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the WebSiteOwnersGuideBook is brought to you by the good people at OpenFaceSystems.com, a web design and digital marketing company. If you have digital marketing needs that you don't feel comfortable doing even with these do-it-yourself guidelines, please contact them. Thanks for your attention.

Web Business

runningWeb business is the level where your organization is actually doing business transactions on the Internet. This includes e-commerce and other ways of interacting with the users such as joining your mailing list, submitting trouble tickets, scheduling your services, etc. In our crawl-walk-run description, it's the run part. Now your digital efforts are firing on all cylinders. Now the ROI from digital efforts is more easily calculated because your efforts are bringing easily identifiable dollars to the bottom line.

A great way to stay in touch with the people who have visited your site and are interested in more such content is to ask them to sign up to receive future emails. This is commonly called a mailing list. A signup form can be a simple as the person's email address, or it may ask for their first and last names, and what area they're specifically interested in. For instance, one of our clients sold used printing presses and folders. His mailing list asked if the user was interested in presses or folders or both.

The actual signup form is but the tip of the iceberg. All the mechanics behind maintaining an email list is done by an Email Service Provider or ESP. There are a number of these companies each with different capabilities and pricing structures. The one I always recommend to my clients is MailChimp. Their capabilities are similar to other ESPs, but while the other ESPs offer a free trial of their product, MailChimp has a free-forever plan. If you have less than 2,000 subscribers and you send less than 12,000 emails per month, you can use their service for free forever. There are a couple of features that are present in their paid plans that are absent in the free plan, but these are minor. The main thing the ESP does for you is to make sure you don't run aground of the CAN-SPAM act. This law was developed to try and stem the tide of email spam. Your ESP wil provide guidance on how to build your list and what you say to them to help avoid your email ending up in people's spam folder. 

Adding an e-commerce component to a traditional brick and mortar store can be revolutionary to the entire enterprise. 

This is what most people think about when they think of web business. E-commerce generally means having a listing of items for sale on the internet, taking orders and payment for them. The topic of e-commerce is a huge one and entire books are written about it. Think in terms of:

  • listing the items, generally this is called an online catalog
  • allowing users to select what they want to purchase, generally called a shopping cart
  • users then enter their billing and shipping addresses and enter credit card information in checkout
  • the goods are then delivered to the customer in what is called fulfillment

There are two general types of goods: digital and physical. Digital goods can simply be downloaded as soon as they are paid for. These include music tracks, e-books, white papers, videos, etc. Physical goods have to be shipped to the customer. These include handmade goods, books, household goods, food, etc. 

If your organization provides support for clients such as web design, graphic design, PC support, pool servicing, yard service, etc. A great way to provide 24/7 support is by an online trouble ticket system. Things to look for in a ticket system are:

  • User login to see ticket history
  • Customizable fields to collect customer information
  • Easily changable email text and subject lines
  • Administrator reports and dashboard
  • Knowledgebase so users can search previous tickets and resolution
  • Automatic routing of tickets based on customer or support area
  • Depending on your setup, integration with field personnel or telephone support
  • There's so much that can be said about this that it can be an entire separate website.

Some products are opensource, like RequestTracker, others are paid, like FreshDesk.com. There a large number of offerings out there. Take a look at a representative list.

The most basic level of doing business on the internet is to allow people to get in touch with you. This is typically a page on the website called Contact Us. Here are some basics of having an effective contact page.

If you have a traditional brick and mortar physical presence, list your physical address.

If you're a home-based or virtual business, list your business mailing address, which is typically a Suite Number (Box number) at a mailing locaiton such as the UPS store.

List your primary contact phone number and what your normal business hours are.