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A Different View

With small businesses feeling the pressure to cash in on e-commerce, thousands of Web-site designers are standing on the sidelines, just waiting to jump in and offer their services. Many of them may as well be seated in the bleachers, however.

With small businesses feeling the pressure to cash in on e-commerce, thousands of Web-site designers are standing on the sidelines, just waiting to jump in and offer their services. Many of them may as well be seated in the bleachers, however.

Broadly speaking, Web-site design firms are staffed by people with technological expertise rather than business savvy. And, the fact is, most small businesses care about technology only as far as it helps them to get the job done. Developers must consider the sales and marketing needs of small businesses, understand the differences between features and benefits, and learn to incorporate unique tools and services into their clients' Web sites.

For example, take a small business that sells a tangible product. Doesn't it make sense to build a Web site that allows the business to ship that product overseas? The business owner must be able to set up shipping methods and pricing schemes for different regions. It's not uncommon for Internet retailers to ship 20 percent to 25 percent of their products overseas, yet more than 95 percent of small-business e-commerce systems do not allow international shipping. Frankly, that epitomizes the state of the Web-design and -development business today: half-baked tools created by companies that aren't thinking from the small-business viewpoint.

Another issue is affiliate programs. Larger, more established dot-coms know such programs are powerful marketing tools. But most small businesses have not gotten the message, and, those that have, mistakenly be lieve they're difficult and expensive to set up. It's up to the Web developer to explain in sales-focused terms how an affiliate program requires minimal ef fort and could result in increased revenue.

To build strong client relationships and uncover new sources of revenue, Web designers must realize that there's more to helping a small company profit online than simply creating Web pages. By stepping into the shoes of small-business owners, they'll be able to run a full-court press and score big-time profits.

Peter Kent is founder of BizBlast.com, an e-business service provider that helps small businesses create, market and maintain on line stores. Contact him at Peter@BizBlast.com.