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Doing Business On The Web

Many people who have been in business long-term and still are today will admit to you that if you had told them 20, or even 10 years ago, that they would be earning a significant amount of their revenue via the Internet, and providing goods and services to people not only in parts of the United States that are thousands of miles away from their ‘brick and mortar’ location, but in foreign countries, they would have been skeptical to say the least. But, it’s the truth. Things have changed, and “doing business on the web” is a way of life even if your company only serves customers in a local service area.

And, many service contractors in the appliance and HVACR industries have adapted to customers requesting service via email, selling non-functional parts and other goods on their web site and shipping them without any phone contact whatsoever with their customer….just an Add To Cart button on their site that allows a customer to make a purchase after viewing photos, reading detailed descriptions, or watching a video.

And, there are some contractors that haven’t done an exemplary job of creating a web presence and keeping it up.

With that thought in mind, I will offer my not-so-humble opinion about what makes a good site for a service company (or any company for that matter), and what doesn’t live up to what people now just simply expect when it comes to web commerce.

Rule One: Hire somebody to build your site and maintain it. I know that there are likely hundreds or maybe even thousands of opportunities to have a site built for free or almost free….and when you see some of these sites, that’s exactly what it looks like: done for free in a couple of evenings with the help of some downloaded freeware or maybe a “Web Sites For Dummies” book. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating flashing pages and a booming audio that looks and sounds like it a Hollywood production. But I am saying that you need to do your research and take advantage of what’s out there in the way of an up-to-date system and outsourcing the job to an independent contractor.

For example, instead of using any software system, move on to what is known strictly as a content management system employing WordPress. And…this is ironic….WordPress, since it isn’t somebody’s software, is free. But, that doesn’t mean you should just grab it up and then haul off and design and build your own site. Sure, either you, or somebody in your office will want to learn something about it so you can do some of the minor changes and even some experimenting once your site is up, but the bottom line in getting what you want means that you’ll have to hire a designer.

And in the world of WordPress that means getting the word out (via the web, of course) that you are looking for someone to handle your design, and you’ll have plenty of people getting back to you. And, be ready to consider entering into an agreement without ever having a face-to-face meeting. You might get lucky and have someone pop up near you, but then again, they might be hours out of your time zone.

When it comes to hiring a web designer, there are some important (and maybe not so comfortable) things for you to consider. For example, in the world of web people, you’ll most likely have to muscle up the faith to make some kind of payment of up front. That’s just how it is. I personally would not recommend  paying the entire fee up front the first time you work with somebody, and some designers out there want you to do that. I think it’s reasonable to enter into a 50/50 agreement.

The reason I think this OK is because some of the hands-down best designers you will encounter don’t have a team of people to work on your site, or even an office you can go to, unless you’re invited into their home and down the hall to their spare bedroom. And the fact of the matter is, when you’re hiring an independent designer, they have to protect themselves just like you do. So, get used to the idea of investing a deposit in order to to get things started on your new site.

How do you decide whether or not to hire somebody? Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. In the course of doing that, you’ll find the right person for the job and the end result will be a site that has what you want for your business, and one that your customers will respond to in a positive way.

On that subject, I’ll discuss that in detail in another segment.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow