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Online start-ups for offline businesses
16th December 2010

Evolution

Discover the benefits of establishing a strong online presence

A large percentage of domain name leasing enquiries come from offline companies looking to enhance their business via a digital media platform. This is no surprise; forward-thinking businesses are increasingly moving away from static and non-interactive corporate websites in order to exploit the opportunities presented by social media and benefit from the expansion of the e-commerce sector. In addition to simply using sites to facilitate purchasing or deliver basic company information, there is significant money to be made in many areas peripheral to traditional sales including affiliate marketing, directories, tutorial subscriptions, membership sites, internet dating and the burgeoning field of advertising.

Although going online can be daunting for business owners used to more traditional business models, adding a cohesive and interactive online presence serves to capitalise upon existing successes and present companies to a broader and more diverse audience. The perception of internet users as a vast, faceless mass is crumbling fast under the onslaught of sophisticated visitor tracking systems and web analytics. Not only is it possible to accurately pinpoint the key demographics of site visitors, but targeted marketing can ensure that advertising banners on affiliate sites always show relevant content. This fluidity and flexibility can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but it provides an unprecedented level of customisability in advertising products and businesses and interacting with potential clients.

This interactive element is a much-publicised benefit of online business; while print advertising must focus on just one or two key demographics per ad, online technologies can ensure that content rotates or changes to best fit the needs of any one site visitor. Furthermore, coupling this dynamic advertising with an active array of social networks can give a company the impression of being approachable and engaged with its client base, harnessing the power of emotional appeal. Even the most conservative of companies can use a website like an online calling card, delivering contact information and reserving an appropriate domain name to ensure that future expansion is possible if needed.

While the technology behind some of these fascinating new tools can be complex, developers and designers are increasingly ensuring that their products are easy to set up and customise. In contrast to the early days of the internet, starting up a website and expanding into social networking is frequently far simpler than many companies imagine. There is a wealth of cheap and sometimes even free solutions available for the small business owner, from which a site designer can put together a professional and affordable solution. Google have been quick to tap this market, providing a huge range of applications and analytical tools to help pull an online development together and track its impact and site traffic. Many blog and editorial pages, including the one you are currently reading, are created using the customisable and open-source blogging giant WordPress. Absolute beginners can get a handle on the technological jargon with this glossary from Startups.co.uk.

As technology and business opportunities have developed, support industries such as public relations have quickly moved to incorporate new strategies into their arsenal. A well-planned discussion with a PR agency about the possibility of moving into the online world and networking there can provide valuable information about how best to maintain a cohesive brand identity and adapt existing marketing and networking strategies to take full advantage of the interconnectedness and quick communication which the internet offers. With low start-up costs and very little training required to maintain a website once it is set up, there are ever fewer barriers to effective business internet use, and no reason to stick with purely offline business strategies when the rewards which can be reaped from the internet are so great.