Where O Where is Your Web Strategy?

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a winning website
Rumors of the demise of the web are greatly exaggerated. What is true is that many of the companies who are on the web today are finding that their early efforts were misguided. The same companies which rushed pell mell to get big at any cost the web are now stepping back and asking themselves some hard questions about how their going to get profitable.

Now our point of view on this is that the only legitimate reasons to be on the web is for direct marketing purposes. That said we think the average website will go through 4 distinct and progressive phases: View, Talk, Do, Think.

View
View sites work under the same premise as commercial television. In exchange for a great viewing experience, you’ll be subjected to advertising, which the website’s sponsor sells to underwrite the cost of developing the content available on the site. Our study showed that 37% fall into the View category, although sadly, few of the viewing experiences were anything to stand up and shout about. This is too bad and limits their audience considerably. Sites that provide dynamite content are finding they can succeed on advertising revenue alone. This includes C-NET and Hot Wired, among others.

Talk
Relatively few companies are using their web presence to encourage customers and prospects to talk with them. Only one half of the sites we studied allowed customers to provide feedback via e-mail. And those that do don’t get back to you nearly fast enough. Customers on the web are there because of their impatience with other media. They view a 9-minute call to an 800# as an ordeal. Consequently, it behooves you to get back to them sooner versus later. Slow or no response represent a missed opportunity for you to strengthen the relationship between yourselves and your customers, to build loyalty, and ultimately lifetime value.

Do
Most active websites are designed to make it easier for the customer to do business with you. Part of making it easier is providing customers with a list of your products, pricing, and an opportunity to order the product right then and there, if not using the web itself than using a phone or FAX. Customers want to use the web to gain access to information that will help them make more informed product choices. A list of your product does nothing to help bring them closer to the buy decision.

Think
Can a website think for you? Well, no. But the technology is already here to provide customers with a web experience that is tailored to their particular needs, wants, and points of interest. Here’s an example which will either chill your soul or excite your spirit. Large companies have a lot of trouble keeping track of their computer assets. Imagine you compete in the cutthroat hard disk market, where price is everything. The technology exists to poll all the computers in your customers’ companies and pull off a profile of the hardware and software used. The profile can be housed on your site and resold back to the customer with value-added analysis for a fee. Privacy is an obvious concern here.

First published in Marketing Computers magazine in April 1996 and updated July 2001; reprinted here with permission.