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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizSuccessTeam. To read more from Sandra, visit her blog.

Every business can use an online presence, whether they think so or not. Save your customers time by putting together a website that showcases your products and services. You don’t have to go e-commerce (allowing customers to purchase online), however, for heavy computer users going to a static website can be frustrating.

The world is moving toward convenience at a break-neck speed. Just look at the competitive cell phone providers who tout faster browsers and cellular technology.

Faster is the new bigger. Knowing where your industry is headed is key.

Losing business to those who offer “more convenience” is something you can count on if you don’t jump on the train now. It’s the way life is headed; one would have to be blind to ignore the fast pace of the information highway.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, e-commerce sales exceeded $194 billion in 2011. This 16.1% increase is another indication that e-commerce is taking a bigger portion of market share from brick-and-mortar establishments.

So far, the categories that are not purchased online are: Gas, groceries, autos, food and beverage services. However, if you are in an industry that is becoming more competitive online, here’s a guide to help get you started.

Half-on, half-off.

No one is recommending that you abandon your physical location, if it is working for you. There are still plenty of customers who prefer to see merchandise or deal with their professionals in person. Doing both is ideal, for the time being.

Here are the primary reasons to get your business online now:

  • To capture sales from the audience that prefers to shop from their home
  • Providing online information helps the sales effort and often allows for less trained or fewer employees on-premise
  • To reduce overhead costs; the higher the percentage of online sales, the more reason to consider smaller, physical quarters and fewer employees
  • To stay competitive

Costs for creating an online presence have been reduced substantially, making it an affordable move for everyone.

5 Key ingredients for a successful online transition:

  1. Planning: Pick a start date that gives more than enough time for development (ideally, 3-months)
  2. Selecting: Find a freelance web designer or consider using a city or industry portal, from where you can post your website. There are also a myriad of services that will create your website: some for free and others for a monthly fee or a percentage of sales. (Check out our recently launched service, Zoho Sites).
  3. Developing: Develop a Content Outline and gather photos to give to the designer.
  4. Writing: Write the text you want included or hire a copywriter to work with the designer. (It’s best if you can at least write the salient points that need to be included.) Remember to set aside an area of the website for specials or information that can be updated on a weekly or monthly basis.
  5. Testing: Test-drive it for a month before going “live”.
  6. Promoting: Promote it with a discount offer for trial usage. Get feedback from the first 100 users and make necessary changes ASAP.

It’s no longer the intimidating move of yesteryear. In today’s techno-age, a website is your calling card, which provides pertinent information about your business and its products and services.  Isn’t it time to move ahead and join the Internet ranks?