What The Web Can’t Do
So far, the situation looks good. A Web presence can save you money, enable you to improve marketing and customer service, and give your company the dot-com address it needs to look modern. Contrary to popular opinion, however, a Web presence cannot perform miracles for every company that builds one.
Beware of Promises Made by Web Consultants
One of the reasons I included this is to warn people about Unscrupulous Web Consultants (we’ll call them UWCs, for short). These are people who prey upon business managers who know little or nothing about the Web and rely on consultants for all of their information.
A UWC will tell potential clients anything to get the contract—even lies. Then, with the client’s deposit in hand, the UWC will do whatever he thinks is best to make his portfolio of Web sites look impressive to future clients, regardless of whether it meets the current client’s needs. Throughout the process, the client is kept in the dark about almost everything the UWC handles. And, at the end of the process, when the site is online, the client is handed a big bill for services rendered. Monthly or quarterly bills for management services rendered may also appear as long as the site remains online.
Please don’t think every Web consultant or designer is of the unscrupulous variety. Most aren’t. But in an ocean full of fish, there are always a few sharks. Don’t let a shark get you.
Replace All Other Marketing Tools
Even if you have a Web site, you cannot expect it to replace all other kinds of marketing.
Not everyone has access to the Web.
Not everyone uses the Web to look for businesses like yours.
So even if you believe (for whatever reason) that all of your potential customers or clients access and use the Internet, making the first point moot, you’re still zapped by the second point.
Look at Me (Again)
Although it’s embarrassing to admit, I’m an example. I’m literally connected to the Internet all day long when I’m at my desk. My Web browser is always running. I’m constantly switching to it to look up a Web site I need to access for information.
Yet when I was trying to find a Japanese soaking tub like I’d seen in a friend’s house years ago, I visited the Home Depot, looked in plumbing catalogs, and asked construction contractors. No one knew what I was talking about; half of them tried selling me a garden tub.
Then a friend of mine asked, “Did you search the Internet?” Duh. I felt like slapping myself on the side of the head. I searched and after wading through an awful lot of junk, found exactly what I was looking for.
The point is, even the most active Internet user doesn’t always turn to the Web to locate products or services.
Make Money (with Some Exceptions)
Lots of people think that building a Web site with an online shopping feature is like opening up a store in a popular mall in a wealthy neighborhood. Despite the rather rosy picture painted about e-commerce, it just ain’t so. In fact, huge companies based on e-commerce are having trouble surviving.
Online Store vs. Traditional Store
An online store isn’t the same as a traditional store. There are certain disadvantages to buying online—either actual or perceived:
One of the reasons that online stores don’t always work is the “touchy-feely” aspect. Let’s face it—you can show a hundred pictures of your product and describe it in a thousand words. But there are still people out there who like to pick up the product and look at it before they buy it. Unless they’ve already seen and handled the item elsewhere, they’re not going to buy. It’s the whole browsing part of shopping, the part that makes it fun (for some people, anyway).
Some people continue to have fears about trusting an online shopping system with their credit card information. They think that some hacker is going to steal their credit card number and use it to go on a shopping spree or a vacation in Brazil. The truth of the matter is, you’re more likely to be a victim of credit card fraud when paying a restaurant bill via credit card than by using your credit card to place an order on a secure, online system. But try telling that to the worry warts who get all their information from the evening news on TV.
Many people won’t buy online simply because it’s more convenient or cheaper to buy in a traditional store. After all, why wait until next week to receive a product when they can take a ten-minute drive and buy it immediately? And why pay for shipping? (Of course, depending on the item, the amount of money you save in sales tax could cover the cost of shipping, but some people don’t see that either.)
People Don’t Pay for Online Information
Many people think they can build a Web site and make money by charging a fee to access its information. What they don’t realize is that the vast majority of people who access the Internet are not willing to pay for the information they receive online. Why? Because there’s a good chance they can find the information for free elsewhere.
I am part of this vast majority. I won’t pay to access any Web site because, in most cases, I can find the information on another, free Web site. If I can’t find it, I convince myself that I don’t need it. (I can be pretty convincing.) It’s not because I’m cheap; it’s because I’m of the old school that believes information on the Internet should be free.
There are exceptions to every rule and this rule is no exception. The best way to explain is with examples.
Say you’ve written and published a book about how to build chicken coops. Your book has been reviewed by numerous farm-related publications and everyone is raving about it. You can’t get it into the big bookstores (they don’t think there’s enough of a market) so you decide to sell the book via your Web site. You place ads in the marketing publications chicken farmers (and chicken farmer wannabes) read, inviting them to your Web site to learn more and order online. (Since you know that not everyone is on the Internet, you also provide a phone number or address for orders.) Because you’re the only source of the book and it is in demand, you’ll probably succeed at selling it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few chicken supply stores interested and they’ll place wholesale orders. Maybe you won’t make as much per book, but you’ll sell more books.
Or say you’re a productivity consultant and you spend most of your time conducting research on the impact of color on office productivity. Each month, you publish a newsletter with conclusions from your most recent studies. You can publish it in print or you can make it accessible on your Web site for a fee. If you’re well known in your field and your newsletter is in big demand (and someone else hasn’t done the same research and published it for free elsewhere), people will pay to access it.
These are just two examples. They have one thing in common: they offer a product or service that is in demand (because of other publicity or marketing efforts) and cannot be gotten elsewhere. Do your products or services meet this criteria? If so, your e-commerce efforts may succeed.
Putting Your Small Business on the Web
The Peachpit Guide to Webtop Publishing
By Maria Langer
Publisher : Peachpit Press
ISBN : 0-201-71713-1