One of the first things a retail business considers is its front window display. It is the visual hook that will entice potential customers to walk into the shop, browse through stock on the shelves and make a purchase.
These days businesses of all kinds are finding that they are making more sales to customers that have found their shop through the internet rather than on foot. It makes sense that businesses spend their attention and money proportionally on the storefront that is attracting the most sales, even if it's a virtual one.
There are two important factors in attracting online visitors. The first is the design and presentation of your website. This doesn't necessarily mean spending lots of money on a site with all the bells and whistles. It is easy and inexpensive to put together a nicely designed home page with information about what your business sells (and how that solves customer problems), where it is located and how to contact a company representative. If your business is a consultancy of some kind that might be all you need. Less effort needs to go into the web design itself than the graphical and written elements that make up the page - the logo, the selection of font and especially the text. In this case investing money on a good graphic designer and copywriter will bring better results than a good web programmer.
If you want to advertise and sell products on the website itself you will need to invest more in the mechanics. A good e-commerce engine, a secure billing system and integration with your inventory database.
In either case it is important to remember that your website is potentially a powerful marketing tool which will help form your customers' impression of your business. A cheap looking site will encourage viewers to think the products must be sharply priced - or that the service will be substandard.
Similarly, even a small business can give the impression of a sophisticated, professionally run operation if the tone and presentation is right. It can really level the playing field with bigger competitors.
The second most important factor is making sure people can find you on the infinite expanse that is the internet. The easiest way to do is to advertise on search engines so that people looking for your products will see your ad and take a look.
Just like a physical store, a company website needs to attract virtual foot traffic by appearing in the business listings and advertising in magazines and locales used by your customers.
Google and Microsoft’s Bing make this easy through their keyword-based advertising programs. It pays to think laterally about the kinds of things your customers will be looking for. The more obvious the keyword or phrase, the more the search engines are likely to charge to advertise alongside it.