If you build it, will they come?
So often new business owners make the same mistake. They start with a great idea, spend a huge amount of time and money on finding a location and venue to distribute their product, and then forget one of the most important elements, marketing. Whether a business has existed for 6 months or 20 years, they hear the same thing constantly, "I didn't know you were here." Don't blame the customer. The reason is simple, you haven't invited them. It's just like having a party. If you want someone to come, send them an invitation. Otherwise, they don't know anything about it.
Now you ask, how do I send those invitations, or more directly, how do I market my business. There is a large variety of ways with no "magic" formula. Start with trial and error, and then be consistent. You may find that the most expensive medium you use is the least effective. Or vice versa, the least expensive is the most effective. Regardless of how you do it, the key to success is to just do it. Set a budget and regard it as an investment in growing your business. When times get tough one of the first things a business owner will cut is their marketing budget. That is, they quite sending out invitations. A recipe for tragedy. You may as well just close your doors.
One very effective way to market your business is to have a web site.
So, you ask, why is a web site important?
First, think of your web site as an open invitation that's being delivered all the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. How powerful is that? With most other marketing mediums you get one shot. With a web site, you're on all the time. Of course, you have to be easy to find...but that's another topic altogether.
Second, the world wide web is quickly replacing the phone book as the business directory of choice. With 80% of individuals in the U.S. using the Internet, you are missing a huge chunk of audience if you aren't online. Your customers are searching for you. They will never find you if you don't make yourself available. Think about it. Ten or twenty years ago you wouldn't dream of eliminating yourself from the phone book. Without a web site, you are allowing your competition to easily beat you every time...hands down.
Third, its a great way to pre-qualify customers. Many simple questions can be answered before a customer calls or comes into your store. Things like, "What are your hours?" and "Where are you located?" can be found easily by visiting your web site. The brands you carry, typical pricing, and others are all things people want to know before they visit you.
Finally, you should have a web site because it will help you grow your business. It's now a proven medium. Ask anyone who has spent an amount of time and thought on creating a great web site, it's worth it. Keep in mind though, a free web site is exactly that. You get what you pay for. No investment, no return. Invest in your web site. It may just be the best investment you ever make.
The question remains. If you build it will they come? Yes, but only if you invite them.
Added on 06/21/2009
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