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Archive for October, 2010

Starting a Business Website

In : Agathon Creative Posts, Posted by on Oct.10, 2010

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There are two key options when setting up a small business website.

Option 1 – follow the 7 step guide below:

7 Step Guide to Building/Creating a Business Website

Starting a website for your business doesn’t require that you to spend huge sums of money, but it does require that you spend some time researching and planning your site. The first thing you need to decide is.. Why do you want a website? It isn’t sufficient to think that just because everyone else has one you need one as well!

When you answer the why you also will  probably answer, in part.. What will the site do for your business. An example would be. My business wants a website to:

  • Attract new clients
  • Inform new and existing clients on my products, services and costs.
  • Allow new clients to contact my business.
  • Provide support for my products and services to reduce the amount of telephone call enquiries we receive.

It is important to have a general idea of what you will eventually do with the site as it can have a big impact on what type of host/design you choose.

In order to illustrate the process we are going to go through a real life example in the form of a case study based around a wedding car business website.

If you are wondering why I choose this it is because one of my newsletter readers requested it.

The Steps are:

  • Basic Research
  • Deciding on How You Will Build the Site
  • Choosing a Domain Name
  • Choose a Hosting Provider and Platform
  • Deciding on the Main Keywords
  • Logo, Initial Pages and  Content
  • Purchase Your Hosting Package, Domain Name and upload Content

Step 1 Basic Research

First step is to do a little snooping and look at the sites that currently rank well on Google.

There are several things that you can learn such as

  • How much competition you have
  • How good the competition is
  • Domain Name Ideas.

Step 2-Deciding on How You Will Build the Site

All websites start with a site/page template. You can :

  • Design your own
  • Have one made for you
  • Buy a premade one
  • Use a free one
  • Use one from your web site editing tool

The general approach is to get an existing template and then edit it to suit your need. Only professional designers build templates from scratch.

The most common templates are html templates but php templates are also used.

The big problem with using these type of templates is that you will need a web editing tool to edit the pages and you will need basic website building knowledge to build/edit the pages.

If you go with this approach you will either have to learn about basic site building or pay/know someone who can do it for you.

The other main method is to use a content management system like WordPress.

The main advantage is that once setup they can be edited/updated by someone with very basic knowledge of the WordPress System. However they do require a certain skill level to setup properly.

However WordPress is getting easier to set up and maintain and more functionality is being added via Plugins.

Regardless of the method you will still need to gain a basic understanding of how websites are built.

Recommendations

This is a very difficult choice to make as both methods have advantages and problems. However in general I would choose WordPress as it is much easier to produce a professional looking site with WordPress even though it can seem to be a bit of an overkill for a small site.

However do have a read of website building options for more background

Step 3- Choosing a Domain Name

Decide on your domain name. If you have an existing company then the name will normally be the company name but it doesn’t have to be.

If you look at the web results you will see a lot of different domain names like

  • www.hireweddingcar.co.uk
  • www.firstimpressionscars.co.uk
  • www.homejamesweddingcars.com
  • www.weddingcarhireberkshire.com

There are several things to note:

  • Mixture of .co.uk and .com names
  • Use of the keywords wedding car appears frequently in the domain names
  • A .co.uk or  A .com name
  • .co.uk names are for UK companies only and can be used if your company is UK Based. A .com domain name is more generic and can be used regardless of location.
  • .uk domain names are cheaper and some companies choose them because of that but the price difference is so small that is is a very false economy.

So the preferred option is always a .com name. However if the name is already taken then you can fall back to the .uk one.

Note: if you live in Australia then you use the .au extension Germany .de etc.

Keywords in Domain Name

There a two schools of thought here. The one says you should choose a short easily memorable name, and concentrate on name branding. A good example is Apple Computers  Virgin ( trains,planes,music etc), and Google.

The name Apple tells you nothing about the products, likewise with the names Virgin and Google.

However these are huge companies and they have spent lots of money to get brand awareness.

