Applications

What more can I do to make your company stand out and not stand in line? With over six years of designing websites, here are a few of the experiences I have picked up on:

Online Applications

Getting your website to do something as opposed to just advertise something can make a big impression on your potential customers. If everything can be done online it means you'll be doing business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Is there a better way to rid yourself of the Monday Morning Blues than to come into work to find you've been doing business over the weekend while you were away from the desk?

Some applications can be very simple. I have helped a number of private holiday cottage owners by putting price lists and availability onto their site for them. Sites take booking information and credit card details (via a secure website) so payment can be made on their own PDQ machines.

The property owners can update prices whenever they need to and mark weeks as "booked" so that visitors know the availability of the property all this over the Internet so it can be done anywhere.

The cost of adding this function is normally covered by the first couple of bookings made. Unlike big online booking agencies, I don't take a commission fee. Once the site is paid for, everything else is just profit for you.

Take a look at Canterbury Country Holidays, Newlands House, Keswick and Wood Holiday Properties to see the work that has been done.

Larger Applications

Some companies have invested more – some run their whole business through their website or encourage clients to use their website as a first point of contact.

New Generation Ski School are based in the French Alps. They have had a website based booking system since 2000. As they are based in several resorts using the Internet means that the system can be administrated in Courcheval while changes instantly appear in Val D'sere, Verbeir and their other resorts with minimal expenditure in each resort office (a PC and Internet connection is all they need).

Whilst they still take bookings in resort a large majority of their bookings are taken through their online system. This enables clients to book weeks or months before they arrive in resort (useful for the busy Christmas and school holiday periods).

The real power of the system is in the reporting that has been developed over the years. Instructor schedules are instantly available and always up-to-date so instructors can check their schedule from home or on an Internet enabled mobile phone. Also the sales team can see what products, which times and what days are most popular when it comes to booking.

Soccer Stars UK are a smaller company but use their client booking system to an even greater effect. Soccer Stars run after school clubs in Derbyshire and North Staffordshire. The sheer number of pupils this involves can overwhelm the office - particularly when chasing payments. By putting the booking system online, not only can parents book children themselves but their site also gives access to their schools to take bookings.

As with NewGen, coaches can check registers on the morning of a class, therefore saving a trip to the main office to pick up a piece of paper. Any bookings made over the weekend are also included, which might not normally be the case with the office is closed at weekends.

Providing a service, not just a product

By providing after-sales care through your website, you are providing an extra service to your customers at a fraction of the cost of telephone or on-site support. As your website is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you can provide that support whenever it is needed. It also shows potential clients that they will be looked after once they have made their purchase, giving them an extra reason to buy from you. (Remember the equation from the Vision page?)

Simply providing a Frequently Asked Questions page is a start. Think of the top ten questions your clients call you about then put the answers on your website (it doesn't take a lot to make certain areas of your site available only to clients). If you expect a lot of customer feedback you can create a discussion forum where clients can get help each from other as well as from you. Alternatively a support ticket system can be useful for both you and your clients in helping to track problems.

Using the Internet within your own business

Companies looking to cut costs can start be developing an Intranet within their organisation. Strictly speaking, an Intranet is a mini version of the Internet (it uses the same technology) but based on a server housed within the organisation. There is nothing to stop companies developing a password protected area on their website to perform the same function, meaning people on different sites, working from home or working on site (via mobile phones) can access the information that they require.

There are huge possibilities with an Intranet, so contact me to find out exactly what can be achieved.

Social Media

The Internet now gives businesses the opportunity to promote themselves away from their own website. ‘Social Networking’ allows companies to interact with their clients as never before, therefore enabling the client to give feedback in a far more timely fashion.

The real power in these sites is in the way they link together. By posting a "Tweet" on Twitter for instance and it can instantly appear in your Facebook page or on your blog.

There are many social networking sites (and more arriving all the time) and there are many ways that you can get yourself noticed away from your own website. As well as designing your website, Trembirth Design can provide advice on using these sites to help you get more business.

Facebook

Find us on Facebook

Whilst 350 million people have profiles on Facebook, more and more companies are adding themselves to this list. Having a Facebook business page lets you let your clients know what's going on. Your clients can then post comments (good and bad) enabling you to show that you really care about your work and care as much about your clients by responding to their comments.

Twitter

Follow trembirthdesign on Twitter

Twitter has the Marmite factor; people either love it or hate it! Twitter can be seen as either a superb way of getting simple messages across very quickly or it's that place where celebrities go to post their inane ramblings. In truth, it's a bit of both. If you're a business that is in a constantly changing market then you should really be looking to have a Twitter account.

Blogs

Blogs are your journal. They show your customers the day-to-day activities about what you are up to and how the outside world might be affecting your company. If the latest news headlines affect your business, how should your clients react and how can you help them? Blogs don't have to be just text, they can be video and audio too. The technology to make a big impression has never been so readily available and so easy to use.

LinkedIn

View my profile on LinkedIn

Linkedin is, in essence, a business version of Facebook. But more than just letting fellow professionals know what you are up to, you can find businesses to work with through connections with your colleagues and friends. Whilst it's not a way to gain consumers, it's a great way of finding who knows the business people you are looking for.

Domain Name

.co.uk domain names cost £10 per year. As well as getting your company name, why not register something that your company does or something that defines your company? The domain would be linked to your main domain name so any e-mails that went to someone@the-alternative-domain.co.uk would automatically go to someone@the-original-domain.co.uk without any setup on your part. This also works if you want to register the same .com domain as the .co.uk domain (though .com domains cost £25 per year).

For example, Breast Feeding Support and Education Services provide useful information to new mothers but it's not a name that is instantly memorable so we looked into what their company did - helped new mothers to feed their babies - and registered www.feedingbaby.co.uk; a domain name that is easy to remember and reminds people exactly what the company does.