Once you've decided you need a website, your first to-do item is to make a list of possible names for your site. Then run, don't walk, to the nearest computer, log on to the internet, go to your favorite search engine and type in "domain registration." You'll find a list of companies such as www.namesecure.com, www.siteleader.com, www.nomonthly.com, www.register.com and the original www.networksolutions.com that will guide you through domain registration.
For a modest fee ($15 to $70), you can register a domain for two years. Register.com is particularly helpful because, like similar services, it tells you if the name you've chosen is taken, but it goes a step further by offering a list of alternative names that are still available. Let's say that you sell flowers and you would like to register your online name as www.flowers.com. A search shows that www.flowers.com is taken. Your next choice is www.buyflowers.com, but that's already spoken for as well. Register.com offers several alternatives, such as www.bulbousplants.com, www.flowersplant.com, www.flowerspath.com, and www.digflowers.com. From the available names, choose the one that's the easiest to spell and remember.
Once you've chosen a name, prompts on the domain registration site will guide you through a simple registration procedure. You'll generally be offered one-, two- or three-year registration packages; choose based on whether you're completely happy with the name or think you'll want to switch in a year or so.
Why is domain name registration imperative? Because more than millions of new websites are registered each year, and your potential competitors are snatching up thousands of domain names every day. Everyone wants a catchy name, so registering yours ensures that no one else can use it as long as you maintain your registration. For a small investment, you can hold your place on the internet until you launch.
With your e-commerce name established, evaluate your initial advertising and office supplies budget, which should be part of your business plan. For example, make sure you've done everything you can offline to tell people about your site before you go online, such as printing your web address on your business cards, brochures, letterhead, invoices, press releases and advertisements. Stick it on other items, too--mouse pads, T-shirts, promotional key chains and even the company van.