Components of Your Internet Presence
Access is your ticket to viewing and communicating on the internet. Your access account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) lets you browse websites and send and receive email. Although you don't need access to have your own presence (a website), you will realistically need to communicate with the inquiries from your website and should check your business email at least twice per day. You will pay a monthly fee for access, approx. $40 for DSL.
Virtual hosting and set-up is what you will need from an ISP or hosting service to display your website materials on the internet. This is step one of the "distribution" of your website. There will generally be three price components:
Site Development. This may cost several hundred dollars to several thousand depending on the number of pages, graphic complexity, coding and programming intensity and effectiveness, interactive functionality, etc. Fees are generally one time, and work is generally best done by a website developer. Graphic artists can create websites but do not generally have the breadth of skills needed for an effective website presence.
Marketing. You may pay ongoing or one-time fees for ads/listings in other websites* or links from other websites to your own pages. You may pay fees to your developer to optimize your site and register it in search utilities (the yellow pages of the internet) and other sites from which you will want traffic, and do some of this yourself. Consider budgeting an amount for promotion for your first year equal to 0.5 or 1 X that which you spent for development of your site including the related consulting and services.
*If you do not purchase a domain name, your page or site will be part of another site, more like an ad rather than a stand-alone brochure. It will usually be included in a membership or available at a small cost. You will still likely have numerous opportunities to place ads and have pages on other sites in addition to your own website; these fall under the marketing/promotion category and consitute a more robust internet presence.
Latest Update 8/28/09
Internet opportunities continue to expand with the advent of social media. Having a presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to be in many places at one time, although posing the challenge of how you can manage all these media at the same time as serving customers IN your store or place of business.
From the above article: "...for customer service, Twitter is much more effective than Facebook. On Twitter people can easily @reply a question and they can quickly respond. On the other hand, for "rich media," including embedding videos or longer posts or responses, Facebook tends to be better. Likewise, for posting original content, their blog serves as the hub, allowing staff from various departments to share material. The company also created a nifty iPhone application with 2,000 searchable recipes and a store locator, which is a great platform for disseminating static information."
Bottom line, many companies are finding that a successful internet presence is becoming defined as more than a website and includes your presence on many other sites as well.