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A recent survey by 1&1 Internet reported that up to 40% of small to medium sized businesses still don’t have a website.  Which means that the businesses that make up that unfortunate 40% aren’t reaping any of the benefits that the Internet offers.  And, as I have touched on before- there are a lot.  Having a website for your business is pretty much the bare minimum requirement for a chance at competing in the modern marketplace.  Why?  I’ll go ahead and break it down.

First of all, let’s discuss, conceptually, what a website is, or rather what it is not.  A website is not just a digital spreadsheet displaying information about your business.  It doesn’t just lifelessly float around in cyberspace, waiting patiently to be recovered like a trilobite fossil in a dried up riverbed.  A website is alive.  Your website should be filled with your energy, almost like an artificial intelligence robot brain transplanted with your identity.  When web surfers enter your page and review your content, they should feel like they are speaking directly to you.  So, conceptually, a website is a virtual stand in for you…basically, your personal cyberspace ambassador.  It should be an invaluable member of your marketing team.

It should be pretty obvious why you’d need representation in the e-sphere.  But just to be sure, consider this:  According to recent data published by the International Telecommunications Union and the US. Census Bureau, the population in North America is 347,394,870 people.  The portion of that population that uses the Internet? 273,067,546!  You don’t need to know much about math to understand that this is the vast majority of American citizens.  The Internet is pretty much a parallel reality that we co-exist in- it’s our second home.  If your business isn’t being represented on the Internet, then you’re missing out on valuable connections. Think of it this way- a successful website gets millions of hits a day, yet you’d be pretty hard pressed to try and shove that many customers into even the largest Costco Warehouse in the country.  Perspective!

So, all of these people are on the Internet.  All of them are looking at websites.  All of them are perpetually on the cusp of finding your site and becoming your client.  How do you set up your website so that it helps convert those e-prospects into bona fide believers?  How do you keep these loyal followers interested, coming back for more?  That’s where design and content come in.  It’s not enough to just have a website, as I mentioned before, and list your qualifications or beliefs, or ideas in conventional essay format.  You need to get creative- using design and content to convey your ideas in a dynamic way.  Your website is a way of showing, not telling.  If done well, you can rely on your website to essentially be an un-paid sales rep- sans overly aggressive attitude and cheesy marketing shtick.   If you’ve got it…flaunt it!

So where are we now?  Are we on the same page?  Do we all agree that it absolutely makes sense to have a website for your business, and that said website should have a reasonable amount of personal pizazz?  Great.  Congratulations! You’ve just graduated to phase 2 in your honorable quest for Internet presence.  In the next couple posts, I’ll go into more depth about how to make a good website, GREAT, and a great website, AWESOME.