Therefore, as I’m assuming you are a small company, you should try and choose a name that conveys meaning, in which case you need to include the main keywords that describe your business. In this case they are- wedding car hire

You don’t need all three, however it is interesting to note that the top site on Google for the searches:

Hire wedding car, wedding car hire, hire wedding cars

has the domain name-www.hireweddingcar.co.uk

Recommendations:

  • Choose a .com name if possible
  • use keywords in the domain name.
  • Keep as short as practical and try to get the domain name under 26 characters (old limit). You are allowed up to 63 characters- (excludes extensions ).
  • You can use the 1&1 domain checker below (opens another window). Like other checking tools it will also provide a selection of alternative domain names.
  • Don’t register the domain name yet.

Step 4-Choose a Hosting Provider and Platform

In General the hosting provider should be located in the same country as your target audience.

So if your target market is in the UK then the host should be as well.

Most hosting providers provide a free domain name with the package which is why I recommend choosing the hosting provider before registering the domain name. I also recommend that you get the domain name from the hosting provider, even if it doesn’t offer a free one as that way the setup is easier to manage.

You should also choose Linux as a platform (mandatory if you are using WordPress).

You Don’t need to get your hosting space and register your domain at this stage.

Step 5- Deciding on the Main Keywords

Important: This stage is often ignored, or only briefly addressed, even by professional web designers, but it is the most important part of building a successful website.

The main way your potential customers will find your site is via the search engines. So for example if someone is about to have a wedding and they live in Birmingham they will go to Google (Yahoo or Bling) and type in a search phrase like:

  • Wedding car hire
  • Hire Wedding car
  • Wedding cars Birmingham,
  • Wedding car hire Birmingham

There are many search phrases that they can use and your first job is to find the most popular ones. This you do in two stages:

Brainstorming

Online Research Tools

Brainstorming give you the initial so called “seed keywords” and is really quite simple as you simply make a list of the words you yourself would use when looking for your type of business/service. If possible ask a few others for a similar list as we all use different words to describe the same thing for example:

You might use the word hire and someone else would use rent.

The next stage is to examine the seed keywords in more detail using online keyword research tools like Google external keywords. The objective being to find the ones that are used more often. i.e. do more people search for wedding car hire orwedding car rental.

Step 6- Logo, Initial Pages and  Content

The website logo fits at the top of the page. The size is limited by your page width which is determined by your site template. Below shows a typical page structure 720px wide (old page size). I prefer to use 840-860 px but you will find many modern templates 960px wide.

Although it is possible to hack a template and change the size it is an advanced procedure and not recommended for beginners (but see below). Therefore don’t get your logo done until you know the template width.

I use the Cutline templates for WordPress the two column template uses 770px and the 3 column 970px.

If you are interested I can also provide a modified style sheet for the cutline 1.4.3 2(two) column right theme which is 860px wide and moves the navigation to the left. Use the feedback form to request it.

If you use my simple HTML/CSS template then you can change the width easily in the style sheet the default is set to 770px and here is the extract of how it is defined:

.main

{

border: solid #000 0px ;

width: 770px;

}

Decide on the Initial  Pages and Create Basic Content

My html template has 4. I recommend you have at least three home, contact and about us. It is a good idea to create the basic content for these pages before you go live. It doesn’t have to be final, you can edit it later.

Home Page And Your MWR (Most Wanted Response)

This is the most critical page of your site as it will, in general, be the page at which most visitors will enter.

The Home page must tell new visitors what to expect from the website- what is in it for them! This it should accomplish within the first 2 -3 paragraphs. It serves as a guide to your visitors and so it should provide clear navigation to the rest of the site.

From a search engine perspective it will also be the most important page, and should be well optimised. If you were to optimise only one page of a site then this is the one.

It should contain the main keywords and variations but only if they make sense and never more than 3 times on the page.

What is shouldn’t be:

  • A company history
  • A Flash Graphic
  • A big Enter here button
  • A hard sell Page
  • The Most wanted response (MWR)

Your website has a purpose, maybe it has more than one, but it must have a main purpose! This is the Most wanted response (MWR)-What is it?

  • Is it to buy something?
  • Is it to Contact You?
  • Is it to fill out a questionnaire?
  • Is it to download an ebook or brochure?

What ever it is then the home page will play a big part in getting it done.

Contact Page

This should contain the phone, fax, email, postal addresses and other contact addresses/numbers that can be used to contact your business.

