Educational Consumer Tips

Developing a website

Author: Better Business Bureau

Creating a company web site can be a daunting task for business owners. Companies with established web sites often use their own internal expertise; others hire a webmaster to develop and support their web site.

Who needs a website? 

E-commerce companies who provide and sell a product or service over the Internet are the most obvious web site owners. Other businesses are a combination of "brick and mortar" and a website, selling both at a physical location and over the Internet. A large percentage of companies remain strictly brick and mortar, with no products sold over the Internet. These include direct service industries such as kitchen remodeling, asphalt paving, auto repair and massage therapy. Nevertheless, a vast number of businesses, regardless of products or services offered, are considering a web site for their company to use strictly as a marketing tool. 

Why do I need a website? 

Developing and maintaining a website as a marketing tool may be critical to your company so you are not left behind in marketplace competition. Maintaining a website to reach potential customers may become as common as media ads, Yellow Page listings or promotional flyers. 

Where do I start? 

Whether you have an established website or are considering developing one, the BBB offers the following tips to businesses:

*Include a company profile on your site: physical location, address, phone, fax, and email. Also, include a "Contact Us" link. Consider a toll free number as a means to reach you other than electronically.

*Include the names of the business owners and a brief history on the nature of your individual business. Adhere to ethical practices online in your offerings the same as in other marketing venues. 

*Keep inventory, sale dates, events, training dates and other details current. Factual, accurate and current data are all key to a successful site.

*Provide strong customer service. If you offer a refund and exchange policy, explain the process clearly. Consider a page of "Frequently Asked Questions." Use the same types of questions your customers ask you over the phone or in writing. 

*Remember that your website is your personal customer service representative. Make the site easy to use. Links should be clear and distinct to all visiting your site. A highly polished graphic site is not a useful marketing tool if it fails to convey your message. If the site is difficult to "travel" you risk your customers giving up on doing business with you. 

* Maintain a clear Privacy Policy, key if accepting personal information from customers. They will want to feel safe sharing information with you. If you accept payment online, there must be a secure payment protocol to give your customers reassurance. 

How do I maintain a useful site? 

Once planned, designed and ready to go, ask yourself (and others!) the following questions about your company's web site: 

1. Are my goals for a web site clearly defined? Is the site designed to spark interest so customers will come in or call for estimates? Or do I want to showcase specific products and bargains? 

2. Does my company's site do what it's designed to do? 

3. Does it allow my customers more than one way to reach me? 

4. Is my site easy to travel? Have I provided useful and easy links? 

5. Have I made certain that I communicate clearly with my Webmaster and have the final say? (Remember: your business reputation will absorb the website's problems or praise.) 

6. How will I market the site so my company name comes up in top search engines? 

7. How often will I check my website? Checking your own site frequently is critical to make sure it functions correctly. Eliminate the irritation of slight glitches as much as possible. Work with your Webmaster to make sure he/she keeps current with any changes in the company's products, services and other information available to people on your site.

For more information, contact: 

Better Business Bureau 
(800) 828-5000 

This report is general in nature, and is not a Business Review on any particular company, product or service.