we analyzed the components of building a website from a relatively
technical point of view. This month, I would like to help you define
your website in terms of your communication objectives.
something else that I think is worth restating: Take the time to
think through an analysis of who your audience is and then carefully
define your communication objectives. It's amazing how frequently
writers, designers and especially website developers just dive into
a project without taking the time for the critically valuable process
of planning. As far as I'm concerned, setting goals is worth its
weight in gold.
Another essential ingredient in successful web design is the
understanding that the web is more than one thing. In my most optimistic
moments, I'd like to think that it's the web that will eventually
get us beyond our "sound-bite" culture; but whether that happens
or not, you're not likely to succeed online if you let the mass
media's influence over-simplify the way you think about the Internet.
While the media may talk about the Web as if it were one thing,
nothing could be further from the truth.
fact is that just like printed communications, this new medium spans
a broad spectrum of communication styles. Just as printed material
can be as simple as a desktop published flyer or as sophisticated
as a slick, four-color corporate annual report, websites also come
in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
While this column does not provide space for me to detail every
website nuance and variation, please allow me to discuss three main
types of web site objectives, including some of the techniques and
pitfalls that are inevitably involved. Each recipe below is oriented
to a real world web objective that can be achieved in today's market;
however, keep in mind that some sites will combine more than one
of these objectives into a more robust menu. For the sake of discussion,
I've selected these three goals which are common to many small and
medium sized companies:
one(s) fit your business best?
I already discussed the fallacy of "If You Build It They Will Come"
in my first Web Edge column. Bottom line, putting your sales brochure
or marketing material online is only worthwhile if interested people
come and see it. If you are creating a stand alone site rather than
incorporating your material within someone else's high traffic site,
that is not likely to happen. Thus, to build your brand online,
you better budget for advertising. It's not reasonable to expect
a website to help you build visibility for your products just because
its posted on the Internet.
the web to build visibility requires an investment in in-your-face
exposure that is normally not included in the simpler process of
posting a website. What can facilitate visibility is the development
of compelling content, free offers and other types of promotional
come-ons that will attract the audience you desire. Alternately,
you can become a sponsor of a site that has successfully attracted
members of your target audience (the more highly targeted your audience
and the more focused the website on which you advertise the better.)
of the strange things about the web is that it sometimes seems like
a marketplace which is constantly being redesigned or which is continually
reinventing itself. As a result, I recommend a longer range web
strategy rather than a fast and flashy approach. However, if your
objective is to use the web to increase visibility, you will be
encouraged by a recent study commissioned by the Internet
Advertising Bureau called The
Online Advertising Effectiveness Study. This research asserts
advertising has tremendous communications power; a single exposure
can generate increases in:
Product attribute communication
more details on this report, please use the link above; but be cautious.
Unless you're willing to complement the investment in your web site
with an investment in advertising that will generate traffic, the
web may be the wrong medium to increase your visibility -- especially
if that is your sole objective.
Where the web gets really interesting is in its ability to create
new kinds of connections with customers. The Internet enables interactions
that you just can't make happen anywhere else -- at least not in
such large numbers.
the old song, "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you,"
the web offers an environment where you can share all kinds of services
and conveniences as well as even intimacies with your customers
and prospects. Of course, sometimes these opportunities are abused.
For example, when e-mail spammers dump junk mail into millions of
e-mail in-boxes, there can be more of a customer backlash or "turn-off,"
rather than the desired "turn-on" or "tune in."
other hand, when you mind your "netiquette," you can build relationships
and repeat customers; and there's no two ingredients that I know
of that are more positive for a business's future. In past Web Edge
columns, I've already linked to the book, net.gain and the Peppers
and Rogers site, Marketing 1 to 1.
This month, I've uncovered another consultant's site that reinforces
the importance of relationship marketing in an original interactive
format. In fact, the company calls itself, Relationship
of the worthwhile statements that this company makes on their site
is, "If you don't establish a dialogue with your customers, you
risk losing the 19 percent who are dissatisfied but don't complain."
And while the web is not a panacea that illuminates the need for
other channels for customer communications, it is an important new
relationship marketing may include extended services like package
tracking, offering clients access to appropriate databases and project
files, and so forth. Remember, the Internet is a network. More than
likely, you're now running your business on a network, and if you
make the right connections, you're more than likely to increase
your customer satisfaction.
given that more and more of your customers prefer to get their information
via e-mail and over the web, this is an opportunity that you can't
afford to miss.
needed to be effective is real inter activity. Remember that the
ineffective online brochure that we discussed earlier is only a
build relationships online:
website has to offer something of real value to browsers. This
can be as simple as a free report or give away, or as sophisticated
as an interactive self-evaluation process, or an "extranet" linking
your customers to your internal systems. With these kinds of opportunities
being realized everyday, you can't expect people to visit your
site just to hear your sales pitch.
You not only need to include highly visible feedback buttons,
but you need to be responsive to any input that is generated from
your website. Do you give as much attention to your incoming e-mail
as you do to your incoming phone calls? I hope so.
business fundamental of listening to the marketplace is perhaps
the single most essential ingredient in building business online.
The web is so fluid and flexible as well as ever-changing that without
this kind of dynamic responsiveness, it's easy to waste your time.
I know this sounds like common sense, but it's surprising how often
businesses get frustrated with the web because they don't pay attention
to this kind ingredient.
Let's kick off this section with a link. If you're new to electronic
commerce (also known as e-commerce), there's an
interesting collection of e-commerce overview articles on the
WilsonWeb site. If you've
got products that you can sell online, creating a virtual storefront
is another way to make the web experience profitable.
no question that consumer confidence in online commerce has increased
dramatically. Secure credit card transactions are now commonplace,
and as a result, more and more people are buying goods and services
over the Internet. Commerce software and server services are now
readily accessible in a variety of forms and levels of sophistication.
(For technical strategies, please see last
if you are selling products, whether retail or business-to-business,
the web not only offers an opportunity to extend your distribution,
but perhaps even more importantly, if you don't do it, your competition
will undoubtedly do it first.
the biggest mistake that many businesses make when they begin building
their online shops is that they don't test. While no serious software
or game developer would consider releasing a product without user
testing, the ease with which you can now build an online store has
helped some businesses to jump into e-commence just a bit too quickly.
you've got the software, hardware and personnel lined up, be sure
to keep a sharp eye on the quality of the user interactions on your
site. Involve your customers in order to get more user feedback
on your virtual store's design, and they are not only likely to
show you ways that you can increase your sales online; but if you
handle it sensitively, it's almost certain to increase customer
satisfaction through relationship building as well.
there's much more involved in achieving any of these objectives;
but I hope that I've offered you valuable food for thought. If not,
(and if so) I'd love to hear
next month, stay tuned.
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