Pitfalls and proposals

Certainly the benefits of the web can be significant, but to ensure that your Internet efforts enhance your business it is important to understand and be prepared for some of the potential challenges.

Some caveats to doing business on the web include:

  • Rushing to be on the web can result in a poorly designed, weakly functioning site.  Know your audience and what your goals are for the site before you build it. How will it complement your existing business and customer relationships?
  1. Ask your customers what they would like to be able to do on your site.
  2. Understand your competition. What are their capabilities?  How do customers use their sites?
  3. As you begin to build the site, review your plans with customers and get their feedback.
  4. And finally, test the site with real users PRIOR to launching it.  Remember the old saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
  • Anticipating all possible user difficulties and questions is impossible.  Be sure to prepare for (including staffing and training) issues that will require human interaction.
  • Don’t assume that if you build it, they will come. Develop a strong marketing plan for creating awareness of your site and encouraging Internet users to visit the site. Don’t rely on a shotgun approach. Know your target and market to it. Key words on search engines are a great way to zero in on a narrow target.
  • The Internet can seem cold and inhuman at times. Your challenge is to leverage the inherent capabilities of the Internet to help build customer relationships and thus humanize the experience for your customers.
  • Gather information about your customers so that you can begin to market to them as individuals.  For example, record the e-mail addresses of customers who have contacted customer service. When you have new product or site enhancement announcements, consider sending them an e-mail prior to launch as a special customer insider’s notice.  Also, send them a customer satisfaction survey to see how well your team resolved their problem. Just letting a customer know that you care about their troubles can add to their loyalty.
  • Don’t expect immediate payoffs.  View the Internet as a long-term investment.  But by all means, measure your efforts.  Track how many users come to your site and what they do while they are there.  Measure your cost savings in areas such as marketing and customer service.
  • The Internet is a whole new marketing animal.  Treat it as such and Test. Test. Test.  With the Internet you can directly measure the effectiveness of your advertising similar to direct response marketing.  But unlike printed creative materials, you can change your creative rapidly.  So test your advertising concepts, track them closely, and refine them.  You may even find that you can take some of these tests results to help drive offline creative efforts.