Online "Synergy"; Facebook, Email, Websites and Marketing

Part 1

Typically, I would advise most people to steer clear of ambiguous and pretentious words like "synergy", but for the purpose of this post, I feel that this word (borrowed from 1998 ad execs.) is pretty darn appropriate. The Internet and it's subsequent marketing contrivances have changed the way the world now does business. With careful planning, the synergy of the many optional and all-too popular social media and internet technologies can turn a remote business into a celebrated industry leader. The question is, with all the options available to today's small business owner, which new marketing avenue is the best investment of time/money?

In years past, businesses actually questioned the necessity of even having a website, much less worrying about web presence and social media. Now I find myself almost lost amid the web spiels of facebook, twitter, foursquare, blogs, email marketing, linkedin, search engines and advertisers. Obviously we have decided to try a few of these out, but with a business in such a specific niche as ours, it is hard to see the line between insufficiency and satiety. The combination of these resources can have a multiplying effect on web presence when used correctly. Well, as of right now, here is where we are at:

We have, like most businesses, decided to have a website to showcase our credentials, products and services. We have been using this site for a number of years, adding content when necessary. It was the first step for WCI that helped boost our recognition on a national level. We currently pay for our domain and hosting service, but for smaller companies just starting out, there are some great user-friendly sites (such as weebly) that will help build a website for cheap or even free. Regardless of budget, having some sort of website has become a necessity. It not only allows customers to see your information, but it speaks volumes about the credibility of your business. I have noticed that many businesses in our industry have chosen not to go this route, favoring traditional "brick and mortar" marketing and face to face interaction. Don't get me wrong; I think these have an important place in a successful modern business model, but I (and many that are smarter than I) feel that if these businesses do not adapt, they will be phased out in the future. As my generation gets older and takes over the decision making roles in businesses, we will be using our methods to find companies, make deals and advertise. We have the internet, and we aren't afraid to use it.

As a small side note, I would like to mention email accounts. I will discuss email marketing later in the post, but I would like to touch on email accounts for you or your staff. As most of you probably already know, it is very important to have an email with your domain name. This means having, for example, morgan@westcryogenics.com as your email address instead of morganwestcryo@aol.com. If you didn't already realize, having this email address is extremely important because it looks more professional, it speaks to your company's credibility, it usually gives you more control over your setting, and it is easier for customers to remember. You can get these email addresses through your domain registrar (and it is usually free with domain purchase). I have seen far too many small businesses that use personal outside hosting email addresses, and for me it just seems cheap and screams "scam alert".

I like the Weebly offer for domain and hosting. For $39.95 per year (currently, and it gets less expensive per year if you buy more than one year), you can purchase a domain, use their hosting service/super easy website builder, and you get 50 email addresses included. Many domain registrars and hosting sites charge more than that per month. And, the websites you can build aren't just one-page, times new roman, all text, awkward looking anglefire sites. You can load these babies up with video, music, flash, photo galleries, blogs, integration, analytics and much more. That being said, I did not use weebly for the West Cryogenics Site, due to the fact that we already have a hosting service through Pure Host, but I plan on transferring our site to Weebly in the near future. I did, however, build a website for another business our family has (click here to view). One more really great thing is that you can still use weebly, even if you bought your domain from someone else! My suggestion is to either completely go with Weebly for everything or use an outside domain registrar, such as GoDaddy, and then use Weebly for hosting with the Pro upgrade. Now, for those who are a bit smarter than the average sapien when it comes to code and site building, this is definitely not for you (just go ahead and keep doing your awesome, complicated thing). For small businesses like West Cryogenics, where one person may wear many hats (such as website designer, marketing rep, secretary, special order parts salesperson, and daughter all at once), this kind of set up is perfect. It's easy enough to learn on our own, but complex enough to look nice and let us control what we want.

Thoughts? Ideas? Compulsive need to type? Leave me a comment!

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