to a new component of the Compaq Small/Medium Business website,
"The Web Edge," a new monthly column dedicated to helping you use
the Internet's World Wide Web to gain a competitive advantage for
your business. I won't bore you with statistics about the amazing
growth of the Internet (I assume you've read that elsewhere) and
I'll save discussion of financial models for making money online
for another month; but, as I will try to do as often as possible
in this column, I will offer my recommendations for the best resources
on the Internet (not a list of every resource I can think of). Here's
my first offering: If you want more information or statistics on
the growth of the web, I recommend that you check out www.cyberatlas.com.
the Web's global cyber-marketplace continues to explode, the problem
that I call "the Grand Canyon GapTM" between people and technology
continues to widen. In business terms, this problem expresses itself
on the Internet as a new kind of marketing environment that requires
a "three-part" harmony of disciplines. In order to achieve online
marketing success, you will need innovative thinking not only in
terms of technological implementation (part one), but also in terms
of communications and with interactive design. As the months ahead
unfold at Internet speed, this column will help you address all
of these needs.
for openers, let's take an overview. After all, all of these disciplines
come together under the umbrella of online marketing.
would like to start by trying to clear up five common misunderstandings
about online marketing on the World Wide Web, so that all of your
online efforts can be as productive as possible. Here are five of
the most common pitfalls (or dare I say "pot holes") on the information
superhighway. I wonder how many of you have believed any of the
following five false statements?
Internet is over-hyped.
cannot afford our own high-speed connection and dedicated server.
is so easy that anyone can do it.
you build it they will come.
THE INTERNET IS OVER-HYPED
I believe that the Internet is frequently misunderstood and over-simplified,
but rarely over-hyped. I think that once we've crossed Father Time's
bridge to the 21st century, we will think of the late '90's the
way that TV historians think of the late forties when TV came of
age. Don't forget that the Internet itself is still a "newbie."
The enormous publicity that the Internet has already received is
an artificial beginning, but there is also a real birth process
underway that is undeniable and the impact of the Internet on the
21st century should not be underestimated.
fact, what may be most revolutionary is the leveling of the competitive
"playing field" for businesses. On the Web, even very small businesses
can afford to do a Web site, and producers like myself who want
to create new kinds of content can do so without the major expenses
of distribution and large marketing budgets.
result is a whole new medium, not just a new technology. The World
Wide Web is a new medium (like television and radio were once new
mediums) and global electronic communications will never be the
same. New businesses will be created that could not have existed
before. And existing businesses, who are smart enough to use the
Web effectively, will gain valuable strategic advantages over their
Make a commitment to include the Web in your marketing mix. Balance
it and integrate it with your existing programs. It's not a panacea,
but a complement to conventional marketing like direct mail and
telemarketing. However, unlike those other disciplines, online marketing
is a moving target; so dedicate an appropriate amount of time and
personnel resources to exploring this new frontier. By being part
of the process of inventing a new medium, you can become a leader
-- and that's leverage.
WE CANNOT AFFORD OUR OWN HIGH-SPEED CONNECTION AND DEDICATED
small companies are intimidated by the installation and configuration
costs of installing a server and the necessary high-bandwidth data
connections. However, while servers like those offered by Compaq
and other companies can do a professional job either for the Internet
or for a corporate intranet (or as a WAN server), there are also
many ISP's who use Compaq
and other servers to take care of their customers at a fraction
of the cost.
small or medium size companies, it is frequently less expensive
to simply rent space on a server at an Internet Service Provider
(ISP). While many companies think that part of the start up cost
of putting a website on the Internet is the expense of installing
and maintaining a high-speed connection (like a T-1 line), this
is not the case. Except for the largest and most complex websites,
you do not need your own dedicated Internet server and high-speed
connection. The fact is that putting your website on an Internet
Service Provider's server is frequently cheaper, easier and safer.
fact, it's not only cheaper, it's much cheaper. High-speed phone
lines, the equipment to connect them to server computers (routers)
and the servers themselves cost thousands of US dollars. Putting
an average corporate website on an ISP's server can cost less than
US$100 a month. That's a big difference.
of course, hosting it on a specialized company's server also makes
it much easier because neither you nor your staff will need to deal
with any of the installation or configuration hassles. Either you
can simply transfer your files via FTP; or if you want to make it
really easy, you can even sub-contract the graphic design, writing
and programming services and treat your website like the out-sourcing
of a printed marketing brochure or newsletter.
putting your website on an outside server can also be safer because
it's off-site. In that way, there's no way that a computer hacker
can violate the security of your company's information system. With
a computer on your network connected to the Internet, there's a
possible opening for an electronic intruder. With the Internet server
somewhere else, that kind of connection just isn't possible.
This kind of decision calls for strategic planning, both in terms
of your short term needs and the evolution of your company's online
strategies. Carefully consider your needs and budget your expenses
including the time that will be required by your company's own departments
and personnel. Make a comparative evaluation of the costs, advantages
and disadvantages of each approach. Think about whether and when
you may be planning to implement more complex online applications
that may require integration with your internal MIS applications.
