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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 2, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

In Print! What to Know About the ‘Net

Mark Feffer knows the ‘Net. Writing online content

since the mid 1980s, when he worked for Dow Jones, he founded Trenton-based

multi-media publishing company Tramp Steamer Media in 1997.

On Thursday, October 3, at 3 p.m., Feffer speaks on "Ten Steps

to an Effective Website" at a Trenton Small Business Week event

at Thomas Edison State College. Free. Call 609-394-1325. (See Business

Meetings, page 14, for listings of more events in conjunction with

Small Business week.)

Feffer’s company, with a client roster that includes AT&T, Charles

Schwab, Factiva, Merrill Lynch, Hewlett Packard, and Dow Jones, is

launching a new enterprise, a how-to newsletter called Small Business

Web Update. The company already has a few issues under its belt, and

is now spreading the word about this tool for small business.

Large corporations have whole departments devoted to optimizing the

power of the Internet. Small companies don’t, and Feffer, whose company

has done a great deal of consulting, finds they have lots of questions.

"The whole point of the newsletter," he says, "is to educate

readers so when they talk to a developer or a consultant, they know

what they’re talking about."

A surprise is that the newsletter, which is published monthly and

costs $95 a year, is a print publication. The reason? "There are

a whole lot more people who don’t like getting E-mail than do like

getting E-mail," says Feffer. He circulated a survey, and found

there were a number of people who would subscribe to a newsletter

on the Internet if it were in print, but not if it were delivered

over the Internet.

Many companies, he believes, use Internet newsletters for their own

purposes, business generation mostly, without considering what their

audience wants. His audience is telling him it wants paper, so paper

is what it is getting, although back copies of the newsletter are

available online at www.trampsteamer.com And an E-mail option will

be added soon.

Small business owners, nose to the grindstone more often than not,

have little time to figure out how to establish an Internet presence,

sell on the Internet, or use the medium as a reference tool. Yet most

of them have a nagging sense that they should be on of top Internet

developments. Small Business Web Update exists to fill the gap.

The question Feffer hears most often from small business is: How much

should my website cost? Here are answers to that and other ‘Net-based

dilemmas.

Look to print costs for guidance. "People should budget

at least what they spent on their last piece of print collateral,"

says Feffer of a ‘Net spending rule of thumb. "If you spent $10,000

for a four-color brochure, you shouldn’t be content with a $1,000

website."

While just a few years ago, there was a definite tendency to look

around the dinner table for a web designer, Feffer is seeing less

of this. "Now that the web is mainstream, people are treating

it as a business tool," he says.

That does not mean, however, that a website needs to cost a fortune.

Companies seeking only to put their hours, specialties, and contact

information online might need to spend only a fraction of $10,000

— maybe just $1,000 — for a nice-looking, functional site.

Don’t do it yourself. The first place many people go to

check out a company is the Internet. It has become the first impression.

Even a simple site requires professional design, organization, and

content. Few small business owners have the expertise to pull this

off, and all will spend a good deal of time trying. This time, in

almost all cases, would be better spent on the company’s core business.

Check references. Before hiring a web developer, ask to

see his portfolio, ask for references, and check them. A developer

who balks at providing references is raising a red flag.

Create a blueprint. Well before a website design —

or re-design — begins, the business owner needs to think through

just exactly what he needs his website to do. The process is not unlike

building a house, says Feffer. A clear idea of what the site needs

to do results in a speedy, efficient build. A muddled idea leads to

delays, cost over-runs, and possibly a tear down situation.

Don’t be intimidated. You may know zip about the Internet,

but, says Feffer, "nobody knows your business as well as you do."

Don’t let a web developer bully or rush you. Don’t let him talk you

into something that feels wrong.


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