Perhaps the most important one of these is a contact form.

Contact information isn’t limited to the contact page. It is normal to display contact phone numbers in the header or footer graphics.

About Us

This is about your company and staff. I.E.

Joe bloggs and Sons established in 1781 in Ironbridge by Joe as a widget maker. etc….

Most people put this information on the home page but it doesn’t belong there.

Step 7 – Purchase Your Hosting Package, Domain Name and upload Content

Now we can’t go much further without a real site and so it is time to purchase the hosting package, register the domain name and add the content to your site.

If you are using WordPress you will also need to install and configure it before you can add the content.

Once you have done this the site is live and can be reached by typing the URL into a web browser but it will not get any visitors unless you personally start giving out the url to friends or put it in an advertisement in the paper.

To get visitors you will need to market the site and by far the most important source of traffic will come from the search engines.

Option 2 – Talk to Agathon Creative

How many small companies, especially if its just yourself, have the time, energy or inclination to follow the above 7 steps. Sure it sounds interesting, but it also sounds like a lot of time consuming work on top of the day to day stuff you have to do, such as making sales.

Agathon Creative do this and a whole lot more, for a simple fixed fee. All you need to provide is a few preferences for your logo, choose a template/design for your website and provide a small amount of content for the site. We do everything else and simply get you to confirm each step so you are kept fully aware and up to date as to what is happening.

Typically, we can get you up and running within a couple of days.



Seven ways to beat stress

In : Agathon Creative Posts, Posted by on Oct.10, 2010

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Michael Jackson, chairman of leading technology venture capitalist Elderstreet Investments, gives SmallBusiness.co.uk his tips for dealing with stress.

1) Assume the very worst-case scenario and then plan from there

I am often accused of being unduly pessimistic when I use this technique, but it works for me at the outset and provides me with a back-up plan. I then start to feel better (remember, it can’t get any worse) and I don’t feel totally powerless and out of control.

Indeed, feeling hopeless is terrifying – and yet there is nearly always something you can do. Swinging into action is the start of eliminating that hopelessness.

2) Get into the real detail on problems

People close to problems nearly always exaggerate. For example, you may have a technical problem at one of your clients and the client is threatening all sorts of terrible retributions. Your technical guys are panicking and each person is telling you a different story.

Your best answer is to go through each point methodically and slowly until you fully understand what’s gone wrong – the solution in most cases then comes through a form of natural osmosis.

3) Communicate like hell

How many times I have heard stories where hard-pressed CEOs have actually strengthened client relationships arising from an initial complaint or problem.

The reason is that they talk to their customer regularly and keep him updated as to progress. You’d better make sure that you phone when you say you will, but constant reassurance is a key ingredient. A comforted client means less stress for you.

The same applies to your boss, your bank manager or even your wife – if you are in trouble, keep talking.

4) Give yourself time

Stress is often caused by a problem arising on top of an already busy schedule.

And you can’t properly deal with the problem because you haven’t got the time… classic Catch 22. My advice is to clear your diary and prioritise. Make sure that you nail the problem whatever it takes, otherwise the worry goes on festering until it takes its toll on your health.

5) Ask for help

So many people bottle things up – particularly bosses who feel that baring their hearts to their employees is a sign of weakness. My advice – ask for their help and you will be amazed how much goodwill this can generate.

6) Use humour

A great stress reliever at any time but particularly useful to defuse difficult situations, such as when your sales guys have just lost a contract bid that they have been working on for nine months and the whole company needs this win to make sure there are no redundancies or the like.

Instead of a long face the next morning, you have to crack jokes and tell ‘it could have been worse, it could have been…’ type stories. Never lose your temper under stress.

7) Get some shut-eye

Last but not least, sleep is absolutely key when you are under pressure – being tired only makes everything ten times worse. Work out what you need to do to boost your sleep levels – exercise, alcohol, whatever does the trick.

If you still wake up in the middle of the night, make yourself a nice cup of tea (the Yorkshire still in me!) and logically work out an action plan. Most important of all, write it down as then you won’t forget it in the morning and when you go back to bed you’ll probably sleep knowing you’ve done the best you can.

