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The Web Is a Wide-Open World for Small Business Start-Ups

May 11, 2009

The Web has become the world’s biggest shopping center, a 24/7 marketplace where people can shop for any product or service from anywhere.

It’s also the perfect place for entrepreneurs interested in setting up shop quickly with a minimum of capital. They can enjoy more management flexibility than their counterparts in “brick and mortar” businesses.

Of course, you still need the basics of any business—a legal structure; phones, computers, and other communications infrastructure; a bank account; budgeting, accounting, and marketing skills; etc.  But you also have the advantage of several Web-based services that can help you establish a presence on the Web.

Service providers such as Interland, Yahoo Small Business, BigStep, 1&1 and others offer simplified do-it-yourself packages that make the setup process straightforward. Even with little tech know-how, you can get a basic Web site registered, designed and online quickly for as little as $20 per month.

You’ll still need to work hard at attracting customers, just like any new business. In some ways the task is ever harder online because you are competing with millions of others doing the same thing. Make sure your Web site is listed in search engines and get more out of your listings. You’ll find help for search engine submission at SearchEngineWatch.com. This site offers submission tips, Web searching tips, search engine reviews and other resources.

Targeted ads attached to keyword search results are a great way to promote your wares. Their simplicity, low cost and popularity among small businesses have made them the main method for connecting buyers and merchants online. Business owners also like the concept because you pay only when someone clicks your ad and visits your site. Google AdWords, www.google.com/ads, is one of the leaders.

To get visitors more involved in your Web site, add surveys, guest books, auto responders and downloadable documents. Your Web host may offer some of these.  Helpful resources include: ConstantContact.com and Topica.com.

Also take advantage of the tools and services available at the Microsoft Small Business Center at www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness. The site’s Startup Center provides help with Web marketing, payment processing, online catalog creation, shopping carts, list building, banner ads and getting your Web site registered with search engines.  Articles and guidance are also available on a wide range of e-business topics and trends.

To learn more about establishing your small business, contact SCORE Lancaster “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 50 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call us at 717-397-3092 or find us online at www.scorelancaster.org.

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