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Vol. 1 issue #15 Jun 05, 2002

 

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So you want to start a web business -
well let me tell you something....... Part II

2002  John Bubula


Continued from Part I

Website set-up and design

A big and expensive decision we had to make was on a web site.  All three of us have purchased merchandise over the Internet.  So we were familiar with sites that offered merchandise for sale. 
As we surfed the net, we wrote down things we liked about different sites we used and the URLs so the web designer could look at them as an example.  Our next step was to roughly draw on paper what we thought our site should look like.  My next step was to look at canned web site creation programs to see if I could do this myself.
 
Truthfully, it would have cost us about $500.00 for the software and I am sure I would have been in over my head.  Kim had a friend that was a programmer and he said he would help us and create the web site.  He came over and got all our information and said we would have it in a month.  Well a month came and went and no web site. 
We were getting a little upset because we wanted to hit the Christmas season.  Finally, after two months we decided to get a professional. 
I went on-line and searched on web site designers. 
A free service came up that required me to put in my desired information about our web site and it would recommend a web designer for us.  We also looked in our telephone book for local web site designers and contacted several of them.  Based on our requirements, they all submitted a proposal to create our web site.  We talked to each of them on the telephone and decided to go with the firm that the on-line search site recommended.  Let me tell you, it was the best decision we made.  They recommended a small firm based in Chicago called www.evolvedsites.com.  The owner is Siobhan Tobin and she is absolutely wonderful to work with.  They are very professional, responsive, and will take the time to explain things to novice people like us about how the web site works.  I would highly recommend that company to anyone looking to build a web site.

Merchant Account and accepting payments.

Another decision that must be made is if you are going to take credit cards on your web site.  A starting point would be to ask your bank who they would recommend.  Our web site designer has a company they work with or you can look on-line and find a number of companies.  We looked on-line and asked our bank.  Be aware that some banks do not support some of these credit card clearing house software programs.  The company we use is Retriever and the credit card processor (clearing house) is Authorize.Net.  A couple of things you will learn as you investigate these companies are the fees that are levied.  With ours there was a one time application fee, fixed monthly charges of about $40.00, and a per transaction charge.  I approached dealing with these companies like I do buying a car.  I laid all my facts out for each of the companies I was looking at and haggled with the price, but remember you don't have that much leverage so be reasonable with what you are asking for as a reduction.  Also, American Express has a higher fee then VISA/MC and with Discover Card you deal directly with Discover Card.

 

 

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Website Hosting

 

The last decision to get your web site on the Internet is hosting.  You can either host the site yourself with a server, some software, a DSL line, and some technical know how for the set up and maintenance.  The other option is to have someone host your site for you, which means you rent space on someone's server and they promise to have your site up on the Internet.  They do the maintenance on the server, but probably not on the web site.  You can find hundreds of companies by searching on the Internet that offers this service.  Originally, we signed up with AT&T, but when our friend didn't come through with the web site we dropped that service.  That mistake cost us about $200.00.  We looked at other companies on the Internet, as well as, our web designer's service.  We decided to go with our web designer, www.evolvedsites.com, services because their rates are competitive and their service is excellent.

Once all of the above was completed, we went live with our web site.  I would love to tell you that as soon as we flipped the switch on our web site we were inundated with orders, but that would be a little bit of a stretch.  We were just one of many web sites floating around in cyber space.  


Marketing and Promotion

Marketing is the name of the game, but if you're like us you have big plans and a little bankroll.  My suggestion is to take it slow in the beginning.  

Search Engines

One of the first things you should do is submit your site to search engines.  This service was included in our web site design.  You should also resubmit your site every twelve weeks or so to make sure it is not dropped from the search engines. 
You can either do this yourself or you can pay a company on the Internet to do it for you.  Doing it yourself is time consuming but I'm told search engine programs are more receptive to this then the mass submissions from companies.  We have done both.  After that is done, it will take a couple of weeks for those submissions to take hold. 

Press Release

Another option is to issue a press release.  Search on-line using "press release" and many companies will come up.  We used Majon International.  I looked at samples of press releases out there and wrote my own, then submitted it to them and signed up for one of their release packages.  Our results varied.  We saw some increase in traffic on our web site. 
We received numerous e-mails and calls from Internet Shopping Malls, and Newspapers to advertise.  We received a call from a home shopping network company, which was very interesting, but would have cost us $14,000.00 for a four minute test commercial.  But best of all we received a call from The Northwest Herald newspaper that did an article on our business.  It was half a page in size and when it came out on 4/18/02, we saw a tremendous increase in traffic on our web site. 

Pay for Traffic


Another thing we have tried was to use a company called I-web-marketing, which guarantees traffic to your site.  You select the number of hits to your site for a prescribed dollar amount and submit your information with them.  Our experience with this is that we are seeing an increase in site traffic, but not the corresponding increase in sales.  Our next avenue is to put advertisements in selected print publications.

Some of the marketing avenues we haven't tried are reciprocal advertising, which means you put a link to another web site on your web site and they put your link on their web site.  We have not tried banners or pop up windows because they are pay per click advertisements and could get really expensive.  Not to mention the pop up windows are incredibly irritating.


It has been a fun, sometimes strenuous learning experience launching our web site business.  I hope some of our experiences can benefit you as you plan your own web site.  Although www.12PACKGYM.com  has only been up for a short time, we are encouraged by the response and will continue with this journey.  Remember to take things slow, have a plan, and surround yourself with positive, capable people.

--------------------------
John Bubula
CFO
12 Pack Gym, Inc.
http://www.12PACKGYM.com

 
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