Appendix: Put Your Business Online: A Guide for Accelerating Your Business on the Internet A Guide For Accelerating Your Business On the Internet
In the foreword, we mentioned that the authors came from the Fortune 500 world, where businesses have a great deal of resources to apply toward word-class sales and marketing infrastructures. We noticed that there were some missing pieces among the tools available for managing a business’s online presence. Specifically there were three main gaps from the point-of-view of a small business owner:
- Management of Tools: Several capable point solutions existed, but the functionality was not integrated to make them easy to use for a small business owner.
- Complexity: Many of the products were developed for larger enterprises and incorporated capabilities that were not needed for a small business.
- Word-of-mouth: Small businesses live on
word-of-mouth and referrals from other small businesses. There was no product
that effectively automated the business-to-business referral process.
Being entrepreneurs at heart, we decided to build a product that addresses the above gaps at an affordable price. The key design choices we made for the product were:
- Cloud-Based Web-Application: For all
the reasons we have discussed in this book, we wanted an application that a
small business owner could easily access from any device without the hassles of
dealing with maintenance. This choice paid off when we ported the application
to mobile devices and all our customers automatically had mobile optimized
- Simple Method to Create a Web Presence with
Integrated Analytics: We wanted business owners to be able to build their
websites quickly and get immediate feedback on customer interest. In the
process, we wanted to avoid the complexities introduced by popular template-based
solutions, which provide lesser value to the business owner.
- Integrate Web Presence with Commerce: An
online presence helps get customers into the store, but ultimately the goal is
to conduct business. Thus, we integrated functionality for online payments, online
scheduling, online surveys, and digital signing and management of legal
documents into Ocoos.
- Manage Customer Information: Customer
relationship management is key to tracking and keeping in touch with customers.
We wanted to enable a platform where business owners could mine this data
effectively to offer repeat and new services to customers.
- Enable Business-to-Business Referrals:
We built a patented capability where small businesses could recommend other
small businesses (B2B) and that referral was automatically integrated into the
web presence of both parties.
- Easily Connect to Other Applications: We designed the platform such that data from it could be easily exported to or imported from applications commonly used by small-businesses.
In the book, we have described how to develop an online storefront and leverage the Internet to benefit your business. We have used example of several companies to demonstrate these concepts. This appendix provides a list of companies and tools that could be useful to small businesses interested in going online.
Google, Yahoo, and Bing are the most commonly used search engines. All of these offer an extensive infrastructure for online advertising. As an example, Google offers Adwords to plan your advertising campaigns on Google and its advertising network. You can use the Google Keyword Planner to access the database of Google searches. This information is useful to determine and bid for the keywords that would be most useful for your business. In addition to search engines, there are several commonly used business directories. Two of the largest are yp.com and manta.com. Yp.com is an online version of the traditional yellow pages. It allows you to list your business and provides a search capability to your customers.
Domain and Web Hosting:
To create a website for your business, you need to get a domain name (or internet address) and a place to host your website. The companies listed above offer domain and hosting services. Generally, they offer similar services and are not all that different from each other. They compete on brand recognition, which is why you may have seen companies such as GoDaddy invest in “creative” commercials during the SuperBowl.
Deal-of-the-day Coupons:The two most popular companies in this category are Living Social and Groupon. Both companies have developed a large pool of subscribing customers, who can purchase discounted deals offered in different cities and countries. These companies could be useful for generating initial demand for your business.
There are many companies that can help a business owner design and produce physical marketing materials such as business cards or brochures. Beyond the national brands, traditionally there have been many smaller local players that also offer printing services.
In terms of review sites, Yelp is most known for restaurant reviews but has now expanded into many diverse categories. Trip Advisor started with recommendations for travel and tourism and now has reviews on many topics. Angie’s List focuses of reviews of service providers; unlike some of the other review sites, it has a paid membership-based model. We recommend actively managing your presence in the most popular review sites.
In terms of marketing, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp offer very good email marketing capabilities. Both offer reasonable starter packages for free.
Surveys and Analysis:
Survey Monkey offers a widely used service to survey targeted audiences on topics ranging from market research to customer satisfaction. Tools from Mouseflow can help you analyze user behavior on your website by tracking mouse movements, and Kissmetrics tracks and analyzes conversion of web traffic to paying customers.
The de facto standard for accounting software is Intuit’s Quickbooks product. This comprehensive product helps you manage your payroll, payments, withholdings, and many other financial actions. For small businesses, Freshbooks is also a good solution for bookkeeping.
Square, Intuit, and Paypal offer some of the most popular solutions for point-of-sale credit processing. Some provide a device that can be connected to your tablet or smartphone to enable you to swipe credit cards and make the process straightforward and available at a much lower cost.
If you sell products, EBay and Amazon have a world-class infrastructure to showcase your products, enable purchases and payments as well as warehousing and shipping. They are able to offer these capabilities at a fraction of the cost of selling through traditional retailers like Walmart or Best Buy. Craigslist is a very effective alternative to newspaper listings for classifieds – it is local to cities or regions and searchable.
- Office 365 from Microsoft
- Google Apps
For basic productivity applications (email, presentation, documents, spreadsheets), Microsoft and Google offer compelling solutions.
Dropbox offers file storage and sharing services. This is a capability that is very useful for sharing data between several devices and users. Google offers a similar service with Google Drive. Box.com offers capabilities similar to Dropbox.
Finally, companies ranging from Join.com to Skype offer excellent teleconferencing and screen sharing services. Most of the services are available for free in a starter package.
Marketplaces for business services:
These are large supplier networks that can help you get stuff done. Elance and Odesk are excellent sources to find various types of services. Alibaba is the powerhouse to access Chinese manufacturing suppliers.