Source: www.smallbusiness.co.uk

May 29 2008



Social Networking and Business

In : Uncategorized, Posted by on Oct.10, 2010

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What can small businesses learn from larger enterprises that have embraced social networking?

Beyond providing a medium for communication, computers have not traditionally contributed to the more social aspects of business management. That means that the greater part of an organisation’s knowledge, its structure and organisation and the softer elements of its performance exist outside the realm of IT.

But a new field of technology – one already glaringly conspicuous in the consumer realm – is beginning to challenge that perception: social computing. Where traditional IT has provided insight, manageability and efficiencies in areas such as accounting and supply chain, corporate social computing promises to do the same for the (largely invisible, but very real) social structure of an organisation.

Putting the I in IT

The development that has established social computing as a legitimate field of IT – despite contradicting most people’s instincts about IT’s role in business culture – has been the phenomenal rise of networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

These systems may appear to be an irritating teenage fad or workplace productivity killer, but the level of engagement users have with them, the ease with which information is shared and the sense of community among often-geographically disparate individuals reveals that social networking sites succeed where countless enterprise knowledge management and collaboration projects have failed.

IT directors that have struggled unsuccessfully to persuade users to adopt a groupware system may look on aghast at the number of hours some employees are happy to spend using Facebook – a relatively unflashy site that might put some in mind of a content management system.

Indeed, many of the companies that are exploiting social networks for internal corporate purposes have done so after realising that it was impossible to stop employees using them, says David Lavenda, strategy vice president for Worklight, a software company specialising in safe online consumer services for corporate use.

Let’s get personal

Social networks all carry the common characteristic of giving each user a profile page, upon which they may define themselves by age, location, interests, friendships and so on. It is arguably this identity-centric model of content management that is the key breakthrough.

Knowledge management systems (of which social networking sites are actually an example) organise content around document definitions or business processes. In their historical guise they have suffered from several drawbacks: capturing corporate knowledge and populating such systems has been a significant challenge, while users have often struggled to navigate their way through the knowledge base.

A system built around individuals with content supplied by them not only mirrors the way most people think about their organisations, but it provides users with an opportunity to define their personal and professional roles within the organisation. This provides a powerful psychological incentive to engage with the system.

It also makes these individuals easy to track down. Allowing employees to find colleagues with certain experience and know-how and letting them communicate directly is an efficient way of promoting knowledge transfer, unlike forcing employees to dump their knowledge into a repository, tagging each piece as they do so. In the social networking paradigm, when employees contact a domain expert for advice or information, their interactions are then available for everyone to read in future.

The ‘low-hanging fruit’ of social computing is in the realm of knowledge sharing. For the next generation of employees, the social network is the most accessible and practical way of systematising knowledge transfer as outlined above. Companies such as IBM and US electronics retail giant Best Buy have seen astonishing payback from the adoption of social networking.

Of course, no software project ever received funding on the promise of something as ethereal as a ‘sense of community’. But that does not mean that such ‘soft’ benefits cannot form the basis of a business case for social software, explains Carol Rozwell of analyst company Gartner.

‘Trying to calculate a return on investment on projects such as this is a fool’s errand,’ she says. ‘But it is necessary to make the business benefit clear from the outset.’

Rozwell uses the example of an employee joining a global sales force. A system that allows them to communicate with senior colleagues and grants them a sense of connection to the sales team will have a very real impact on their performance. In time, however, the killer application of social computing may derive from the emerging field of social network analysis, says Rozwell.

Mapping the community

Most businesses have an organisational chart tracing the lines of authority from the top to the bottom. While this might prove to be a useful document for settling arguments, to view these charts as a comprehensive depiction of the true structure of the organisation is outmoded.

Charles Armstrong is the CEO of Trampoline Systems. The former ethnographer set up the social computing company two years ago on the premise that social software would revolutionise the way corporations are run. For him, the top-down model of the enterprise is giving way to something more complex.

‘As corporations become more reliant on outsourcing partners, they become much more complex organisms, with parties outside the firewall becoming just as crucial to business success as those inside,’ he says.

Trampoline Systems’ technology uses data mining techniques to build a map of how employees interact, both internally and with outside providers. Armstrong claims that the company’s newly launched FlightDeck product can map the social links through which an organisation operates.

