Endless resources exist for the average dealer and integrator to build a Web site. For those that have some technical knowledge, software programs such as Microsoft Frontpage and Macromedia Dreamweaver can speed up and ease the process. These programs allow users to build Web pages through templates or coding.
For a monthly fee, Web site companies such as Citymax.com, Homestead.com and Interland.com offer customers varying levels of help such as upgrades, customer support, design and marketing help, and pre-made templates so that a company can make a simple, clean-looking, inviting Web site in no time at all. Many of these companies have free trials, as well.
So, what if you are a small company without national reach. Do you still need a Web site?
â€œThe first thing you need to understand [as a small business owner] is that you have an audience on the Web. Ninety-nine percent of people do,â€ says Darryl Parker, president of Parker Web Developers.
Web site consultants and developers agree that business owners need not get overwhelmed with the detail of the site. â€œJust about any Web site will do, but you want to be sure you are addressing what users want so they can quickly find what they need,â€ Parker says. And having the simplest of sites out on the Web can help. According to a March 2004 ACNielson and eBay survey of 400 small business owners, 43 percent report finding sales prospects online.
Seemingly simple and possibly overlooked, Parker says the No. 1 mistake he sees small business owners make with their Web sites is not having their contact information above the scroll. â€œYou want people to feel comfortable that they can bypass [the Web site] and contact you if they want,â€ he adds.
Dealers and integrators need to be prepared to invest time and money into a Web site, whether it is with their own internal resources or outsourcing the maintenance and design elsewhere. Jay Fenello, principal of Your Web Partner, a Web building and development company, says that many times small business owners put too much money into a Web site and get too little results. But, Fenello says, a company wonâ€™t be profitable unless they market their site. Dealers and integrators can get creative when marketing their Web sites, for example, by painting their Web address on company vehicles, giving customers magnets with the Web address, or adding the Web site address to their companyâ€™s documents and letterhead.
Many dealers and integrators may already have an existing Web site, but if they arenâ€™t making an investment to drive people to the site, then it is not reaching its full potential. â€œWithout a comprehensive idea of how to drive traffic to that site, Web sites tend to fail,â€ Parker says. â€œTry to put yourself in the shoes of someone making an investment or a continuing customer.â€
The first step to getting started, Parker says, is to find a professional. â€œTrying to do it yourself would be like trying to provide your own telephone service,â€ Parker says. Companies can seek advice, as well as design, hosting, maintenance and domain registration help from a consultant or Web development company. Parker suggests that companies go through an interview process with a Web developer to determine what they need and what the costs will include.
While updating your existing Web site or building a new site will have a financial cost, such a resource can actually save small business owners money by offering resources to a customer before they have to contact you directly.
HSM, formerly Honeywell Security Monitoring, is an example of a security company that has invested, and continues to invest, a large amount of resources in their online offerings. The company offers a slew of â€œeServices,â€ designed to help customers see everything from their bills, to their video and audio clips, through the companyâ€™s Web site. â€œWe have invested a considerable amount of resources on this,â€ says Tony Byerly, senior vice president of sales and national accounts at HSM. Byerly says that HSM met with some of their largest customers to ask them what they wanted to see. â€œWe have so many customers saying they want [more online offerings]," says Byerly.
Outside resources can help you with your companyâ€™s Web site, but dealers and integrators need to decide what is most important for them to have on their site, what message they want to get across, and what level of sophistication they would like to offer on their site: do you want to sell merchandise; allow customers to book appointments; or check their bills or account status in real time?
Fenello, whose business focuses on companies with existing Web sites that are not performing up to high standards says, â€œThe truth of the matter is, a Web site is never done. Messages need to change on a regular basis. You need to continually upgrade your Web site to get in sync with your clientele so that your message and Web site resonate with them.â€
To help explore the possibilities available to dealers and integrators for their own sites, SDM presents highlights of interesting features included on several security companiesâ€™ existing Web sites, as examples.
Allow Customers to Take ChargeProtection One | www.protectionone.com
A â€œCustomer Centerâ€ section of Protection Oneâ€™s Web site,
Lawrence, Kansas, allows customers to:
- pay their bills online,
- fill out a customer survey,
- refer a friend,
- submit a request for service,
- update emergency contact info,
- upgrades, decals, and yard signs.
- view system manuals,
Location, Location, LocationBay Alarm Co. | www.bayalarm.com
Bay Alarm Co., which serves 85,000 homes and businesses in the state of California, has a location section with an interactive map of the state. Users can place their mouse over a location to find out the contact information. Customers or would-be customers can also enter their zip codes to find out if the company serves their area.
Extra: An online form allows a customer to request activation of an
existing alarm system.
