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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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With all the dazzling technology today, business owners are left with starry-eyed expectations which, more often than not, lead them to disappointment. Others are more realistic, but lacking the technical skills themselves they rely on "web experts". Some "web experts" are simply snake oil salesmen which prey on the ignorance of many. Others are well intentioned folks who are competent in Internet technology, but lack understanding in effective marketing and advertising. Most fail to understand the needs of their customers before running up huge bills. What can you do to protect yourself? Simple, learn a bit about the Internet, the web and how it can work for your business before you invest. That is the focus of this article. I will teach you some of the things I have learned while cleaning up the messes that "web experts" have made. This is broken into two sections. The first will focus on the common myths about the web you must avoid. The second explains the very real advantages that web advertising can hold for your business.

Myth# 1: Once you have a web page, you can just sit back and let the business come to you. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A web page is like any other advertising method, it takes work to get your message in front of the right people who need your products. Getting the web page running is only the first step. For real success you have to promote, promote and promote some more. I am not saying you need to devote your life to the web, but you can not forget it either.

Myth# 2: A web page is a completely separate advertising approach from what you are already using. This is simply not so. Take a look at the big companies and see if I am right. Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, the NBA and any other big company you can name have an integrated approach to their web pages. They use the same logos, the same slogans and the same general look. So when you are building your web pages, use what you already know to be working. Do not reinvent the wheel! In fact, take this a step further, completely integrate this by pasting your URL on all your existing advertising.

Myth #3: Web pages have to be flashy and cool. Do not get caught up in all the technology and hype. Your information and service will sell your product, not the "cool factor". The urge to be cool often drives people to load their pages up with useless graphics, Java applets (1: see footnote below), animations, sounds and other things which have the awful side effect of making your web page SLOW. Customers hate to wait, and web customers are worse than any other customer in the universe when it comes to hating to wait. Having a really cool page which takes more than 30 seconds to load will drive people off in droves. Remember, impatient customers can move on to another, faster site with one click of the mouse. Do not give them a reason to leave your site.

Myth# 4: All web sites are the same. That probably sounds obvious when stated like that, but you would be surprised how many people hold this view and do not even know it. When you set up a web site, you also choose a web hosting provider (WHP). A web hosting provider is a company which you pay a monthly fee to for keeping your web site available to web browsers.

Again, they usually are not focused on the needs of an advertiser. I have compiled a list of qualities a company MUST have before you should even consider using them. Will companies that have these features cost more, yes. Will you be sorry you used their service? Not if you avoid the other pitfalls and do the work it takes to make your site a tool that works for you.

When considering a WHP, please keep in mind these following features. If a prospective WHP does not have ALL of these features, move on. You may save a few dollars, but the loss to your effectiveness could cost you bundles.

This list is not in any order; all are critical features:
24 hour, 7 day a week support;
Secure transaction processing;
Backups run daily;
Ability to support your domain name;
Supports leading edge web creation tools;
Password protection of your files;
Dedicated T1 (2: see footnote below) or faster access methods;
Extensive statistics available (3: see footnote below).

With all these land mines, you might be wondering why anyone would risk throwing away thousands of dollars. The simple answer is, potential results. Here are some of the advantages of using the web.

Advantage #1: Equal footing. The web is an unbelievably powerful business equalizer. Consider the multibillion dollar companies I mentioned before, with a bit of work your page can look as good as theirs, and be seen by as many people! Consider that for a moment. A company with a microscopic advertising budget can be on equal footing with the biggest names in history. Do you think that can help your business? You know it can!

Advantage #2: Accessibility. Let me ask you this, who is answering your phone at 2:00 AM? Unless you have money to staff a phone center, probably just the answering machine. The web never sleeps. It can allow your customers to find out information about your company at any time of day, from any point on the globe. That kind of accessibility is fast becoming critical for sustained success.

Advantage #3: Tracking. When you do any other form of advertising, how do you know it is working? People call you. If you are like many companies you do more than one form of advertising at a time. How do you know which one is working best? You have to play games like using fake department numbers and so on. With the web, the host computer can keep track of how many people have seen your ad! You can know right away if your pages are having the effect you hoped they had, or if you need to try something else.

Advantage #4: Cost. Sounds like a contradiction doesn't it? I just told you to pay for a good web host provider, and now I am saying that will cost you less than traditional advertising. When you consider the numbers of web users, and the relatively small costs of setting up a really good website you will see that you almost have to be on the web.

In conclusion, is the web for you? Well, you have to answer that for yourself of course, but hopefully you now have some information to make an informed decision.

I hope this has been helpful. I do not have all the answers, but if you have specific questions or comments about the information in this article, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

(1) Java applets are small programs that, theoretically, add functionality to a web page. Usually they serve no purpose at all except to add to the webmasters "cool factor" among other webmasters! Do not be taken in by the zippy tricks. Just design a pleasing site that tells your message and serves your customers.

(2) T1 is a very fast connection technology. Remember what I said about impatient customers? Any service without dedicated T1 or better, is wasting your time, and your customers time.

(3) Much more needs to be said about statistics. You will hear the term "hits" used to quantify how many people visit your site. Do not let this mislead you. Demand to be able to know how many unique individuals have seen each and every page you have on your site.     


 Char-Lez Braden has been working with telecommunications before most people ever even heard of personal computers. He has a computer science degree from Mission College, and is pursuing a Ph.D. at USC. He currently consults as an internet specialist.