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As Seen In The faux Finisher
Taking My Business to the Web
Feature from The Faux Finisher, Spring 2001
In this article, Pro Faux explains how faux finishers can benefit from having a presence on-line. Here advice on how to accomplish that very thing.

Spread from Spring Issue of Faux Finisher

Taking My Business to the Web

Put my business on the web: are you kidding?
Will it really make any difference? Even if it would make a difference, where would I begin? Less than a year ago, we asked ourselves the same questions. We've known other schools of decorative painting as well as faux finishers that have greatly benefited from the sheer exposure and an opportunity the Web offers their companies. So why not us?

Sure, we've owned home computers since the early 1990s, but the thought of building and managing our own Web site seemed out of the question. There were lots of unknowns in e-commerce, but that is the very element that makes business interesting. Meeting new and exciting challenges head-on, then figuring out how to solve the problems as they arise have made 11 years enjoyable.

One of the most valuable things we learned with this project was that selecting the right Webmaster—the one who designs and builds your Web site—can make a difference.

At first, we tried to economize by getting a friend to build our site. This individual was experienced, but had full-time employment in another field. We were a low priority, Weeks turned to months, and finally we asked for all of our reference materials to be returned. Then, we went in search for a professional. This time we knew we'd have to invest some money, but it wasn't as expensive as we thought.

One of the biggest business lessons learned over the last decade is that hardly anything that really matters happens quickly, Stated another way, urgent things are usually not that important, and important things are usually not that urgent. Rather, it is the conscious daily decisions that you make and the little things you do every day that add up to something worthwhile. And so it is with What you see is the result of many telephone calls, messages, faxes, out of town meetings, letters, e-mail, photo shoots and one really talented Webmaster, Ed Hettig.

Now that our site is basically built, we don't mind sharing our secret. Ed's company, ID Marketing, is headquartered in upstate New York, not even remotely close to us. He has been a friend and a colleague for many years, and we didn't want a little geography to prevent us from working together. That is the beauty of technology. We communicate via e-mail mostly, followed by the phone and finally face-to-face meetings when necessary.

Designing your websites can be a little scary at first but it doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, your budget will usually keep you grounded, More importantly, keeping your Web site "clean and easy to navigate, is crucial. If you focus on simplicity rather than jazzing it up too much, everyone involved will be happier. Look at what others have done with their sites. Note things you like about your favorite sites, whether or not these sites are related to our decorative paint business.

Spending more or spending less? Unlike mailing things the old-fashioned way and choosing the best carrier for the job at a descent price, your Web site has endless potential to transmit huge amounts of data instantly, We're not exactly computer wizards at Pro Faux but with a little coaching, we can send e-mail attachments and drastically reduce the time and expense of sending things back and forth. This technology also has reduced our telephone bills and printing costs. Directing everyone we meet to our Web site does a few things. It reduces the length of inquiry calls and eliminates the bulk of daily brochure/schedule mailings. Our Web hours are 24/7, so anyone can access our store and information. Downloading the pages they want at the click of a mouse frees our time for other business activities,

More "visits" to your site means that eventually your site will be recognized by more "search engines," listing you ever closer to the first position. Potential customers are more likely to look at the first 20 sites than they are the next 80. Some lists have literally thousands of references, so the object of the game is to get your Web site listed as close to the top as possible.

Video snippets and live camera of faux finishing are real possibilities in the near future with broadband technology. Actually, it already exists, but most home computers and connections are too slow yet to make it worthwhile and fun. Even though this may be a ways off, the important thing is just getting your basic Web site started.

Start by visiting innovative Web sites, making lists of likes, Interview several Web masters and look at sites they've constructed. Set up a quarterly budget for your Web site project, realizing that the biggest costs are going to be in building the site. Maintenance costs are minimal.

Set realistic goals, deadlines and expectations with your Webmaster. Don't expect a flood of interest and orders right away. You hear stories of this happening, but the process is more often a gradual one. This gives your plenty of time to become an expert and comfortable with your site. Think of your site as a perennial flower bed rather than an annual one. The rewards are not immediate and easily measured, but if you tend to the daily/weekly cultivation of your global Web site, you will begin to see your e-garden blossom better season after season.

At the very least, building your new Web site will force you to become more organized, putting your decorative paint services in the best possible light.

Greg Frohnapfel and John Catalanotto are cofounders of Pro Faux Workshops in Akron, Ohio. They pioneered and popularized the traveling two-day hands-on faux finishing workshop model, contract faux painting projects and regularly consult for the trade and major paint companies.

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