The number of small businesses establishing a Web site to promote their business increased 123 percent over the past year, according to a survey conducted by Verizon Information Services.
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<br> Of the 27 percent of businesses surveyed that reported having a Web site, 21 percent of those established the site in 2000; only 8 percent of that group did so in 1999.
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<br> The study included a random sample of 802 businesses with 50 or fewer employees at all business locations. Completed this summer, the surveys consisted of 45 questions presented on the phone by the New Jersey-based Gallup Organization.
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<br> Locally, businesses are using the Internet either to sell their products or not at all. Dave Kenne, general manager of Michael Garman Sculpture Gallery, started a Web site as a retail site.
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<br> "We’ve seen increased sales and we anticipate – soon – offsetting the investment costs to establish the site," said Kenne. Originally, the site was an informative resource for the gallery located on West Colorado Avenue.
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<br> Jensen Realty set up a Web site about six months ago to show its property located in Crystal Park, just above Manitou Springs.
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<br> "It is a very effective tool (by) producing leads from other parts of the country. It also allows a person in the real estate market to realize they can live in the mountains," said Lou Pappas, a business partner at Jensen Realty. The firm also uses print ads and in-house produced videotapes of the property to promote its business.
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<br> D. Steber, owner of Briar Rose Floral, says that she is not at a disadvantage without a Web site because she belongs to wire services and yellow page listings on the Internet.
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<br> "We don’t use the Internet yet, but it is something that we are looking into to see the feasibility and the costs for this store," Steber said.
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<br> Thomas Wood-Young of Wood-Young Consulting said the first step to developing a Web site for a small business is to create an Internet address and talk to a Web site development company. "The key is to think about it as a marketing tool," said Wood-Young.
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<br> He added that the main concern when developing a Web site is the "knowledge gap" – the gap between the technology and the marketing involved. The gap is the reason there are so many people who develop Web sites for a living, he said.
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<br> Also, business owners must make the site easy to use and consumer-friendly.
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<br> "The major benefit (of developing a Web site) is to better meet customer needs," Wood-Young said. "They also build trust between the consumer and business, expand the marketing reach, help reach more affluent consumers and business people, and allow the business to become a competitive advantage, which is critical to marketing."
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<br> Becky Baranyk, vice president of business strategy for XPanShen Marketing Communications, agreed that that the first step is to figure out the business’ objective in developing a Web site. She added that the online advertising must complement the other marketing the business is doing.
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