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Frequently Asked Questions

"Why should I have a website?"

"How can a website help my marketing efforts?"

"How can a website help my sales?"

"How can a website provide my employees access to the company network?"

"How can a website provide customer service on the net?"

"So, remind me. What will a website do for my company?"

"Why does a website cost so much? My kid can do it for $300."

"I'm not getting a million hits a day. Nobody uses the shopping cart or the forms. It's all your fault. What's wrong?"

"Why should I have a website?"

There are four good reasons to have a website:

  1. Alternative marketing
  2. Customer service
  3. Employee access
  4. e-commerce

A website will provide you with an immediate return on your investment as a substitute for traditional marketing materials, as a 24x7 point of contact for critical customer service, as a point of sale for at least a portion of your customer transactions, and as an alternative route for employee remote access to company networks. Finally, a website can position you to take advantage of the increase in web traffic and e-commerce that is projected for the immediate future. That's what a website can do for you right now.

"How can a website help my marketing efforts?"

First of all, a website assists your marketing efforts simply by being there. The Web is a medium now, just like newspapers, radio, TV, and the phone book's Yellow Pages. People are going to look for you on the Internet. There's nothing worse than a prospective customer typing your sort of business into a search engine or looking for your line of work in a web directory, expecting to see you, and coming up dry, but seeing all your competition. Your company looks stale, out-of-touch, and noncompetitive. It works the same way the Yellow Pages work. Customers go to the Yellow Pages, and they look under a category. If you're there, they see you. If you're not, they see everybody else.

Once you realize that the nature of the Web makes a website behave, at least in part, like traditional marketing materials such as slicks, ads, radio and TV spots, and newsletters, you'll realize the cost of a website compares very favorably with the cost of these traditional marketing materials. What does an ad in the Yellow Pages cost? How often can you update it to include new services, products, changed phone numbers? How about the newspaper? How can you track who sees your newspaper or phone book ad? What does a marketing slick cost? How often can you revise what it includes? What do you do with the old ones when you redesign? What's the reach of traditional ads? Citywide? Statewide? Priced postage lately? Website cost compares very favorably with the cost of traditional advertising and marketing materials and carries the additional benefit of being infinitely, immediately, and cheaply revised, updated, or completely replaced. And you aren't forced to use the obsolete copies for bookmarks and cigar lighting strips for the next five years. Finally, a website is global. For less than $10,000, anyone, anywhere, on the entire planet can view your brochure.

"How can a website help my sales?"

An on-line catalog benefits you immediately as it replaces at least some portion of your paper marketing media with a web site alternative--compare the cost of paper publication and postage for a traditional catalog or flier. Consider the flexible revisability of a web page catalog. Try revising a paper catalog after it has gone to print and to the post office. You can do this with a web-based catalog. Nothing is too last-minute to go to print on the Web. In fact, the ability of an on-line store to replace the overhead of a traditional store is limited only by the degree to which you want to keep the brick and mortar.

As far as sales go, right now on-line stores can only be expected to replace some percentage, initially small, of sales. But it is growing, and will continue to grow: "According to a 36-country study by Taylor Nelson SofresInteractive (TNSi), the number of Internet users worldwide who have shopped online has increased by 50 percent over the past year."


Of course, on-line checkout isn't the only thing that makes a web store worthwhile. Having a catalog on-line may not translate into sales that are completely converted on the site. In fact, in 2002, it probably won't. In 1998, a study conducted by Yankelovich Partners concluded that "63 percent of all American adults on-line today say that they have used the Internet 'to shop'; 39 percent have 'ordered' a product or service on-line--whether they paid for it on-line or not; and 23 percent said they have actually 'transacted' on-line." Thus, nearly three times as many customers will make use of your on-line store catalog to select your product and then call you or write you or come through the door to place the order.


Online shopping is becoming, not the occasional custom of the early days, but more of a regular habit, as well. In 2001, the TNSi study indicates an increase on the way, as "some 15 percent of all Internet users shopped online in the past month, compared with 10 percent 12 months ago." This is also the percentage of people who have shopped offline on the basis of information gleaned while on the web. Altogether, "27 percent of users . . . are now shopping directly or indirectly via the Internet."

