By John Giles August 29, 2003 -- Got a web site? If you are like many printers, you have now joined the Internet ranks and have a web address. Are you using it? That is probably another story entirely. Too many printers are ignoring the marketing power of their web site. To most, it is the same as a yellow pages ad. It just sits there until someone happens on it when they are using the web to search for a printer. A web site can be a productive tool to help a printer sell more printing if it used correctly. The biggest advantage of a web site is not attracting new buyers but making it easier for existing customers to buy. One of the latest web site trends is to develop special portals for customers inside the printer's web site. The portal is a special area that is password protected and lists all the printing orders that a printer has done for a customer. When the customer wants to reorder a particular job, he goes to his special portal on the web site, views and selects the job he wants repeated and places the order with the delivery instructions. The portals can even notify the purchasing agent when an order is placed to avoid unauthorized purchases. The purchasing agent can then approve or cancel the order. The portals are making it easy for customers to buy printing. They also can include an area that can be used to communicate with the printer in real time. With instant messaging (IM) and a system where customer service representatives have access to the Internet, a customer can get an instant answer to a question or concern. The IMs create a stronger link with the customer. Customers also want a printer's web site to provide information. Links to graphic design and printing tips are popular with customers. Printers are also posting their digital standards for accepting files. Step-by-step instructions tell a customer exactly how a file should be prepared for printing. Printers are also using the web site to get specialized print drivers to their customers. With the explosion of specialized PDF creation programs, the fastest and easiest way to get the special PDF creation drivers into the hands of customers is through the web site. Once the customer has the driver downloaded and installed, he can create ready-to-print PDF files that eliminate many of the problems associated with customer-created files. A web site can also add the “wow” factor to a presentation. A prospective customer can be very impressed when he logs on to a pre-designed portal with sample orders. A hands-on demonstration can seal the deal. A printer has to work at driving customers to his web site. Every marketing piece used by the printer should include the web site address, including the delivery vehicles and printed boxes. A sales person should make sure that every one of his accounts has been given a tour of the company's web site and had the page bookmarked in the browser. Customers who send a file as an email attachment should be redirected to the company's web site and the file transfer program there. Your web site will work if you make it work. Business cards aren't successful if you keep them in your pocket. A web site has to be in front of the customer as much as possible. It also has to have functionality to give a customer a reason to come back again and again. Beat your competition to the punch and get your web site selling for you.