I'm a local automobile mechanic. My business has done fine for years based on word-of-mouth, but I keep hearing from everyone, "Why don't you have a website?" Why do I need a website?
Consumers have adopted the Internet as a daily research tool much faster than many experts even predicted. Sure, some of your new customers will continue to find you via word-of-mouth. However, when a potential customer is trying to find mechanics in your area, many of them will turn to the Internet vs. looking in a phone book. If you don't have a web site and a presence online, those potential customers will find your competitors that do have websites.

I want to maximize any type of e-commerce opportunities out there. Currently, I sell several locally made products on my website, and I have many repeat customers buying my products. What else could I be selling via my site?
Do you have an eye-catching logo or tag phrase for your web business? If so, there's an easy way for you to sell more. Currently, there are several online services that give you the power to create T-shirts, coffee mugs, and many other items adorned with your logo or tag phrase and sell them on your site. And the best part of services such as Cafepress (www.cafepress.com) is that you don't have to buy a bunch of T-shirts upfront and hope that they'll be successful. They'll print and ship a T-shirt or coffee mug only after you've received an order.

Some of my competitors have started blogs, but all they keep writing about is their business. It seems very self serving to me. What's the value in creating a blog on my website?
Blogs - or web logs - have certainly exploded in popularity in the last 4-5 years. However, we haven't seen many blogs that focus on a person's own business attract many readers. Are you passionate about your industry (not just your company, but your industry as a whole)? Do you have to hunt for specialized message boards to discuss your industry? If so, maybe you should consider launching a blog - focused on news throughout your industry not just your specific business. If you're constantly hunting for information online, your potential customers may be looking too, and you could create a blog that's a valuable resource and authority on your industry.

I was doing a web search a few days ago and found a website where a previous customer had posted a negative review of my business. I'm worried that other potential customers might see that review? What can I do?
Negative reviews can certainly be annoying when you're working hard every day to do a great job for your customers. You may even be tempted to log onto the site and leave a stern message rebutting the customer's review. If you're tempted to lash out in response to the negative review, you should take a deep breath and don't act on your impulse! Some review sites allow you to easily contact the reviewers one-on-one. If so, you could contact the reviewer to apologize for their experience and see what you could do to change their perception of your business.

If you do decide to respond to the reviewer's post, you should write a neutral response stating your case without anger (though you might be angry).