The Internet is the most cost-efficient information medium that has ever existed. Every business enterprise, no matter how humble, has the opportunity to reach an international market of billions. But, what are realistic expectations, and what level of investment in time and money makes sense for you?
An interactive Website that R Strategic designed several years ago featured an online auction that helped to sell-out a large oceanfront project in 24 hours. Bidders from throughout the world raised the overall selling price of the development by several million dollars over the estimate. That’s an invest that really paid off.
I think there’s four levels of internet deployment, from simple to complex, with progressively more commitment and money required with each progressively larger upgrade.
This is the most common form of Website. It is basically an static, electronic brochure, with information about your product or service and how to contact you. It is what the yellow pages used to be, with the one caveat that you might be harder to find unless you work at it.
This level invites your site visitor to interact and exchange information. By providing your site visitor with a dynamic experience with constantly refreshed information and features you invite repeat visits. If you can get a casual visitor to give you their email address or other contact informatioin they just became a valid sales lead. The data these interactions generate becomes the “product” of your Web investment.
The final step in online customer/client cultivation is providing the secure environment (and comfort level) to perform an actual transaction. This requires not only creating an atmosphere of trust, but also the actual e-commerce applications to perform the mechanics of credit card (or pay pall) transactions. This step also means that your backend IT operations should grow to perform order processing, fulfilmentt and customer relationship management functionality.
This level is where the Internet itself becomes the primary focus of your business model. Most or all of your business is marketed, prospected, transacted and serviced on the Web. You have a small or non-existent “bricks & mortar” presence. In addition, your organization is also administrated via company internet communications procedures. Your sales force and mangement are all administrated via Web networks. When this model works you are on your way to becoming the next Amazon or Ebay.
None of these different levels of Internet business will succeed, however, if people don’t know they exist. Promoting your Website is the single most critical factor for developing a winning Web presence.
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