Looking for ways your business can save money? One of the best ways to cut costs can be done with something you're already using: the Internet.
Nearly every business with fewer than 100 employees that goes online buys products and services there, according to Cyber Dialogue Inc. The New York City market research firm's 1999 U.S. Small Business Internet Survey estimates nearly 900,000 small businesses placed online orders totaling $19 billion last year--up 67 percent from $11.4 billion a year earlier. "Nearly half of all online small businesses expect to save [money] by using the Internet," says Thomas E. Miller, vice president of Cyber Dialogue.
Entrepreneurs also are finding that Internet savings transcend discounts and deals. By fully utilizing Net capabilities, you can save on supplies, faxing, mailing, advertising, conducting surveys, traveling and especially time. The Net can also help cut the costs of auto insurance, fuel, and wear and tear, and reduce office- and warehouse-space needs.
Janet Attard, president of Attard Communications Inc. in Centereach, New York, takes maximum advantage of the Internet in her business, which provides Web site maintenance, content development and editorial services to business and government organizations. The independent contractors she uses are spread out nationwide, "with virtually all communication online," she says. The Internet makes it easy for her to use independent contractors, which eliminates employee-related costs such as benefits, taxes, overtime pay, payroll, insurance, office space and utilities. "The [contractors] provide their own tools, equipment and offices," she says.
Attard says programs like Net Meeting (http://www.microsoft.com/netmeeting) make it easy for you and your independent contractors or off-site staff to view documents, graphics and the like on a Web site and discuss them online.
Web sites can also slash sales expenses. In a business where customers use the Net, you can direct prospects to your Web site instead of making sales calls across town or across the country. Attard also suggests arming your Web site with a PowerPoint (http://www.microsoft.com/office/powerpoint) presentation, which allows you to do an entire sales pitch online--either live, with the prospect on the phone or on video. "You may eventually have to meet in person, but in the meantime, you've saved sales and transportation costs, as well as time and effort."
Attard offers more advice on cutting costs in her book Business Know How (Adams Media, $16.95, http://www.businessknowhow.com, 800-872-5627), due out this month.