(Originally published in KC Computer User magazine way back in 2001, and this advice is still a great start!)

What’s next for your company’s Web presence? Let’s look at the evolution of a typical business Web site and review some ideas to help your site be more successful whatever stage you’re in.

Step One: Brochureware

Most companies start their Web site based on their corporate brochure. It might have a bit of background on the company, information on products or services offered, and simple contact information. This is a good start, and many of the lessons you learned in putting together your brochure will serve you well here. A few ideas:

  • Look sharp. Work with a graphic designer with Web experience.
  • Keep user goals in mind. Provide the information your visitors want.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid “Flash” unless you’re trying to be a flashy company.
  • Be current. Keep your content up to date, and plan to revise the site quarterly.

Step Two: Marketing Goals

After having an online brochure for a while, most companies get interested in driving their online marketing goals more aggressively. One of the key challenges here is to balance user needs against your marketing goals. For example, you want to promote your new product but most of your users are looking for information on the old product line. Some goals to consider:

  • Gather leads. Give users information they value, but ask for their contact information.
  • Educate visitors. Help them evaluate products in your industry.
  • Invite users back. Send a quarterly or monthly email newsletter to users. This is absolutely key for getting users back to your site for repeat visits.

Step Three: Making Money

Marketing goals will often help your company make money indirectly, but the Web presents new opportunities to streamline processes and make real money by investing in this new way of communicating.

  • Make sales. If your products can be sold online, this might be a great time to start!
  • Work more closely with partners. A secure “extranet” enables your suppliers or regular customers to communicate with you and save you time (money).
  • Automate. Replace manual processes with automated Web-based forms and reports.
  • Improve Support. Enable customers to find support solutions online.

Step Four: Extend

Once these things are in place, evaluate new areas you need to explore. What are your competitors doing? What are your customers interested in? Where can you be a market leader? What new markets can you enter now that you’re online?

Get To It!

Your Web presence is a critical part of your business, and it is as dynamic as the rest of your business. Be aware of what you’re doing today, and plan for what you want to do tomorrow. Review your site quarterly to be sure it’s working for you, and always look for new ways to profit from the Web!