Although the Internic articles found on this site are a little dated, J & J Systems feels that they are not out of date and are still very pertinent to the internet environment today.
Targeting Success : Web Sites That Work
By Ross Jardine, VP Marketing and Business Development, Verio Web Hosting, Inc.
As an online business owner, the odds of building a successful Web site are one in a million. Over the past few years I've visited several thousand Web sites and helped hundreds of people develop Web sites for their business. In my never-ending quest for the perfect Web site I've learned that it is impossible to create a successful Web presence without knowing and understanding two very simple and basic pieces of information about the business. Most online business owners fail to take these important issues into account when they finally decide to get on the Web. What are these two critical pieces of information?
First, you must know and understand how the business makes its money. Why is this important? Because most successful Internet businesses will continue to make most of their money the same way they did BEFORE they got on the Web. Unless they're a brand new business, this means they will usually make the majority of their money from traditional "off-line" marketing activities.
Very few businesses get on the Web and find out that they can stop all the traditional advertising and marketing that they have done in the past. For example, would Land's End stop printing a catalog just because they can put their catalog online? Of course not.
The biggest mistake most online business owners make is trying to reinvent the wheel when they develop a company Web site, rather than building a site that enhances the way the company currently does business. Remember, Internet marketing is not a replacement for traditional marketing, but an enhancement to it.
When I meet with a prospective client to develop a Web site the first question I ask is, "tell me a little about how your business operates." Specifically, I want to know how they make their money. Does it come from people buying products from a catalog or do customers come into the store and make their purchase? Do you sell most of your products in a face to face presentation, or is it all done over the phone? What percentage of your business comes from repeat buyers verses new customers? How do you communicate with your customers now? Where do you advertise to reach your target audience?
That's a good start.
I try to get the business owner to walk me through their sales process. A sales process is what customers go through when they do business with a company. I've broken a basic sales process down to five simple steps.
How do you follow-up on your leads? (educating)
How do you close the sale and collect the money? (selling)
How do you deliver the product? (fulfilling)
How do you build a continuing relationship with your customers? (servicing)
Once you know what the sales process is, you need to look at how to develop a Website that will enhance it. That's the first key to building successful Web sites.
On the Web it's much easier to increase a company's profits by improving on existing practices than it is to create a whole new way of doing business. Most of the successful sites that I know of are merely extensions of successful traditional businesses that have figured out how to do their business more efficiently on the Web.
Let's use the catalog company as an example again. Rather than put the entire catalog on the Web, why not use their Web site to create a value added benefit for their customers. Not all their customers will be able to benefit, but for those that access the Web site there is a specific value added benefit. They may have a preferred buyers' club, or special close-out deals, or even a selection of products at special online prices that are lower than in the printed catalog.
The catalog company might also use the Web to get people to add their name to the mailing list for the printed catalog. Many potential customers may find a company on the Web, but getting them to return is more challenging. While a customer may not visit a Website on a regular interval, they will almost always look through a catalog that gets mailed to their home. The more mediums you expose a customer to, the more opportunities to create sales.
Just as important is having the traditional methods a company uses in its sales process is to have it work hand-in-hand with its online efforts. This means putting the Web site address in the printed catalog and giving an email address for customer service or order taking. The reverse of this would be putting your 800 number on the Web site so people who prefer to do their business over the phone will still have that option.
I have a client who has been very successful selling computer products with a Web site. While their site has a great online ordering system with secure order processing, they still get over 50% of their Internet orders over the phone. They understand that their customers like calling to place their orders, so they put their phone number on every page in their Web site.
The second piece of information that you absolutely must have to build a successful Web site is even more important than the first. Without this information you're leaving the success of your client's Internet business to mere luck. When you look at the number of Internet businesses that fail, it's clear that few people are taking the time to consider this critical information before they get on the Web.
So here's number two - Who is the target market for this business?
If you don't know who buys your products or services, how are you going to find those people online and invite them to visit your Website? Before I can properly market and promote a Website, I first need to know who I'm looking for. Once I know who I'm looking for, finding them is a snap.
I want to know as much about the customers as I do about the business, because those are the people I need to attract to the Web site if it is going to produce results.
Contrary to what most people think, the Internet is not a giant mass market, but a giant collection of niche markets. Everywhere online people group themselves together into their own. That means they visit the same newsgroups, chat rooms, and Web sites as everyone else that shares their same interest.
Knowing who your customers are is a critical element of success. Where do they live? What do they do for work? Are they men or women? How much money do they make? Why do they buy these products? If you don't know the answers to these questions, you have a huge challenge on your hands. Most successful business owners will be able to answer these questions with detail.
Next find out where they are online. Here are four simple ways to locate your target market online.
1. Check Out the Competition and Swap Links
Many of the people in your target market are already visiting your competition's Web sites. The best way to locate related sites is by using your favorite search engine and searching for your product by name or your industry by keywords. If you can locate your competitors, you could swap links with them and perhaps get some instant exposure to your target audience. This strategy of swapping links works best with indirect competitors. Look for Web sites offering similar or related products. Swapping links with related sites is the best kind of Internet advertising because it's free!
2. Participate in Some Newsgroups
One of the ways your target market separates themselves from all the other people online is by participating in newsgroups. The number of newsgroups on the Internet continues to grow, and I'll bet that you can find a dozen that deal with your product or industry. A simple way to find out what newsgroups you need to participate in is DejaNews (http://www.dejanews.com). You can do a search by product name or keyword. This site tool will help you locate all the newsgroups that are having discussions on the subject you want to promote.
Pay close attention to the matches that you get for your search, and be sure to get the name of the news group where the discussion is held. Add the name to the list of newsgroups you follow in your news reader program and start watching it on a regular basis to determine if advertising is acceptable. Note: Newsgroups may not welcome advertisements to the list. Make sure to use your Web address in your signature file in all your contributions to the newsgroup so that others will see the site that you're promoting.
3. Subscribe to Mailing Lists
Just like newsgroups, mailing lists are built around specific subjects. They come to you on regular intervals via email and you read them and respond to them with your email program. A good place to find mailing lists that attract your target market at www.liszt.com (No, that's not a typo). You can search a database of thousands of lists and get the instructions for subscribing. Be sure to read the email messages when they come in. Beware, however, it's easy to get behind and you never know if the one you delete is the one that will lead to a big sale.
4. Subscribe to An Online Service
Many online business owners thumb their nose at those who get their Internet access through an online service like America Online or CompuServe. They think that they must not know much about the online world if they depend on an online service for their Internet access. Wrong! I've found that users of online services are some of the best customers you could ever get. They are generally more comfortable buying online and more likely to turn to the Internet for answers and information.
In addition, online service has a few great places to look for your target market. Just like the Internet, the users segment themselves into tightly defined niches. Start with the message boards or forums that deal with your subject and then look for more opportunities in the related chat rooms. There are dozens of places in nearly every online service to reach hundreds of niche markets. If you're not using the online services to locate customers, you're missing some easy sales.
If you'd like to get your company on the Web or if you're in the business of helping others establish a Web presence, be sure to ask the questions that will get you the information you need to create a successful Web site. First, learn as much as you can about how the business operates and then try to build a Web site to enhance the sales process. Second, find out as much as you can about the customers. The Internet is a giant collection of tiny niche markets and if you know which one fits the profile of your customers, finding them online and inviting them to visit the Web site will be easy.
These two simple steps are essential to building a successful Website
for any business. If you don't have these two critical pieces of information
before you create a Website you're simply wasting your time and your
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Last updated: June 22, 2010