Even the smallest of businesses can cruise the information superhighway into the global marketplace. Ask Ann Giard-Chase, owner of Joan & Annie's Brownies in Williston, Vermont, who began selling brownies in 1988 from a pushcart at fairs and festivals and then entered the wholesale market in 1990.
In 1994, trying to regain the customer intimacy lost while using wholesale distributors as middlemen, Giard-Chase created a mail order catalog and a Web site ( http://mmink.com/mmink/dossiers/jaa/brownies.html ). Now her mailing list consists of over 3,000 names, and orders for her brownies come via mail and the Internet. And relations with customers have never been better. "At the carts, when the customers got the brownies, you could see the smiles on their faces," she says. Now she sees their "smiles" through their enthusiastic e-mail responses.
With an estimated 30 million users, the Internet provides a cost-effective marketing tool--especially for businesses that construct their own sites. A site on the Web serves a multitude of purposes: It fosters better communication with your customers; it increases your business's visibility; it offers your goods and services to a global market--and it can do all this quickly. "A Web site can relay information in a way that's faster, more timely and more accurate than any other medium today," says Don Middleberg, CEO of Middleberg & Associates, a New York City-based public relations agency that specializes in Internet communication.