SCORE's Top E-Business Tips
5 Tips about Electronic Contracts
- Take note: federal law now makes electronic contracts and electronic signatures as legal and enforceable as those on paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- Proceed with caution. The law doesn't define what an electronic signature is, and e-signature technology is still evolving.
- Visit this website for more information: the American Bar Association , a site that specializes in legal issues.
5 Tips for Ensuring Your Customers' Privacy
- Understand that protecting customers' privacy is essential to maintaining and increasing sales and profits online.
- Put top-notch security systems in place to make sure customer data isn't lost, misused, altered or stolen.
- Require that third parties with whom you deal provide similar data security.
- 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
- Visit the sites of other companies to find out what you like and dislike. Do some sites seem to "work" while others don't?
- Decide what objectives you want your site to meet. Do you want it to be fun, funny, educational, "cool," or all of those things?
- Consider your corporate culture and your company image. Your site should support both.
- 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.
- Get feedback. Ask customers how your site can be made more useful to them, and keep making improvements.
5 Tips for Marketing Your Website
- Think strategically. Your website should be a part of your overall marketing plan.
- 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.
- Put your web address on all your printed material, including business cards, letterhead, press releases and invoices. Include it in all your advertising.
- Don't forget offline media and traditional publicity techniques. Send news releases promoting your site to newspapers, broadcasters, and magazines.
- 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
- 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.
- Join a "banner exchange," and trade advertising banners with other websites. Look under "banner exchange" on search engines.
- Visit sites similar to or related to yours and offer to exchange links with them.
- Write useful articles for other sites and include your web address.
- 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
- Use your website to build solid, trusting relationships with customers. Trust helps bring customers back.
- Enhance communication with customers. Some small business CEOs put their e-mail address on the company website so customers can contact them directly.
- Don't forget the basics: Post your company's address and phone number on your website.
- Remember that the internet is educating your customers and making them smarter buyers. Keep pace with their knowledge.
- Respond to e-mails promptly.
5 Tips for Managing Virtual Relationships
- Make sure you're up to speed. Good hardware, software and training are the tools you need to make virtual relationships work.
- Structure your workday so information can be easily shared, discussed and exchanged.
- Don't let the technology get in the way. If e-mail technology isn't working, quickly default to the phone or a letter.
- Remember, people do business with people--not machines. Always keep up with your networking contacts.
- 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
- 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.
- Respond to sales leads quickly. One small business requires staff members to follow up within the hour, by e-mail, fax or phone.
- Get comfortable with rapid, strategic decision-making. Five-year planning horizons are out the window.
- 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.
- Make speed a part of your corporate culture. Reward employees' swiftness with stock options, bonuses or other perks.
5 Tips on Running a Website
- 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.
- Make it easy for people to "navigate" your site. Hire a good website designer.
- Help customers trust you. Provide information on the company's history, mission, and values.
- Enable customers to get in touch with you easily--via e-mail, phone and regular mail--and respond promptly.
- 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
- Your product line should be able to be delivered economically and conveniently through the mail or over the internet.
- The web allows you to market to customers outside your geographical location. Your product should appeal to people nation--or--continent-wide.
- Compare new "technology" costs to current bricks and mortar costs, e.g: rent, labor, inventory and printing costs.
- Realize that the internet levels the playing ground--you can look like a big company with a great website.
- 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
- Simple, clear and fast--think of your homepage as a billboard. Tell them exactly what they need to know up front.
- Leave plenty of white space around text. A simple font on a light background works best. Separate wide blocks of text into columns.
- Sub-headings make for quick reading. Make sure pages are easily skimmed.
- Let your best customers sing your praises. Display their testimonials prominently on your site.
- 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."