This is most useful when organisations merge. ‘When you are trying to weld two large organisations together, you often rely on anecdotal evidence about how each company operates,’ Armstrong observes.

Given the short time management has in which to persuade staff that integrating will be a positive thing, it is of paramount importance to combine the two structures effectively. Looking at the social ‘graph’ of each organisation allows for an analytical approach, argues Armstrong.

This new field of ‘social intelligence’ is still young and relatively untested. But the fact that there is now at least a methodology for introducing sophisticated analysis into the otherwise impenetrable realm of social interaction is a significant development.

‘Success for business today depends on factors that relate to the human organisation: collaboration, innovation, problem solving,’ says Armstrong. Through social computing, IT can bring rationality and rigour to that domain, while simultaneously providing the tools for community to flourish.

BlueShirt Nation

One of the most sophisticated internal deployments of social networking-style software is evident at US electronics retailer Best Buy. With a young workforce dotted all around the country, the company was an ideal candidate for this kind of social knowledge sharing. But it was not the original business goal of the BlueShirt Nation internal social network project when it began in 2006.

‘We felt like we weren’t getting the feedback to do killer advertising,’ recalls Gary Koelling, an internal advertising executive and one of the two men behind the project.

They hoped the BlueShirt Nation network – named after the employee’s uniform and built on the open-source content management platform Drupal – would provide all manner of insights to inform future campaigns. ‘Unfortunately, that did not happen at all,’ he says.

What did happen, however, was rapid adoption – 20,000 employees are registered on the site, roughly a seventh of the total workforce – and unexpected levels of cross-organisational communication. A cashier in Utah now had the means to contact someone in a similar role in Texas without having had a formal introduction.

Having analysed the content of this communication, Koelling says that around a quarter of the conversation is direct knowledge exchange between employees at different stores.

But the benefits are not limited to this knowledge exchange. For one thing, it provides staff with a safe ground on which to communicate with executives; the CEO is a regular contributor. ‘This has had a tremendous flattening effect on the organisation,’ says Koelling.

Perhaps most significantly, BlueShirt Nation has also made Best Buy a more communicative organisation. This has improved ‘the employees’ sense of engagement, collaboration, innovation: everything that goes along with communication,’ says Koelling. So many new ideas for merchandise were being suggested on the site, for example, that a specific system that links to the social network has been built where members submit ideas and bid for funding.

What BlueShirt Nation certainly is not is a formal project management system. Firstly, the company already has such systems in place. But Koelling adds that the social network would not make a suitable analogue because BlueShirt Nation’s success depends on the employees’ perception that it is a forum that they control, not a work tool that they are forced to use.

Best Buy found that, while practical knowledge sharing is one of the more tangible benefits of internal social networking, the interaction and sense of community that developed on BlueShirt Nation has been no less beneficial to the organisation.

Article from http://SmallBusiness.co.uk
Aug 23 2010



Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

In : Uncategorized, Posted by on Oct.10, 2010

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Six of the best SEO tips for your website

Here is a list of six of the most important search engine ranking factors as voted for by 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimisation.

The original list was put together at SEOmoz by Rand Fishkin, CEO & Jeff Pollard, Web Developer back in April, 2007 as ‘Search Engine Ranking Factors V2′.

There were five categories of search engine ranking covered:

Keyword Use Factors | Page Attributes | Site/Domain Attributes | Inbound Link Attributes | Negative Crawling/Ranking Attributes

I’m not totally in agreement with the order of the list, personally ranking some factors differently than the 37 SEO experts, but overall there is no argument with the fact that applying Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques to these will help get your website better rankings.

This top six list takes the highest average scoring SEO ranking factors, with my comments attached. If you want to do the right things to develop a successful website you should take on board this advice.

No.1 SEO Tip

Keyword Use in Title Tag – Placing the targeted search term or phrase in the title tag of the web page’s HTML header.

Good titles help everyone. They help the search engine categorise your site, they help the searcher know what to expect from your page, thus helping to increase CTR (Click-Through Rate) and they get better SERPS (Search Engine Ranking Positions).

No.2 SEO Tip

Link Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure – Refers to the number and importance of internal links pointing to the target page.

