Spinning a Web: Business sites crucial in today's business climate

Thursday, April 20, 2006
Tom Kelsey checked his Web site for Lorimont Place Ltd. which he keeps updated from his office. (Fred Lynch)

Business owners are finding that having a Web site makes it possible to reach a wider range of possible customers.

Chris Edmonds, president of Element 74 in Cape Girardeau, has designed sites for area businesses, as well as his company's own Web site that shows what is possible to create a web presence.

"Our goal was to develop professional web site that would tell our story, show examples of our work and let prospective customers know what sets us apart from other web design companies," Edmonds said.

Edmonds will lead a discussion on creating a web presence at noon April 18 at the Innovation Center at 920 Broadway, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Edmonds said he will show business leaders what's available to them in terms of graphics, textual content, audio, video, navigation, content management and dynamic interaction.

A web site reaches so many more people than other forms of marketing; it is available to a global audience 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"It's surprising that people look at it in the wee hours of the morning," said Tom Kelsey, owner of Lorimont Place, a commercial real estate business.

Kelsey said his web site has developed from just listing what properties are available to having downloadable marketing sheets, links to business news in the region, and a popular feature that shows what commercial property is being leased or has been sold so that potential clients can compare prices.

"The web site has evolved into something more and more useful," Kelsey said. "It has become a little more sophisticated for users.

"I call it our outreach program. In our business, 90 percent of what we do is marketing. There are buyers and tenants out there for every property. This is more than just posting a sign out on the property."

Cindy Berry, owner of Meals in Thyme in Cape Girardeau says she can't imagine doing business without the web site Element 74 created for her.

"It's key," she said.

Berry not only posts the availability of each month's menu for her meals-to-go business, customers can order her products using the site. Not only that, she said, "You can read the newsletter, schedule a session, see what specials are being offered, and get information about our business, learn how our business actually works."

For Jerry and Joannie smith, owners of River Ridge Winery in Commerce, Mo., the web site is a major way to communicate with people. Jerry Smith said two types of people visit River Ridge -- people who live some distance away who have not visited before, and regular customers who live in the area who want to keep up with the weekly menu changes and keep track of the entertainment. His web site reaches both.

"They can see the pictures, see what kind of food we serve," he said. "They can see that we have live entertainment and 15.2 acres of hiking area. They know what to expect. We get people down here who otherwise just might not know about us."

All of the business owner say they use their web site in conjunction with other advertising methods as a way of taking advantage of every possible marketing strategy. Smith said he often asks customers how they found River Ridge.

"Sometimes they see a sign out on the interstate," Smith said. "Sometimes they see the web site."

A web site can provide resources and information that allow a business's employees to be more productive and reduce labor costs, Edmonds said. The concept is constantly evolving.

"The use of video is probably the latest trend in the industry to gain the most attention," he said. "As high speed Internet connections become the norm, you will continue to see amazing development in this area."

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