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The Basics of Dot-Comming Your Business
Jeff Pasternack
Dynamic Marketing Solutions, LLC.

Six years ago if someone told you to visit them at, your only response would have been to return a blank stare. For all intensive purposes, "dotcom" just didn't exist in 1993.

Today, well, there isn't a media outlet you can turn to without hearing about the Internet. So what role does it play in your practice? Can you "dotcom" your business and make millions? Probably not. But by creating a Web site you can grow your company into the Information Age.

Who is your intended audience?

It is next to impossible to start any endeavor without knowing your target market. If your business focuses on sports equipment you will want to develop content that is valuable to sports enthusiasts like golfers. If you focus on the role of nutrition in maintaining the body's condition then you might include a free monthly newsletter to e-mail to people that publishes information along with a catalog of items on sale. The target audience determines your content.

What do you want visitors to be able to do?

The Web allows you to present information in a variety of formats including text, audio or video. Perhaps you have monthly seminars and would like for people to be able to register for it online. Maybe you wrote a book and are publishing excerpts on your site to entice a purchase. Most likely, you will want people to be able to easily find information about your business and as a result, ask for more information, schedule a meeting or make a purchase.

What can you reasonably expect from your site?

Think about your web site like an eBrochure. Just like your paper brochure, the purpose of your eBrochure is to provide information about your business to potential and existing customers. It also must be distributed in such a fashion that people can find it. If you distribute it effectively and your site has valuable information, you can expect to receive calls for more information and possibly new clients.

What should you not expect?

By applying the "Reasonable Person Standard" you can assume that you won't be issuing an IPO and retiring to Tahiti. Most Web sites do not generate money or a flood of new business, nor are they really designed to do so. However, if you offer a unique service that could attract an out-of-area client who is seeking someone with your products or skills, then your web site can attract new business. Remember, the Web is not a local community. It is global and should be treated as such.

How much does a site cost to own and build?

$70 gives you the right to a domain name for two years. You can expect a monthly fee of $20 for a company to host your site.

Some site design firms offer a basic template starting at free up to $199 provided that they host your site. You can choose from a limited selection of layouts or colors. This is great if you don't mind the limited choices and only want a basic presence.

Other firms charge $50-$200 per hour and they will utilize their creativity to build a site that reflects the look and feel of your practice. This provides you with infinitely greater flexibility and customization. It is reasonable to expect to spend about $2,500 to build an attractive site that you can easily expand or change without incurring hidden costs that template designers may charge. Of course, you should expect to spend more for interactive or database-backed sites, or for sites that have many pages and use fancy graphics.

How do you build a site?

There are many inexpensive programs you can obtain if you want to build your own site. Unless you have time to learn HTML and other programming languages, retain the services of a professional programmer.

Imagine your site is a house. Web programmers build the frame while you decorate it. The Web address (a.k.a. URL) is the front door. When someone walks in, what do they see? If they walk into a room, can they get to another or do they have to turn around and walk out? Before any design work begins, you should start with a plan that names buttons and describes the content that will be on each page. Building a site from a site map is much easier than trying to do it on the fly.

How do you market your site?

You wouldn't print a brochure without your phone number and street address. Your URL is like your phone number in that people use it to contact your site. If you have other forms of advertising you can add your URL to provide another resource for learning more about your business.

Internet marketing can be a daunting task. It can take several months to be listed on major search engines like Yahoo. While waiting for the majors to accept your listing, there are dozens of other search engines that can bring visitors to your site. You can also purchase advertisements or enter into link exchanges where you agree to let others advertise on your site in exchange for you advertising on theirs. By and large, however, most people will find your site because they found out about it offline.

How do you track visitors?

The programmer can install a program like NetTracker or WebTrends to monitor where people came from and what they saw on your site. This makes the web unique from other advertising because you can definitively track visitor activity and change your site accordingly.

Like it or not, the web is here to stay. New search engines and online malls pop up every day. The sooner you get online today, the better your positioning will be on the search engines when someone types in "Your Business, Your State."

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at