Lessons Learned from the Bleeding Edge: Six Steps to Enhance Your Online Business Success
By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.
You run a healthy business and have built a consistent track record. Today, your firm is successful regardless of the Internet. However, your business still isn’t enjoying the benefits of being on-line. But it isn’t for lack of trying! As a small business owner managing three on-line efforts and a consultant to six clients with eight web strategies, here are the lessons I have witnessed.
In the past two years, and with some misgivings, many businesses have set up websites. Their "webmasters" promised greater sales, leads, and reduced promotional costs. Furthermore, many firms were told that their world would leave them behind if they didn’t invest now. In spite of these on-line investments, neither the promises nor the fears came true. More sales did not materialize, few qualified leads were produced and the costs of maintaining a website have gone up and not down. What went wrong? In my experience, the most common mistakes start with six seemingly innocent statements.
The Six Mistakes:
- "I can be Just like Mike" Don’t assume your smaller, local/regional business can build even a proportional level of Internet awareness, transaction or credibility to that of larger firms.
- "If I spend money, I’ll make money" Don’t be convinced that spending large sums building and promoting your website will work.
- "Business on the Internet is different" If your business is not successful offline, it probably won’t succeed online.
- "My web page is my on-line strategy" A website is not an on-line business.
- "Everyone likes visiting my web site, just look at all the free information I give away" Just providing valuable information doesn’t ensure return visits to your site.
- "Of course I have a web strategy, look at all I have invested in graphics and technology" A clear business plan is needed and it has nothing to do with graphics or technology.
A common thread emerges through all six mistakes. We all must reconcile that we have learned on the Internet with our years of common business sense. What is right for your business? Should you cut your losses and decide the Internet isn’t right for your business? Or learn from the mistakes and do it right this time? Here is a simple thought to guide your renewed efforts.
A Guiding Principle For Future On-line Success
"With a plan, the Internet can help me to better reach, sell, and help all those who are or should be connected to my business".
With this mantra in place, here six steps to make the Internet work for your business:
- Identify your business constituents. Make a list of all the suppliers, employees, prospects, customers and partners in your business world.
- Determine the information each constituent needs. Understand the valuable, recurring information they must get from you and what you must give them.
- Identify where they get the information now. List where and from whom they obtain this knowledge today.
- Determine how good their current information is today. Assess and ask them how good this information is and whether it meets their needs.
- Decide how the Internet will improve and expand this information, making it and your site "sticky." Learn which competitors have successful on-line businesses and how they continuously provide and deliver this information to their constituents.
- Create an e-business strategy based on exchanging information of value with your constituents. Decide which of your business objectives can be met on-line and how you will achieve these.
As easy as it is to be distracted by the technology and the graphics of the Internet, the basics of effectively communicating with your constituents hold as true on-line as they do offline. The Internet is far more than a brochure or a billboard for your business. But it is also far less than a new solution to offline problems. Start your e-strategy today by understanding what you need to say and who needs to hear it. And then determine your return on investment in doing this. Once you have this down in writing, hiring Internet technologists and designers can make sense. What doesn’t make sense is hiring them before you know this. Just as you wouldn’t delegate responsibility to outsiders for signing your checks, please don’t leave strategic decisions to others. After all, this is both good traditional and Internet business sense.
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© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at (412) 973-2080 , by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at www.andybirol.com.