The Internet, particularly in its graphic interface known as the World Wide Web, is probably the most important communication vehicle developed since the telephone. And more importantly for the small business, the Web levels the playing field between small business and big business.
Let's look at the variety of commercial uses for the Internet:
* The Web is the newest medium for advertising. It offers significant advantages over traditional advertising media in that it is dynamic, interactive and inexpensive. The Internet is making it possible for small- to medium-sized businesses to compete with the big guys. Of course, as the Web matures, advertising rates for the most popular sites will increase. Advertising is not the only way to make your business known via the Web. Search engines are another powerful and low cost way to increase awareness of your products and services.
* The Web is an important customer service tool. Did you throw away the TV guide this week? You can check out your local TV station's Web page for its weekly schedule or the network specials this week. Have you ever wanted hard facts comparing natural gas to electricity? This type of information and much more is available on the web.
Soon you'll be able to schedule appliance repair times and make changes to your gas service account by sending an email, at your convenience, either during or after regular business hours. Wouldn't you rather shop for a new car from the comfort of your home, in the quiet time late at night after the kids are in bed? This is now possible in many areas of the country. The Web allows you to communicate with your customers at their convenience. Don't you want to offer this level of service to your customers?
* Network connectivity makes it possible for you to hook up your local area network (LAN) directly to the Internet. Who wants to do that? Lots of companies! For example, a wide area network (WAN) connection offers multiple simultaneous connections through a dedicated data line at a tremendous savings over individual modems and standard telephone lines. This makes your existing internal email addresses work as Internet email addresses. It also allows you to set up your own Web server with your own domain name, to provide volumes of information to existing and potential new customers, and to take orders on-line.
Source: U.S. Small Business Administration