This article was originally published in three installments in "Foundry Trade Journal", 2001.
Just this week, a member of my audience asked me following:
"Why would a local company, with a large investment in trained, professional sales people need a Web site?"
Great question! And you might be thinking same. . .
Maybe you already know many or all of your potential customers, maybe you have very defined processes and production cycles that don't change very quickly, maybe you're suspicious of Internet "hype" - especially now that so many e-companies are falling by wayside.
But we also know that Internet isn't going away. 407 million people are now estimated to have access - that includes 167 million in N. America, and 113 million in Europe. Younger people increasingly spend more time online than watching TV. And April edition of this magazine has an e-commerce focus . . .
The true challenge now - which personally I also see as a great opportunity, is to understand all ways in which using 'Net can help your business, and from this to strategise best investment of time and money.
So if it's here to stay, how can Internet benefit your business - and what's currently going wrong?
There are some key elements that prevent many Web site owners from maximizing potential of their Internet-based activities:
1. Tunnel vision on sales and new business: it takes at least five times time and expense to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one. Your Web site can be a great tool for providing ongoing customer service and support - and achieving significant cost savings to boot!
Most people access Internet for information on products and services that they either use now, or are considering buying. So, your Web site can be a great place to provide ongoing customer support for your products. If you're worried about giving away trade secrets to your competition, place these in a password-protected area.
The best way to build your content is to compile a list of questions that your customers most often ask. These may be sales related, but can also cover operations, quality assurance issues, etc. If you don't already know questions, have your receptionists and sales people keep a note pad for a week. Then, put questions, together with answers, on your site.
This provides a 24 hour a day, seven day a week availability of service for your customers, whether your office is open or not. And, it can save significant costs in terms of telephone support time.
2. Not "asking for business": I know this sounds obvious, but how many sites have you seen where it's quite unclear what site wants from you? Every page of your site should have a strategy, and be clear about inviting visitor interactions to achieve your goals.
Many times when a new client comes to me for e-business strategy consulting, I ask them a few seemingly simple questions: "Who are your markets? What do they want from you?" and "What do you want from them?"