The trend towards practically every business in Canada using the Internet in some fashion continues unabated. But what is business using it for these days? Internet access means more than sending and receiving emails or looking up phone numbers. With the advances in technology, companies of any size can reap major benefits that directly affect the bottom line. Here are just a few:
Online tools abound ranging from project management applications through to live online conferencing (like Primus Anytime Web Conferencing [link to www.primus.ca/en/business/voiceservices/conferencing/web-conferencing.php] that lets you share anything that resides on your computer with an audience in a controlled and secure environment). And don't forget that you can purchase products you need via the Internet.
- Keep it simple with cloud computing. If you have offsite employees or more than one location, cloud computing lets you store and instantly access all your files, no matter where you or your staff are located. In addition, using a cloud computing provider essentially offloads the headaches of running and maintaining certain IT services, so that you and your employees can focus on more productive tasks. See Cloud computing for SMEs: bandwagon or good business strategy? for more.
- Gain market intelligence. Check out the websites of your competitors to glean some ideas. Find out how they are marketing the products or services that they offer, and determine how you can do it better. You can also stay on top of trends in your industry.
- Conduct research. A vast amount of information exists online, ranging from the ability to research different products before purchasing through to helping with employee training and education needs. The time saving is enormous.
- Lower your costs. The amount of time a company saves by being online is considerable. You can save even more money by choosing the best Internet access for your business. Primus Business Services offers a portfolio of access options to meet every company's specific connectivity needs. Solutions range from Primus Business DSL (Digital Subscriber Line - Internet access via your phone lines that does not interfere with voice service) to BEX - Business Ethernet Xtended, a service that delivers high performance at a fraction of the cost of fibre, which is perfect for businesses that have extensive bandwidth needs yet require a simple, managed solution. See Small businesses and the web: A love affair that keeps growing for more.
Time to revisit your website?
Other interesting stats about small business in Canada cover website ownership. In 2007, 36% of small businesses had their own websites (compared to 91% of large businesses), seven percent of which sold goods/services online (compared to 22% of large businesses). According to Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, worldwide IP traffic will quadruple by 2015. Moreover, 30 billion pieces of content are added to Facebook per month and more than two billion videos are watched on YouTube daily.
If you don't feel that you are ready to jump into conducting e-commerce, you should at the very least ensure that your web presence is professional, allowing surfers to quickly and easily find out more about your business and its product or service offerings. The Internet levels the playing field, letting smaller firms compete with big corporations. Nothing makes a small company appear larger than a powerful, smart site that projects a professional image.
Here are a couple of tips to building a great website:
- Don't sacrifice content for design. Spend the lion's share of your resources on creating good content rather than beautiful design. Search engines and your target audience like fresh content, which will drive the performance of your site more than graphic design. Remember, the goal should be to generate business - it's not an art project.
- Include calls to action everywhere. Have one on your home page and in all e-newsletters and emails that link to landing pages that will convert visitors to leads and customers.
And if you don't have a website yet, it's not as daunting - or expensive - a prospect as it may seem. You can begin small, and build in stages from there. Primus Shared Web Hosting service, for example, includes WebWorks, which provides free templates to build a basic "starter" website. Low in cost because it is shared, at the same time the service is scalable, so it can grow with you. When you are ready to start selling online, you can seamlessly migrate to Primus Server Colocation, maintaining control over your own equipment while having 24/7 system monitoring.
Whatever your business, and regardless of its size, there are myriad opportunities to use the Internet to make your sales, marketing and day-to-day operations better, faster and stronger. Investigate your options to determine how to take your business to a new level.