To Web Or Not To Web? It shouldn't even be a question!

Most small businesses today have a Web presence, although some really don't understand why - nor do they leverage the site to its fullest advantage. And, very few small businesses have a growth plan to orchestrate further utilization of the Web over time.

The Internet provides a unique means of marketing your business, while also providing instant credibility to potential customers who are “checking you out.” You could almost say it's an expected part of every business's operation.

Considering the implementation of a Web site can be a daunting task, especially with all of the commonly used acronyms and Web slang we hear. So, the first step should be to become familiar with how the Internet works and the vocabulary of the typical user. Secondly, if you are interested in creating a Web site, you need to give some serious thought to what you want to accomplish with it, once launched. I would recommend starting small and plan to build or add-on from there. Think about the data that will be used to populate the Web site and what the updating or linking process will be.

The next step is to select a domain name for your Web site. To find out if the domain name that you would like to use is available, go to and follow the link to “Registry Who Is.” Try to keep your domain name small enough so the user won't run the risk of misspelling or missing some required punctuation. Like any marketing effort, if it becomes too cumbersome, users will simply move on.

As you build your site, remember that it will most likely play a significant role in marketing, so you should make sure to involve the right people in the development process. For a small informational site or a family Web site, you might try using an inexpensive software application. Most of these products are very limiting, so they will probably not work for a site that will be customer-facing.

For a more polished Web site, you will want to find a professional Web developer to design and publish your site, as well as market and maintain it, if necessary. To find a Web developer to work on your Web site, I would start by asking the advice of other business owners in your community. I personally like to work with a local company for the Web site development, but it isn't absolutely necessary. Another good resource is the Web itself. Usually the companies that you find on the Web will have references that you can contact. Of course, companies always give you their most positive references, so be guided accordingly.

The Internet is here to stay. Most everyone uses it daily for information and increasingly, for the actual purchase of the products and services we need. As mentioned earlier, having your business become involved with the worldwide Web now can provide excellent marketing advantages, as well as enhancing your credibility. It also gets you started and comfortable with a tool that is growing and morphing daily. The sooner you get involved, the better you'll be at using its tremendous power!

Sidebar: Best Practices

Here are this month's Best Practices:

17. Become conversant in Internet technologies and jargon.

Do some research into Web technologies and how the Internet actually works. There are many helpful, basic and more advanced books available, as well as Web-based tutorials. I've also set up a brief tutorial on the “language of the Web.” Visit to see a list of terms and acronyms that may help get you started.

18. Create a Web presence and plan for growth over time.

Discuss the Web and its value to your business with employees and customers. They can give you powerful insights into what you might try to accomplish with a company Web site. Build an initial plan and timetable for launch and enhancements that will broaden your site's functionality. It's very important to have that longer-term view, as it can be quite expensive to make changes down the line.