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Cloud Marketing and Image

By Sonjui L. Kumar Email By Sonjui L. Kumar
August 2011
Cloud Marketing and Image Most businesses have a website and some online activity. However, very few are leveraging the vast opportunities that may be available to them. Most companies have an established website, but have you done anything lately to make your site more effective? Marketing to a worldwide audience, streamlining customer service, providing 24/7 connections, and centralizing company information are just a few of the benefits that a company can derive from a more vibrant internet presence. Beware that stagnant or stale information on your site may send an inadvertent message that you are not growing or keeping up with others in your industry. A website is the first place a new client, vendor or employee will visit, so it’s important that their first impression be favorable. A memorable and up-to-date website is the first key to your online image.

To access more customers, the internet can provide a level playing field for new or smaller businesses. The opportunities available are unlimited. Forrester Research reported that e-commerce sales exceeded $75 billion last year. While many western economies are faltering, savvy U.S. entrepreneurs are marketing their services and products overseas. The web provides a way to deliver without expending the resources that may have been necessary just a few years ago. Similarly, local businesses are able to expand regionally or within a city without additional capital expenditures or people. From your local florist to the largest of computer manufacturers, no business can ignore online shoppers.

Online customer service is another great use of the web for companies. Cyber assistants are now popping up regularly on computer screens just when needed, adding a human touch to every online transaction. Online help also allows businesses to provide knowledgeable assistance efficiently and cost-effectively, besides making it easier for a company to assess customer satisfaction and get immediate feedback. A number of software products are available to help you add the live-chat component to your website.

Your site can also provide constant information on your business. In the past, an occasional press release may have been sufficient. A more connected audience now demands a company to post information immediately. From handling a crisis to announcing a new product, a company can use its website to get its viewpoint out to the world quickly and on its own terms. So assigning resources to keep your website current may be more important than ever.

Access to a wider market base comes with its own issues. Businesses need to become familiar with taxes, duties and customs laws that may apply based on the origin of their customer and the destination of its products or services. International shipping triggers the need to collect more information on the order. To make your website usable to customers outside the United States, data entry fields will need to provide for longer addresses, telephone numbers, or names. If software or other regulated products are involved, export control rules may need to be navigated.

A website must also be welcoming to a more global audience. The Federal Trade Commission provides an easy checklist to see if your business is consumer-friendly for international e-commerce. Some of these guidelines include fully disclosing information about your business, your product, and your sales process. Customers, especially online ones, are increasingly concerned with their credit card and personal information being protected. So a payment processing system that makes your customers feel confident and safe when shopping online is important. Payment options need to be attractive to a more diverse group of customers. Most major credit cards, such as Visa or MasterCard, are used worldwide but depending on your market, you may need to set up alternative third party payments systems such as PayPal or regional credit card companies.

This article is just a brief overview of the opportunities and issues that arise with expanding the presence of your business online. Professional assistance may be necessary to assess your company’s needs properly.

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