Developing An Effective e-Strategy
So, what’s it going to take to do business on the Internet? Good question! Over the past couple of years we have seen the emergence and ultimate failure of hundreds of dot-com companies.
The Dotcom’s didn’t get it… Will You?
These companies based their existence, and in many cases, their over capitalization, on business plans that ultimately sold something to someone using the Internet as a primary medium. I am sure millions of dollars were spent on research that justified the decisions of investors to pour hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars into these companies and their business plans. Unfortunately, we know the rest of the story. Most of us are still licking our personal financial wounds as a result.
Many observations have been made in the recent past by experts about the causes of the dot- com failures. One expert, the director of a major international corporation’s Center for E-Excellence, summed it up by saying: “…that the pioneer e-tailers (e-retailers) didn’t have enough of the merchant-mindset.” In other words, they lost touch with their customers. Hard to believe but true!
So, what lessons can we learn from this experience? First, the most important thing in business was, is, and always will be, the Customer! Second, the Internet hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s still an amazing and ubiquitous (widespread, or being everywhere) communications medium, that when properly used, can generate phenomenal results.
Whether you work for (or own) a company that provides products or services in a Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C) segment, the Internet provides an unprecedented opportunity for you to market and sell your wares.
One Thing -- Focus
When you boil it all down, success online is dramatically affected by one thing! Recently, a colleague and I were talking about success. Since he has given me good advice and friendly council over the years, he had my rapt attention while sharing pearls of wisdom from his 40-year technology and business career.
My friend asked me, “Do you know what the secret to success is?” Almost without letting him get the words out I said, “No What?” After a dramatic pause he said, “One thing.” Remarkably, my friend’s appearance began to change to that of Jack Palance (Curly), from his Oscar winning performance in the 1991 classic City Slickers. I waited with bated breath for him to share this life-changing secret.
Nothing happened. He wasn’t saying anything. We were just looking at each other in silence, until finally I asked; “And that ’One Thing’ would be..?” A wry smile crept across his face. “I have no idea,” he said. “That’s for you to figure out. Whatever you decide, do it with all your heart and do it better than anyone else!” I got the point. My friend had reinforced a principal so basic and so true.
The principal of One Thing -- Focus, is especially relevant when applied to the Internet. A singular focus is fundamental to answering the question; “What’s it going to take to do business on the Internet?” The numerous elements, tactics really, that go into the development of an effective e-Strategy for your business are important, without question. But, more important than any combination of any element or tactic is focus.
Your focus, or lack thereof, will determine if you succeed or fail online. By definition, the Internet is huge. Its hugeness can contribute to tremendous success or abysmal failure. When you approach the Internet, do so with the objective of identifying and attracting the attention of the prospects and customers of your particular product or service (note the singular reference here), specifically.
Your eStrategy should communicate your solution to the particular problem that you know your prospects and customers have. This is your unique value proposition (more on this, coming right up!). Unlike traditional ‘target’ marketing, doing business online provides you with an effective and efficient way to realize the dream of establishing a true, real-time, one-to-one relationship with your customers and prospects.
The availability of information and the speed of communication on the World Wide Web are the primary factors in the accomplishment of this goal (more on this in the section on Content).
3 Things That Define Success Online
Practically speaking, a large percentage of a small group is a ‘bigger’ and more meaningful number, than a small percentage of a large group. Gaining this large percentage of a highly targeted group of customers, or market segment -- commonly referred to as market share – should be the primary objective of any business. The success of your eStrategy is defined by your ability to:
- Find this highly targeted group of customers
- Communicate with them
- Get them to make a purchase.
The Great Equalizer
In the past, this level of marketing focus was restricted to those companies that had the research, advertising, and direct response budgets to support it. Not anymore! No longer do you have to be a Fortune 500 company with a multimillion-dollar budget to market effectively to a highly targeted group of customers and prospects. In this case, the Internet is the great equalizer. The major direct response marketing agencies realize this fact. They are currently busying themselves with the conversion of their traditional services to online services.
The More You Know…
The more you know about your customers and the better you understand them, the more likely you are to find them online. The important task is getting them to find you. There are several methods that you can use to do this. One in particular involves both traditional and pay-for-placement search engines.
Communicating with your customers and prospects is a fairly straightforward proposition. There are numerous highly targeted online methods including eZines, e-Pubs, Communities and eMail direct marketing campaigns, to name a few, which you can use to reach out to your market segment. You will find information on all of these techniques in this document.
It’s all about focus! If you do the appropriate amount of work on the ‘front-end’ – finding your customers and communicating with them -- the ‘back-end’ – getting them to buy your products or services -- will take care of itself.
Ultimately, if you focus your eStrategy towards the specific identification of your target customers and prospects, communicating your UVP (unique value proposition) to them in response to their needs, they will buy your products or services!