the potential to be a national or global enterprise. For Garfield Bowen, that’s the purpose of his Website (www.promguide .com). For the past 11 years, his Jericho, New York-based business, Prom Guide Communications Ltd., has published Prom Guide, a magazine distributed free to teenagers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Bowen says his current Internet strategy is to put the publication in a position to go national. Although Prom Guide has a long, solid history in its local area, posting a Website two years ago has created a strong buzz outside of New York. “I get hits from all over the country-500 per week-from people wanting to know what we do, how we do it. It is building name recognition.”
McElroy cautions businesses with global expectations: “Opening a storefront to the world is risky for businesses that aren’t prepared for the potential influx of new activity.” There are companies whose Websites were so effective that they generated more activity than the company could handle and ran the enterprise under.
There are other risks, too. McElroy warns, “There are scams out there, businesses who make slick offers and don’t deliver, designers who don’t know what they’re doing, hosting companies with shoddy service.” To secure the best terms, exercise due diligence. Contact the International Webmasters Association (626-449-3709; www.iwanet.org). Or enlist a consultant, get references and read the fine print in your contracts.
Bowen says having his site has proven nothing but beneficial. In addition to building name recognition, it’s helped support his revenue stream. Prom Guide’s $250,000 in revenues are derived from magazine ads, an
d attendance fees and sponsorships for various special events throughout the year. Being able to broadcast event dates and promotions on his site is a great way to secure his events. “There’s no way I could afford to promote my events to all my readers if it weren’t for the Web,” Bowen says. “I use it as a billboard to advertise everything I do.” His voice mail, business cards, fliers and magazines all point readers to the Website to increase its reach.
Equally powerful is a Website’s ability to foster growth in other critical business areas. Web experts say it’s a tremendous agent for communicating with prospects, clients and employees.
It’s working for Prom Guide, according to Bowen, who says he spends less time on the phone answering routine questions. Instead, he posts answers to frequently asked questions, as well as news and current events, on his Website.
In the two years the Prom Guide site has been online, Bowen has spent less than $5,000 building, tweaking and maintaining it. He relied heavily on a designer in the beginning, but like many ambitious Web shop owners, he’s learned a lot about Web development and now does much of the site’s regular upkeep himself.
Another significant advantage that some overlook: competitive power. In the high-tech solutions arena, prospects typically ask integrators to submit proposals or bids. If you don’t have a Website, you could be out of the running.
Companies with well-executed Websites are taken