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JUNE2, 1997

F
OCUS: NATIONALSMALLBUSINESSWEEK


Owners Of Small Business Need Some Information Before Setting Up On Web

David Yochum


Here are10 questions to ask yourself before you establish a presence on the World Wide Web:


Is there a particular advantage to selling my product on the Web?


There ought to be. There's no great reason for anyone to buy an easy-to-get perishable like

milk, for example, on the Web because it's so easy to pick up a jug at Piggly Wiggly or the

Exxon mart.


Take a look at http://www.amazon.com, the Web booksellers. They have 2.5 million books "in

stock"--more than 10 ordinary bookstores put together. It's easier to browse their shelves

than it is to drive to the mall, park and shop in a traditional bookstore. Convenient search

functions direct you to works by the same author and similar subjects.


What makes a successful Web site?


Two things: Lots of fresh, valuable information and ease of use. A page that has not been updated

for three months--
http://www.llbean.comhad Christmas information online until March--

will do incalculable damage: Busy Web-sters won't visit a stale site three times. Update at least

monthly, without fail. Weekly is better. Customers of a small business typically won't expect

daily updates.


And where do I get this "fresh, valuable" information?


That's the hard part. A small-business Web site should put customers first. Think about what

customers want: service information, news about your product line, pricing and product

specifications, and even advice. A question-and-answer session with customers hosted by

http://www.investorama.comhas been a big hit. You can put up all your news releases. If you've

written a technical article for a trade publication or your profession's scholarly journal, put it

up like they did at
http://www.lightningeliminators.com.


What about links to other sites?


Links function as an exit from your site and an entrance to someone else's. Do you want to show a

customer the door? Consider link options carefully before picking one. The innkeepers at cozy

Archway Bed and Breakfast in Trumansburg, N.Y.,
http://www.fingerlakes.net/archway/have

links to Ithaca College and Cornell University on their pages which, of course, have maps and

rates, plus photos of the old homestead. One of their links is

http://www.fingerlakes.net/which has links to Upstate New York wineries. It works.