Answer QuestionsGuardian Security Services | www.stayout.com
Guardian Security Services, Southfield, Mich., has been a family-owned security and life safety business since 1930. A unique offering on the companyâ€™s Web site is a "Sample Monthly Invoice" link. The link takes you to an interactive example of a monthly invoice, where the browser can click and roll his/her mouse over a particular part of the invoice for an explanation of the contents.
Extra: Another interactive form lets the user explore a "Sample Installation Invoice."
ADT | www.adt.com
ADT, Boca Raton, Fla., has a customer service section of its Web site that is designed to answer questions customers may have or point them in the right direction for where to find the answer. The Web site breaks down customer service into residential, small business, medium and large business, and government. Once the user chooses, the Web site takes the user to a page designed to answer specific questions, including questions regarding false alarms, activating a system, billing questions and service plans. For unanswered questions, a toll-free number is provided.
Video/Interactive Clips Offer TipsSonitrol Corp. | www.sonitrol.com
A section of Sonitrolâ€™s home page poses the question â€œNeed help with your keypad?â€ In an effort to make their Web site useful and effective, Sonitrol, Berwyn, Pa., offers a Windowâ€™s Media Player demo of keypad usage for customers. The interactive demo gives customers step-by-step explanations for simple keypad uses such as turning your system on and off.
Another feature on Sonitrolâ€™s Web site is its interactive demo
and video of using mysonitrol.com â€“ the companyâ€™s online
security management site. Users can:
- name and organize facilities;
- check disarm/arm history of systems;
- view live or stored video of a facilityâ€™s lobby,
- display window, cash register, and other points of interest
- via web-enabled cameras;
- access central station and service contracts for managers;
- add, edit or delete facility users; and
- set up scheduled reports for delivery on a daily,
- weekly or monthly basis.
Get More Done OnlineBrinkâ€™s Home Security | www.brinkshomesecurity.com
Brinkâ€™s Home Security, Irving, Texas, features a mybrinks.com portion of its Web site for both customers and dealers. Participating dealers can access their accounts and use their personalized portion of the site to:
- schedule jobs,
- view dealer installation activity,
- view customer accounts and their aged balance for a 60-90 day period,
- look up and manage prospects, and
- access installation manuals, user manuals and programming sheets.
Extra: While in their accounts, dealers can look up prospects and search a database to find out if their prospects are on the national DO NOT CALL list.
HSM | www.hsmsecurity.com
HSM, formerly Honeywell Security Monitoring, Lisle, Ill., offers
â€œeServicesâ€ as a value-added offering for customers on its Web site. Here, customers have access to all sorts of account management
options such as:
- eDataManager, which provides real-time data and information on alarm activity;
- eVideoManager, which allows remote viewing and management of CCTV video services through the monitoring center;
- eAccountManager (coming soon), which will offer data mining, custom
queries and reports on account activity, installations and invoices;
- eVideoData (coming soon), which will allow customers 24/7 online access to recorded clips or advanced remote video business auditing services.
ResourcesBuilding a Web site requires resources: both time and money. Small dealer companies may not have the staff to be able to put together a site. Aside from software programs such as Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver, which allow users with little or no knowledge of coding to build a site, all kinds of other resources for Web design, Web hosting and other online services exist:
Citymax.com | www.citymax.com
Citymax.com is a Web site builder and software. The company offers a 10-day free trial of their program and a â€œtriple protection promiseâ€ to customers.
Heritage Web Solutions | www.heritagewebsolutions.com
Telephone: (866) 211-0743
Heritage Web Solutions focuses on designing and hosting Web sites for small-
to medium-sized businesses.
Homestead.com | www.homestead.com
Telephone: (800) 797-2958
The company charges a monthly fee, which varies depending on how much help you need. Offerings include phone support, e-mail addresses, personalized domains and quick-site designs. A free 30-day trial of their SiteBuilder software is available for download from their site.
Interland.com | www.interland.com
Telephone: (877) 467-8464
The company offers Web site hosting, design and marketing services for varying fees. Customers can choose from 200 design templates for their Web site.
Parker Web Developers | www.parkerwebdevelopers.com
Telephone: (704) 321-2251
Parker Web Developers offers design and marketing services for small business
owners looking to build or revamp their Web sites.
Smokey Mountain Internet Services Inc. | www.smnet.net
Telephone: (828) 349-9541; (866) MYSMNET
SMnet is a full-service Internet company dedicated to the electronic life-safety,
security and systems industry. Services include Web site development, design,
hosting, Internet marketing, graphic design for all types of media and more. Call for exclusive NBFAA member discounts.
Your Web Partner | www.yourwebpartner.com
Telephone: (678) 585-9765
The company specializes in existing Web sites that need to be made more effective. Services include site setup, upgrades, maintenance, online advertising and marketing, and management of third party services such as hosting, domain names and blogs.