Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Era of Online Relationships

Online presence is a must for organizations today to promote and build up their brand and also business. Read on to know how Indian SMBs should do it.

Direct i

Some 25 years ago, a tech company called Symbolics registered the first .com domain name, marking the first time that a private company had presence on the Internet. At that time, most people had no idea what a mobile phone was in India, much less a website or an email. A quarter century later, economic reforms and tectonic changes in India have opened flood gates for consumers and consequent competition among brands. Though the fundamentals of managing relationships with various stakeholders remain the same, the contours have undergone a sea change in the digital era. The traditional media is itself witnessing a major transformation as the 'giant world wide web' envelopes the world. 2011 will be remembered in history as the era of online relationships, and Indian businesses, entrepreneurs and particularly the 15 Million SMBs operating in the Indian business-scape must adopt online brand building in their strategies and adapt to this unprecedented rise of Web 2.0.

Consider some of these statistics that substantiate the need to invest in online relationships. According to industry reports there are about '1.5 billion Internet users globally', compared to an estimated '81 million users' in India. The country is projected to become the 'third largest' globally in terms of Internet users by '2013', only behind China and US, which have 300 million+ and 200 million+ users, respectively of the Internet population. The total number of domains registered in India is only about '1.5 to 2 million', viz-viz the '190 million domains registered worldwide.' There is a huge gap here, and the potential' of growth for the domain registration industry is huge, with Indian businesses getting ready to explore a whole new business dimension in the online space.

The time is ripe for small & medium businesses and entrepreneurs with large ambitions to bring their brands alive and reach out to their consumers through optimal media. The web offers an exciting opportunity to complement high-level storytelling with product related education.

Websites: Your gateways to brand popularity

So how do we do it? For the purpose of this article, let's focus on one of the most integral and effective tool of enhancing brand presence and managing online relationships – your own website. Here's a simple guide to create your website and use it for myriad purposes -- internal communication, external sales, marketing and yes, recruitment. Here goes:

Get a friendly and memorable domain name to drive competitive advantage! : Your domain name is your gateway and reflects your personality in the online world. A friendly and memorable domain name is the essential first step that should not be ignored. The choice of your domain name is often something that is not pre-thought of, but can work wonders to eventually build your brand. A domain name that is crisp, easy to remember, resonates with people and has relevance will give you that competitive edge. For e.g. if you were a professional choreographer and were to build a website that focuses on teaching the dance form of Salsa, the domain name “learnsalsa.com” would give people an idea of what your website stands for! In other words, a domain name identifies a particular site and is the most elementary and defining tool to have a powerful online presence. Do note that once a domain name has been registered, it is no longer available. In short, What's in a name... Everything.

Select your 'host': If a builder needs to build a shopping complex, he would have to buy a space first! Similarly, to create a website, you have to buy a “Hosting service” - a type of service that allows individuals and organizations to make their own website accessible via the World Wide Web.

Design it...Yourself: Many entrepreneurs and businesses miss the bull's eye due to lack of technical knowledge involved in making a website or associated costs. A good option is the 'Do-it-Yourself' services that allow you to make your own sparkling new website in just minutes, and add your personal touch without any prior HTML or coding knowledge!

Leverage SNS for promotion: People today are increasingly getting social in the virtual world! With an array of social networking sites, people are constantly sharing personal profiles, interests, socializing with like- minded individuals. With the onslaught of social media, promotions have become so easy. Apart from opening up a fan page on your favorite networking platform, and linking your website on the same, it is essential to generate traffic on your website to drive sales queries. Next, register your webpage with credible search engines / internet directories for successful rankings for one or more popular search phrases.

Do not fill it, shut it, forget it: It's crucial to constantly monitor your website's performance in terms of bandwidth, search engine rankings, ability to generate traffic. Usually, your host provider will provide you with some of this information free of cost. You may use one of the many Analytics softwares and to ensure that you get regular traffic, you would need to invest in services like SEO. Also, it is important to secure the customer's privacy on your website. Secure your customer's identity and financial details with digital certificates that help you gain customer confidence and increase the level of security on your site.

So, go ahead and take that first crucial step in unleashing the true potential of your brand.

Author: Bhavin Turakhia, CEO and Founder of Directi and BigRock.com


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