Having a presence on the Internet is no longer a luxury for a small business.it's a necessity. And, it's not just about having a Web site anymore. You need an online place where you can advertise, connect with your customers, collaborate with business partners, and even sell your products online. Microsoft Office Live Small Business gives you all of these features and more.
Office Live Small Business makes it easy to set up your own professional-looking Web site, complete with your own logos, images, documents, and custom site look and feel. You can manage customers and contacts, and create online workspaces to share information and collaborate with co-workers and business partners. Easy Web access to your e-mail, calendar, and contacts puts information at your fingertips when you're on the go. Online keyword-based advertising helps you market and sell your products and services to a broader audience than you might be reaching now. You can even get help in setting up your Web presence if you're too busy managing your business to set it up yourself.
In this article, we will cover a handful of key tasks that you should complete to start getting the most from your Office Live Small Business Web presence.
Get a Web address
The first step is to decide on the domain name and address for your site. When you first sign up for an Office Live Small Business account, you receive a free Office Live domain in the format <username>.<profession>.officelive.com, where <username> is your Office Live user name and <profession> is the profession or business type that you selected at sign-up.
If you prefer, you can register a unique domain name, like www.tailspintoys.com, to promote your business and create a unique online identity for your Web site. Using a unique domain name with your Office Live Small Business Web site makes your domain name stand out to your customers, and is easier for your customers and business partners to remember.
If you already own a domain name, you can redirect (also called redelegate) the domain to your Office Live Small Business Web site. Redirecting your existing domain to your new Office Live Small Business Web site lets you take advantage of the features provided by Office Live while still leveraging the advertising and promotion you've already done for your current domain name. If you want to continue to use your existing Web site, you can even integrate your Office Live Small Business site into your existing site with a different host name, such as olsb.tailspintoys.com.
You can also use multiple domains and take advantage of a regional domain name to localize your Web presence to your country or region. For example, you might use a .com domain for U.S. domestic business and a co.uk address for business in the United Kingdom. See Register a domain nameand Register a regional domain namefor detailed information that will help you choose a domain strategy. When you're ready to set up your domain, click the Get a Web address link on the Office Live Small Business Getting Started page.
Create a Web site
When you're ready to start developing your Office Live Small Business Web site, you'll find a great set of easy-to-use tools at your disposal for creating the site and fine-tuning each page. These include tools to help you define the overall look and feel of your Web site, such as the site theme, style, navigation option, color scheme, and default site font. For the entire site, you can easily modify the site header, footer, and logo that appear on each page.
You can of course also make changes to each page, such as changing the font and paragraph properties for the page's text. You can insert images, tables, and additional features and elements to your Web pages from a selection of modules that includes a slide show, stock list, form, and other elements. You can also change the overall layout, navigation order, and title of the page, as well as enter keyword and description meta tags that can help optimize the site for search engines.
The site and page design tools are easy to use, but if you want a good overview to help you get started, see Planning your Web site. For style and design tips, see First steps to a more attractive Web site. When you're ready to begin designing your site, click the Create a Business Web Site link on the Office Live Small Business Getting Started page.
Manage your contacts, opportunities, and products
It's likely that in your business, you deal with many other people regularly. Contact Manager makes it easy to manage all of your contacts, enabling you to separate them into logical groups, such as employees, customers, and vendors. You can add contacts one at a time or import them in bulk. When you have added the contacts in Office Live Small Business, you can synchronize them with Microsoft Office Outlook, making them available in Outlook as well as online.
Contact Manager does much more for you than just provide a place to store contacts. The Companies list lets you keep track of information about companies that you work with, including contact numbers, number of employees, payment status, and address. The Opportunities list helps you track potential sales of goods or services that your company offers, with information such as status, revenue figures, payment terms, key dates, and more. The Products list provides a place for you to manage the products or services that your company sells. You can add this information to the opportunities you create.
To get started using Contact Manager, begin by identifying the individual and business contacts you want to manage online. Then, either create them manually or use Microsoft Office Excel to import them in bulk. To learn more about using Contact Manager or creating and importing contacts, see Getting your information into Contact Manager.
Collaborate with others
Office Live Small Business offers some great features that enable you to collaborate with others. You can share documents with a document library that tracks the versions of your documents as they are edited. Wiki workspaces and blogs let you share information in a more free-form way. Workspaces provide a place to share calendars, announcements, links, documents, tasks, and discussion lists with your co-workers or customers. Other business applications in Office Live Small Business, such as Project Manager and Time Manager, enable you to collaborate with others on shared tasks and manage schedules resources.
Spend some time experimenting with the collaboration features included with Office Live Small Business to understand their benefit. When you've picked the ones that will remain a part of your site, your next step is to identify which co-workers and customers can access each area, and the roles you want them to have. Then, you can begin adding those users and assigning the appropriate roles. To learn more about how to add users, see Add, modify, or remove user accounts and permissions.
Note: Your Office Live Small Business account includes five user accounts, but you can purchase additional user accounts as needed.
Whether you sell products, services, or both, the capability to sell online broadens your market to a vast number of customers. Store Manager makes it easy to set up an online store, add products and services, set up payment methods, and start selling your products to that critical market. You can even sell your products on eBay through Store Manager, further expanding your potential customer base.
Selling online successfully requires good planning. To get started, identify all of the products and services that you intend to sell, determine tax requirements, define your store policies (for example, for refunds and returns), and create product categories to help your customers find specific products more easily. When you're ready to start setting up your store, see Getting started with Store Manager.
Set up e-mail
No Web presence is complete without e-mail, and it's a safe bet that you'll need more than one e-mail account for your business. For example, you'll likely want an account for each of your company's employees, one for billing, one for information requests, one for support, and so on. Office Live Mail lets you create and manage these e-mail accounts, access the accounts from a Web browser, and even access your Office Live Mail accounts from Microsoft Office Outlook.
Your first step should be to decide how many accounts you will need and what the address will be for each account. Then, you can begin creating the accounts. To learn more, see Use e-mail to manage and grow your business.
A powerful tool to transform your business
Office Live Small Business places an incredible range of features and capabilities at your disposal to help you not only put your business online, but also manage your marketing efforts; collaborate with employees, vendors, and customers; extend your sales opportunities to the global market; and even sell your products and services online. You'll also find additional features not covered in this article, such as business applications for managing jobs and hiring, tracking company assets and employee expenses, providing customer support, tracking quotes and orders, and more.
Even if you don't take advantage of its sales or business management features, the combination of collaboration tools and easy access to your business information online makes Office Live Small Business a powerful tool for transforming the way you do business. Best of all, because it is so easy to set up and use, you can put all of Office Live Small Business' power to work for you with no specialized training, and in many situations, with a relatively small amount of investment of your time.