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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the February 26, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
In an interview just about one year ago Ilise (Lisa)
Benun, a marketing consultant with a specialty in Internet self-promotion,
said "some industries are behind in using the Internet, while
others already consider it a given." Now, in her opinion, "every
business needs a website."
Internet companies may be down or sinking, technology spending may
be a ghost of its former self, but consumer use of the Internet keeps
growing. Last year Benun said that businesses with a technology product
needed to have an Internet presence, and suggested that a website
was a good idea for businesses selling things "you have to see
The bar has been raised.
Benun (found online at www.artofselfpromotion.com) is finding that
no business owner now feels comfortable owning up to the lack of a
website. Everyone casually asks: What’s your URL? No one wants to
admit to not having one. "They get sheepish," she says. "They
say `it’s not up yet.’"
Benun gives a free talk on "Is Your Website User Friendly?"
at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, March 4, at 6:30 p.m.
Benun, a graduate of Tufts (Class of 1984), founded her business in
Hoboken in 1988. Before that she was employed as director of operations
for a Kenyan safari company. When she was fired by the safari operator
she vowed never to be an employee again, a promise she has kept. She
started out as an entrepreneur by becoming a professional organizer,
helping the disorganized get their paperwork under control. In sifting
through piles of paper, she soon noticed a commonality in her clients’
clutter. Tasks having to do with self-promotion tended to languish
in notes at the bottom of the pile. Marketing, it appears, is no one’s
idea of fun.
Recognizing the importance of getting the word out, Benun began to
specialize in marketing, first in the portion of the universe we now
refer to as "offline."
When the Internet began to ripen, she added online self-promotion
to her areas of expertise. She is the author of Self-Promotion Online
and her new book, Designing Websites for Every Audience, has just
Her insights into websites for small businesses include the following:
Know your customer. This old "offline" idea is vital to online
success. Conduct surveys, look at the communities in which you do
business, and figure out just who might be likely to buy your products
or services. There are a number of ways to find out who is visiting
your website, but that is not all you need to know. You need a profile
of the person — or company — most likely to be in the market
for what you are selling.
newsletter online and your customers are commuters, think about providing
printer-friendly copy they can take on the train. If you sell reading
glasses or retirement in the Arizona sun, make sure the typefaces
used on the website are good and big.
the Internet into an Everyman tool are only a scant decade old, but
already there are standard ways of doing things. Web designers may
want to erase the underlining beneath links, but, says Benun, think
twice before allowing them to replace it with something more esthetically
pleasing. Already, surfers look for the lines (usually blue) that
signal a link. Take it away, and they may go away unsatisfied.
Think about connections. The broadband revolution has
not yet reached much of the globe, or even blanketed upscale North
American communities. Be aware that your customers may still be dialing
up. This means slow downloads, and a concomitant need to keep graphics
owners to lay out everything they have on their homepage. However,
most surfers come looking for just one or two things. Put the really
important items front and center, and move the rest of your offerings
to subsequent pages, reached via homepage links.
website now costs. "You can get a website for $1,000," she
says. "And you can get the same website for $5,000."
She proposes that small business owners decide how much they can afford
to spend, and then approach several website designers with that figure.
Ask each what he can give you for the amount you have budgeted. If
a website need only do a modest job — perhaps provide directions,
contact information, and operating hours — a low-cost Internet
set-up kit could be the answer. Benun says even one of the free websites
offered by some Internet service providers, including American Online,
could be a solution. At this point, she says, even one of these barebones
packages "is better than nothing."
a business card that lists no URL at all.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
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