Setting up and maintaining a website isn't cheap. If your company has a website that's even slightly above the brochureware level it's probably costing you a fair sum of money each month. The good news is that a website can earn income to offset its costs, and can even become a profit spinner for your business in its own right.There are a number of ways your website can make money, some more suitable than others depending on your particular situation. For instance, unless you have millions of 'hits' each week it's hard to justify charging high rates for providing advertising or sponsorships on your site, but if you experiment with the variety of income earners that are possible you'll find you're able to cover some, if not all, of your costs.
Sell products on your website
This is the 'clicks and mortar' side of the business. Just as you'd sell products to resellers or direct to customers from your premises, you can e-tail them on the Internet - to customers as far away as the other side of the globe. Almost anything can be sold from a website if it's handled correctly. Do a search for companies in your own line of business and check how they have gone about doing it.
Set up a 'members-only' area of your site
Do you have valuable information or other content that could be placed in a separate section of your website and accessed only by those who've paid for a password? Many content based websites operate this way, and some are profitable from sales in this channel alone.
Sell advertising space on your site
You've seen them on most websites – a panel or banner of advertising from another company, sometimes in a 'popup' form. Hopefully your site visitors will be tempted to click through and maybe even buy the product – that's money for their business. Meanwhile, you charge them for advertising on your site. Even though you might not have huge numbers of visitors it may still be worthwhile approaching your suppliers and other businesses you have commercial dealings with to see if they'd purchase a modest amount of advertising space on your website.
Sell website sponsorships
This is not advertising, strictly speaking, although money does change hands for displays of other company's products or logos on a business' website. If you sell books via a website, for example, featuring a different book by a particular publisher on the same page each week can make money for you.
Charge a referral fee or commission
There are many variants of this channel, mostly depending on how electronically sophisticated your website is. The essence is that visitors to your site see something that interests them and they click on a link that takes them to another site to purchase that item. You receive a commission on the sale. In some cases you also receive a small amount simply for directing a visitor to the site.
Sell in partnership with another business
If you set up your site to acquire visitors' names and email addresses - perhaps by offering a free newsletter for example - you'll soon build up a substantial list of customers whose interests relate to the types of products you deal in. This is valuable commercial information – these are really lists of potential customers for a range of products from other businesses you could partner with as well as your own.For example, if you have a substantial database qualified by an expressed interest in pets, you can receive income through a 'partnership' with a pet food firm paying you to send information out about their products to your client list.
These are the six basic ways of using a website to create an income stream. There are others, but most businesses can use most or all of the above ways to generate revenue from their website. Do some serious 'surfing' through other websites that you regularly visit and see what they're doing to make money. If you aren't capitalising on visitors to your site perhaps you're missing out on a profitable income source.