This may include integration of web acquired data with your corporate
database and online commerce. Even if you are planning more complex
applications that go beyond simple HTML pages, can these services
also be "virtualized?" For example, I'm considering an online commerce
service that's operated on a different server than my website, but
which will handle transactions transparently for my readers without
requiring me to install and configure any new software. In this
way, in many cases, the network can bring a third-party solution
to you over the network.
Here's a well-written overview of what to look for in an ISP. It's
appropriately called "How To Select an Internet Service Provider"
written by an industry leader, Rick Adams, President & CEO of UUNET
Technologies, Inc., one of the largest ISP's in the world.
HTML IS SO EASY THAT ANYONE CAN DO IT.
True, but only partially. The basic programming language of the
Web, HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is about as simple as a programming
language can get. My fifteen year old son is a better HTML programmer
than I am. But I'm a better communicator, and that's the bottom
authoring programs range from the relatively simple to the professional,
and also include export filters from word processors and page layout
programs. This means that some simple documents can be created almost
automatically. But there's more to a website (sometimes mis-labeled
as a "home page" when there may be dozens or hundreds or even thousands
of pages on a site) than just cranking out HTML versions of documents.
these early days on the Web publishing "frontier" have seen a recurrence
of some of the same mistakes that were made in the early days of
desktop publishing when the infamous "ransom note" graphic design
style was introduced. These, of course, were the poorly designed
documents that used way too many fonts and text style options. After
all, just because you have page-layout software and a laser printer
doesn't mean that you can do a good newsletter. Strong graphic design
and writing skills are also required.
authoring is naturally more complex than any form of linear communication.
In fact, in addition to professional design, writing and "authoring"
skills, new disciplines like information architecture (the structuring
of information to make it accessible) and interface design are essential.
In future columns, we will also explore issues of audience involvement
and virtual community building which really get to the heart of
Start by considering communication basics such as defining your
audience and stating your objectives. Then, remember that Web design
takes more than just HTML code. When you plan your web project allow
time and budget for the design of an overall information architecture,
the creation of appealing graphic design, engaging writing and,
of course, the expertise to handle the technical issues. Remember
my Media Proverb, "It's always more complicated than you think it
If you want to learn more about Web design, check out David Siegel's
websites, the website. Yes, he wrote a book by the same name,
but the website's free and has lots of useful information.
IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL COME.
The film "Field of Dreams" made this slogan famous. However, as
with any other business, marketing does not happen by magic; especially
not in such a "noisy" environment as the web where there are hundreds
of thousands of other websites competing for attention.
matter how many million users there are on the Internet. You need
to plan on promoting your website if you want to build an audience.
The good news is that promotion of your Web site can be very cost
First of all, once you have your own website, promote it in all
of your printed publications including on your business cards, your
company stationary, and, of course, on all of your print advertising.
These are expenses that you will make anyway, so why not promote
your website at no additional cost.
the Internet, there are also several ways to get free promotion.
The most important is to get your website listed on the various
Web directories like Yahoo, Excite and so forth. See listing resource
visit websites and newsgroups connected to your subject or product
area. But remember, more and more, business is based on relationships,
so act appropriately and mind your "Netiquette." Netiquette means
learn good manners in cyberspace. You'll find lots of articles online
about this subject. It's worth your while to learn the customs,
just like its worthwhile to learn the customs of any country you
might visit and especially of any place where you'd like to do business.
In the same way, each subject area on the Internet (and the Internet
itself) is a kind of community; and if you participate in a spirit
of good will, the Web offers an array of opportunities to create
strategic relationships including the possibility to trade hyperlinks
with related sites. Another option is that you may want to consider
buying hyperlink advertising in even more highly trafficked sites
where you think attractive, new customer prospects can be found.
I believe that all good relationships are based on delivering value.
Given that users of the World Wide Web have come to expect free
information, it's usually not enough just to create an online marketing
brochure. You need to do more. For example, you may want to consider
offering a free article of substance as an attraction. Then, if
readers find what you have to say valuable, they will be interested
in the products or services that you have to offer. For example,
just as I hope that by reading this article, you may find that what
I have to say is valuable; and thus, you may want to contract some
of my services. It works the same way on the Internet. The real
money making opportunity is in the "ancillary" sales.
There are many listing services. One of the most professional and
popular is Submit
It. If you have other recommendations, I'd like to hear
WE CAN WAIT...
"If not now, when?" Perhaps after your competition has already made
the Internet connection with your prospective customers? Like they
say in the New York Lottery promotions: "You have to be in it to
win it." In this case, waiting for the "kinks" to be worked out
is a futile form of patience. This new communication channel is
going to continue to grow and change and transform at an ever-accelerating
rate. And that's the reason that the earlier your get involved,
the more successful you will be. Those of us who are on the Web
are learning at an almost mind-boggling pace. If you wait until
later, there will be that much more catching up to do.
Get in the game. Almost every business can benefit from online involvement,
but this doesn't mean that you need a $100,000 dollar website. Plan
on an evolving process. Start small, if you like, but actively experiment
because there's no question that the Network is going to play an
increasingly important role in business and your involvement will
pay dividends down the road.
Until next month . . . stay tuned.
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