Branding The Ball – Going Online

I’ve read various articles in the last few years touting the importance of having a “web presence”.  One online marketing expert suggests that all of your marketing efforts point your customers first to your website.  There they should be able to easily learn all about you and your products in a self-serve fashion.  Educate your customers before they call you and you will be more efficient with your marketing efforts.  In fact, they may not even need to call you.  My experience is that every company uses the web in a different way and I have yet to close a sale without a few phone conversations (and often a face-to-face visit).  God made us to need each other (remember the Love your Neighbor command?) and most people just like to talk to other people.

That being said, a website is an easy way to get the ball rolling when it comes to communicating with people, assuming your target audience is “online”.  Since the product I am trying to market is really nothing more than a story (How to Make a BoogerBall), and my target audience is curious people like you, I really need a dedicated website to make it available to the public.  As a product development consultant, I’ve developed a few websites in my career (printncut.com, daleblanshan.com, samuelschutz.com, jasondionne.com, larishconstruction.com, mattwhit.com, etc.).  Most of my potential customers know they want a website but don’t always know what’s involved to have one, so here’s a bit of info about actually owning a website.

Some background first:  The Internet is nothing more than thousands of computers all over the world all connected to each other in one big network.  A website is nothing more than a small clump of files stored on one of those “web server” computers.  When someone types your website address into their browser, their computer sends out a request into the Internet.  The first stop is a Domain Name Server which has a list of all of the domain names (www.averyswellidea.com is a domain name) and the actual address of the computer where the website files are stored (67.202.70.14 is its IP address).  Then the request gets bounced all around the world until the correct location of your website files is found.  The files requested are then broken up into little chunks and sent back through the network to their computer where the chunks are reassembled and organized for viewing by the browser.  It sounds complex, but the process happens millions of times a day and is actually very efficient.

With that background in mind, there are three points of investment involved in owning a website.  The first is the purchase of a domain name.  This is usually an annual fee situation where you pay to reserve and use the name you want for your website.  There are many companies that sell domain names, Network Solutions being the most well known.  I use a service called NamesDirect.com because I happened to buy my first domain name from them several years ago.  I’ve been pleased with their service so I’m still a loyal customer.  I did a domain name search and found BoogerBall.com was available.  So, I purchased BoogerBall.com, BoogerBall.net and BoogerBall.org.  Buying the 3 most common names assures me that if I pursue using the Internet to market this product, there will not be a competitor that will use the same name to hinder my marketing activities.  I recommend this strategy to all of my customers as the cost is minimal, but having the name secured can be priceless.

The second point of investment in the process of owning a website is web server hosting.  You need to rent some space on one of the thousands of web server computers out there.  This is usually a monthly fee commitment that varies widely depending upon all of the features you need.  Of course, if you plan to have a big, security intensive website, or if you don’t play nice with others, you will probably want your own server.  BoogerBall.com will probably never need its own server.  I rent space from Steadfast Networks which has proven to be an excellent host and has made it so I can host sites for my customers (all of the sites mentioned above are hosted by my company).

The third point of investment for owning a website is in the actual design and maintenance of the site.  This can be a one-time, flat fee or a perpetual monthly expense.  It all depends upon your level of expertise, the complexity of what you need and what you are willing to pay.  I’m not an expert but I have learned that for my customers, creating a blog website powered by WordPress has been the best balance of cost versus capability versus self maintainability.  I can build it and they can maintain it, both with relative ease and aesthetic excellence.  You will notice that most of the sites listed above are powered by WordPress.  That is how the latest version of averyswellidea.com was developed.  So BoogerBall.com will become a WordPress blog site and that is a story for a future post.  -Amos

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Friday, May 21st, 2010 Product Development