A good linking structure makes certain that important pages get enough emphasis in the same way good navigation structure on the web page helps visitors get around your site slickly.

No.3 SEO Tip

Global Link Popularity of Site – The overall link weight/authority as measured by links from any and all sites across the web.

Encourage people to link to your site by becoming an authority on your subject. In short, make a great website.

No.4 SEO Tip

Anchor Text of Inbound Link – These pieces affect Google’s weighting of links from external websites pointing to a page. Absolutely, but difficult to control.

No.5 SEO Tip

Keyword Use in Body Text – Using the targeted search term in the visible, HTML text of the page

Yes, this is important, but do NOT, whatever you do, ‘spam’ the targeted keyword(s). Only use the keyword phrase throughout the page where it makes sense. Search engines are sophisticated beasties and will apply topic analysis to learn what is truly relevant.

No.6 SEO Tip

Age of Site – As measured from the launch of indexable content seen by the search engines.

With the concept of ‘authority’ weighing so heavily in search engines’ ranking factors these days, it is unsurprising that this factor featured in the top six. Of  course, the age of the site is not something you can do a great deal about, but perhaps it’s worth bearing in mind that your website should be considered a long-term project. Don’t just paste up a site and then leave it. It shouldbe regarded as an ongoing investment, not a one-off or single-quarter project. Retain the people, processes and budget to keep it working for your business after the initial implementation is complete.

Article from http://SmallBusiness.co.uk

Jul 30 2008



The importance of having a Web Presence

In : Agathon Creative Posts, Posted by on Oct.10, 2010

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In these difficult financial times, it had become increasingly important that small businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Whether you are an Accountant, a Plumber, Hairdresser or Dentist, you can pretty much guarantee you will have at least one competitor operating close to you. So how can you improve the chances of people coming to you rather than your competitor?

Obviously there are the traditional methods, such as word of mouth, advertising in local press or business directories, but with more and more people accessing the web to find a product or service, if you don’t have a suitable web presence then you are missing a huge opportunity.

Its not just about the web however. Its about looking completely professional where ever possible. This includes having a strong company brand or identity through a well designed, striking logo which correctly represents the services and products you provide.

Next we need to apply this logo to professionally produced business cards, letter heads and other business stationery, again to increase how professional your business looks, even if you are just a one man band plumbing outfit.

This is backed up with a professional looking website with basic information about who you are and the services or products you offer and how to get hold of you. Initially, this doesn’t need to be an all singing and dancing site, which requires hours of updating etc, but a simple ‘brochure’ site.

With this you will need your own email address, not one of the free webmail accounts, a proper business email address with the same ‘domain name’ as your company website.

Eventually, depending on your business you may need to start building some kind of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) into your site, so that when some one searches for say an account in the local area, your site is shown as high up in the search results as possible.

This can be achieved by both building elements in to the inner workings of the website and also by adding content to your site such as regular articles relevant to your industry and maybe some kind of newsletter. These can then be linked to various social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, thus increasing the potential for links to and from your site so it further improves the chances of been pushed higher up the search results page of various search engines.

By implementing even a basic corporate brand with professional stationery and an informative but basic website can make a massive difference when people are searching for a product or service, as not only does this provide you with an important method of being found, but also as it makes your business look much bigger than it really is, which can make a huge difference.

Many people will search for a local service or product using a search engine such as Google. If your competitor has a website which Google finds, then you will straight away loose out to your competitor.

You will also find that if people use word of mouth or other traditional methods for locating a local supplier, they will often again search to see if they have a website and more often than not, especially when pricing has become so competitive, they will choose the company with a website and strong corporate branding over the one who doesn’t.

So what do you need in order to get yourself this advantage? Lots of money and a knowledge of web design? Not at all.

Agathon Creative provide our Small Business Starter Pack which provides everything you need to get up and running so you can start maximising on this new way of marketing your business. All it takes is a small setup fee which includes all print costs, web hosting, design – in fact everything! Then you just need to let us know what website name you want, some idea of colours etc for your logo and some basic content for the web pages, such as contact information and a list of the products and services you offer.

Leave the rest to us and we’ll have you up and running within a couple of days.

Contact us if you would like to learn more.