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SCORE's Top E-Business Tips

Become an online star with these hot e-business tips.

5 Tips about Electronic Contracts

  1. Take note: federal law now makes electronic contracts and electronic signatures as legal and enforceable as those on paper.
  2. Consider what advantages e-contracts might have for your business. Some companies will be able to conduct their business entirely on line, often with great savings.
  3. Be aware that if you start using e-contracts, you have to let customers know whether paper contracts are available and what fees might apply for the paper agreements.
  4. Proceed with caution. The law doesn't define what an electronic signature is, and e-signature technology is still evolving.
  5. Visit this website for more information: the American Bar Association , a site that specializes in legal issues.

5 Tips for Ensuring Your Customers' Privacy

  1. Understand that protecting customers' privacy is essential to maintaining and increasing sales and profits online.
  2. Develop a privacy policy, post it on your website, and live by your policy. For guidelines, visit these websites: www.privacyalliance.org and www.privacyrights.org .
  3. Put top-notch security systems in place to make sure customer data isn't lost, misused, altered or stolen.
  4. Require that third parties with whom you deal provide similar data security.
  5. Don't provide personal information collected from customers to third parties unless you have explicit permission from the customers to do so.

5 Tips for Improving Your Website

  1. Visit the sites of other companies to find out what you like and dislike. Do some sites seem to "work" while others don't?
  2. Decide what objectives you want your site to meet. Do you want it to be fun, funny, educational, "cool," or all of those things?
  3. Consider your corporate culture and your company image. Your site should support both.
  4. Design or re-design the site to meet your objectives. Unless you have a real expert on staff, hire a consulting firm to do the job.
  5. Get feedback. Ask customers how your site can be made more useful to them, and keep making improvements.

5 Tips for Marketing Your Website

  1. Think strategically. Your website should be a part of your overall marketing plan.
  2. Choose a ebsite address (URL) that's intuitive and easy to remember. Your company's name (if it's short) or the name of your main product might work well.
  3. Put your web address on all your printed material, including business cards, letterhead, press releases and invoices. Include it in all your advertising.
  4. Don't forget offline media and traditional publicity techniques. Send news releases promoting your site to newspapers, broadcasters, and magazines.
  5. Speak at conferences and trade shows, and write informative articles for trade publications. When you do, mention your web address.

5 Tips for Getting Noticed Online

  1. Get your website listed on major search engines, such as Google or Yahoo! Two sites, Search Engine Watch at www.searchenginewatch.com and the Web Marketing Info Center at www.wilsonweb.com/webmarket , offer guidance.
  2. Join a "banner exchange," and trade advertising banners with other websites. Look under "banner exchange" on search engines.
  3. Visit sites similar to or related to yours and offer to exchange links with them.
  4. Write useful articles for other sites and include your web address.
  5. Get more online marketing help from such sites as www.zdnet.com/eweek/ , workz.com and www.bcentral.com .

5 Tips on Getting Closer to Customers with Technology

  1. Use your website to build solid, trusting relationships with customers. Trust helps bring customers back.
  2. Enhance communication with customers. Some small business CEOs put their e-mail address on the company website so customers can contact them directly.
  3. Don't forget the basics: Post your company's address and phone number on your website.
  4. Remember that the internet is educating your customers and making them smarter buyers. Keep pace with their knowledge.
  5. Respond to e-mails promptly.

5 Tips for Managing Virtual Relationships

  1. Make sure you're up to speed. Good hardware, software and training are the tools you need to make virtual relationships work.
  2. Structure your workday so information can be easily shared, discussed and exchanged.
  3. Don't let the technology get in the way. If e-mail technology isn't working, quickly default to the phone or a letter.
  4. Remember, people do business with people--not machines. Always keep up with your networking contacts.
  5. You'll need another set of skills when you use nontraditional means to communicate: writing must be concise and thoughts must be closely linked.

5 Tips on Meeting the Demand for Speed

  1. Realize that the swiftest competitor, not necessarily the smartest, is often the winner in today's marketplace. Speed is increasingly of the essence, no matter what business you're in.
  2. Respond to sales leads quickly. One small business requires staff members to follow up within the hour, by e-mail, fax or phone.
  3. Get comfortable with rapid, strategic decision-making. Five-year planning horizons are out the window.
  4. Compress your timetables. One internet startup rolled out its expansion efforts in a reduced-time span of 45 days instead of the originally planned year, beating out competitors.
  5. Make speed a part of your corporate culture. Reward employees' swiftness with stock options, bonuses or other perks.

5 Tips on Running a Website

  1. Find ways to attract customers. Link up with a variety of search engines so when potential customers are searching for your product, they'll find your company listed.
  2. Make it easy for people to "navigate" your site. Hire a good website designer.
  3. Help customers trust you. Provide information on the company's history, mission, and values.
  4. Enable customers to get in touch with you easily--via e-mail, phone and regular mail--and respond promptly.
  5. Provide top customer service along with the speed and good prices technology offers. Think about how you'll keep customers coming back.

5 Tips for Taking Your Small Business Online

  1. Your product line should be able to be delivered economically and conveniently through the mail or over the internet.
  2. The web allows you to market to customers outside your geographical location. Your product should appeal to people nation--or--continent-wide.
  3. Compare new "technology" costs to current bricks and mortar costs, e.g: rent, labor, inventory and printing costs.
  4. Realize that the internet levels the playing ground--you can look like a big company with a great website.
  5. Draw visitors to your site cheaply. Establish and grow alliances that'll hotlink to your site for free.

5 Tips to See Whether Your Website Is Up to Snuff

  1. Simple, clear and fast--think of your homepage as a billboard. Tell them exactly what they need to know up front.
  2. Leave plenty of white space around text. A simple font on a light background works best. Separate wide blocks of text into columns.
  3. Sub-headings make for quick reading. Make sure pages are easily skimmed.
  4. Let your best customers sing your praises. Display their testimonials prominently on your site.
  5. After each update, click through your entire site. Mistakes or broken links will only send visitors away.

Brought to you by SCORE , "Counselors to America's Small Business."

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