to spend tens of thousands of pounds and have a graphically brilliant website, that no one will ever see. It is also possible to spend $100.00 and get the same result. Internet skills and technologies are a science in their own right, computer experts and IT specialists do not always make the best website designers, and giving a free reign to computer graphics experts can court disaster. A skilled webmaster is a blend of all three disciplines, and a whole lot more.

Webfundis have those skills, we can build any site and launch it on the net, but more importantly, register it with the search engines, then actively promote it over the next 12 months hopefully into the top twenty sites in your field on most of the big search engines (the Search Engines however are a world unto themselves and NOBODY can guarantee you a position in the top ten with any of the big boys - we've been very lucky so far with all of our clients' sites and most of them are pretty high up in the search engines; however we are never naive enough to promise this sort of result to anyone). With Webfundis your website will hopefully - along with those of our existing clients - become an independent part of a family of sites that enjoy visitor levels not achieved by multinational companies who have spent millions of pounds on their websites.


COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

"If you build it they will come" may work for Kevin Costner in a Hollywood movie, but it has little semblance to reality when the phrase is applied to a website. While a case could be made that it might hold some truth for an internationally known company such as Amazon or Disney, the reality is that for a small or medium business or professional services firm, a website will be primarily a tool used to service existing clients and access markets previously closed to them.

The design of your site should be in a fashion consistent with your product and level of professionalism. Responsibility for your website development should be tasked to internet aware business people and your marketing staff, not necessarily your IT director or art department. Ready made template web sites are fine for personal pages, but not for the professional business. You never get a second chance at making a first impression. Know the demographics of your typical client or customer. In almost all instances, the design should be one that reflects professionalism, in order to install confidence in your professionalism. Your website is the first impression people have of you.

However if it is professionally designed and developed, people will subconsciously give you the benefit of any lingering doubt, and conclude that you are professional in your occupation, business, and daily activities. If, on the other hand, your website is cheesy, amateurish, and loaded with annoying MIDI files, poor spelling, flashing marquees, huge animated gifs, weird frames, gigantic images, and pointless javascripts built with standard frontpage formats, your website visitors will conclude that the quality of the service you offer is equally sloppy and unprofessional. Don't underestimate this critical path component of your business strategy. People will judge you by your website. If it is not sharp, your competitor will have a distinct edge.

The design your site should be a lead generator, not just a closing tool. If you are selling professional services or a product with a hefty price ticket, few people are going to be willing to just happen across your site, see what you offer, and send you a visa card number and order. You'll close more deals if you understand this, and focus your efforts on using your site to generate leads and promote your products through your distribution network as well as on line sales. Give the visitor to your site an opportunity to buy online, by all means. But you will close more sales if you are able to get "in front" of more people. Don't be fooled; a good website will not make a bad salesperson sell more; but it will allow a good salesperson to sell more. Don't leave your people skills or selling ability at the door (or front page, perhaps). Have as your primary goal the opportunity to secure more leads and prospects, and your sales will increase. Do this through a strategically constructed form on your website designed to capture critical information that will enable you to contact them, even if it is only via email.



THE WORLD WIDE WEB - FACT, FASHION OR FAD?

The attitude of many small or medium sized companies to the internet is often that it is a system reserved for large companies with a huge marketing budget. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. The internet provides a way for any business or individual to compete with the "Big Boys" on a level footing. As a medium it delivers an audience no television company or newspaper can compete with, what is more, the people accessing a web site are actively seeking what that site offers. With the added benefit of being fully interactive, thus giving the customer a chance to talk directly to the supplier or manufacturer, and the supplier a chance to build a database of clients for future sales and special offers. What other advertising method can provide this?

The old adage of, "The salesperson makes the first sale and their skills and aftersales service will retain or lose the customer", remains as true today as it was when the barter system first emerged in Neolithic times. Through the internet you can control every aspect of the sale, from the first enquiry to the delivery and aftersales service, the customer has a direct link to you, giving control to the people who matter, the client and you.

It is true to say that when the internet first developed there was a rush by many companies to bash up a website and launch it onto the world wide web, and there it stayed in cyberspace ignored by everyone including the companies who put it up. However it did look good (and fashionable) at the bottom of their terrestrial advertising to say "or visit our website at http://www.I'vegotawebsite.com" This is now changing as people become aware of the power surge a website can deliver to any sales environment. And those companies who still ignore the potential, or worse opt for the cheap dysfunctional site do so at their own peril.

The World Wide Web will radically change the way we conduct our day to day lives, by providing easy access to the world market place for consumers as well as suppliers. The internet is an open market place available to anyone with a computer; these numbers are growing daily. In 1998 spending on the net in the U.K. alone, totalled £262 million (source: "On line shopping" in the March issue of Which?), in the next 5 years this is set to grow at a rate that will defy imagination, within the next 10 years predictions are that "on line" spending world wide will be ten thousand times today's level. A market place second to none, the proof of the pudding is to try it and judge for yourself.



THE COSTS

There are no two websites the same, different requirements need to be identified before costs can be calculated. Therefore an initial meeting is needed to establish those requirements. The size of the site needs to be mapped out along with the content of each page as well as colour schemes, enquiry forms and if the use of a secure server is required. The other factor that come into consideration is maintaining the site. The need for updates and alterations is a major consideration. Only then can a cost figure be accurately given.



SUMMARY

Perhaps the most important part of you e-commerce strategy will be your website and it's design. The objectives required of a website need to be laid down from the start, but it's purpose is to realise those objectives whilst delivering substantial savings on existing methods and potential staffing levels. A website can deliver any or all of the following:

· Enhance the reputation of your business.
· Improve brand and / or firm awareness.
· Stay abreast or ahead of the competition.
· Extend marketing programmes to take advantage of a new market place.
· Provide key customer services on line.
· Provide up to the minute news and information on your products and /or services.
· Enable clients to make pre-purchase decisions.
· Sell your products and / or services online.
· Provide post sales support online.
· Prospect for new clients.


There is nothing in this world that cannot be made worse for less money, free and cheap webspace is slow to react to browser commands and reflects your companies level of professionalism. It is like advertising your business from a phone box. The first impression when a person arrives at your web site is formed in seconds, it tells the surfer everything they want to know about your web site - thus your company. What is more, the process does not end the day a web site goes live, often clients are not aware of the work that carries on in the background. Web sites are not stable platforms, they change or get corrupted or just stop working for no apparent reason. Links stop working and must constantly be checked as a broken link just annoys the prospective client and search engines refuse to list any site with them. The professional design company automatically checks for this on a weekly basis as they have their own reputation to consider.

Paul Davis - paul@ten-20.com (www.ten-20.com)

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