But does this necessarily mean the revenue impact of a website is minimal? "While e-commerce sales are undoubtedly important, for most companies, they just scratch the surface in terms of what Giga Information Group calls TEI, or total economic impact," said Andrew Bartels, a Giga vice president. "Sales figures are the easiest to track and do provide a good indication of growth, but we believe that Internet-influenced revenue will comprise a significant segment of the US economy. For example, customer research on the Internet is a factor in 25-30 percent of all new car sales in the US, but this revenue is not included in e-commerce forecasts."


According to Thomas E. Miller, Cyber Dialogue vice president, "In addition to selling online, entrepreneurs are comparison shopping for business suppliers online just like consumers, and nearly half of all online small businesses expect to save costs by using the Internet."

"At a time when many large companies struggle to make a profit online, about half of US small businesses that sell online say online sales have met or exceeded their expectations. Sixty percent of those that accept orders on their Web sites report sales gains due to their online presence amounting to about 23 percent of total company sales."

For vendors, the results of this survey are even more compelling: "Cyber Dialogue pegs the total value of small business online orders the past 12 months at $19.0 billion, up 67 percent from $11.4 billion in early 1998."

Online small business also make use of their Internet connection to manage their banking affairs.

Consider the following summary of facts from the new 1999 US Small Business (SB) Internet Survey, offered by Cyber Dialogue.

Some highlights of this survey include:
    • Three million small businesses under 100 employees are online today
    • Ninety six percent use the Web
    • Over 90 percent are using the Internet to seek information on business products, up from 80 percent last year
    • Over 60 percent ordered business goods and services online the past 12 months, up dramatically from only 38 percent last year
    • Two out of three now use email with suppliers, up from 51 percent last year while over 50 percent now go to supplier Web sites, up from 41 percent last year
    • Use of personalization has risen dramatically the past 12 months, helping to redefine both customer and supplier relationships
    • Half of all SBs online say they expect the Internet to cut costs in such areas as telephone, shipping, and postage spending

So it all depends on what you mean by "sell," and it all depends on whether you're planning for today or for next year. The story is changing right now. Regardless of the number of on-line sales you make, right now nearly three times as many of your customers are using your web site to shop, to gather product information, to make determinations of what they will buy, and are then walking in or phoning in the order.

Of course, as the surveys indicate, things will only get better. Consider the following projection: "The Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) has released a study indicating that Internet sales of traditional consumer technologies to on-line households should reach at least $14 billion by 2002, representing 13 percent of total industry volume."


If your business intends to take advantage of the volume and savings offered by web transactions, it will be crucial to begin positioning your site as soon as possible.

Positioning requires you to know more than just the future of the Web audience. It also demands you know yourself. According to Bartels at Giga, "medium-sized companies (100-999 employees) face the greatest challenge in adapting to an Internet economy. To date, large companies (more than 1,000 employees) have dominated the business-to-business e-commerce market, while large businesses and small companies (companies with less than 100 employees) have divided the business-to-consumer market.... According to Giga, the brightest e-commerce future for medium-sized companies lies in their ability to become key players in larger niche markets."


"How can a website provide my employees access to the company network?"

Through a groupware client like Lotus Notes, employees on the road can be provided with access to company email and database access via the company website, replacing to a great extent long distance telephone calls and express mail, for example. This makes accommodating employee needs for flex time, for mobility, simplicity itself, often key factors in employee retention and in attracting new talent.

And speaking of talent, would you like a broader field to pull from when you recruit? iLogosResearch says global use of the Internet for recruiting has gone from 29 percent in 1998 to 88 percent in 2001 among Fortune 500 companies. These companies "use technology to gain productivity and effectiveness by taking the next steps into online recruiting and talent management,"said Alice Snell, iLogos Research vice-president.


"How can a website provide customer service on the net?"

Think of TV as a lecture. They talk. You sit and listen. Nobody argues about the usefulness of advertising in that medium, and the prices well-placed television spots command testify to the demand. But increasingly, companies are finding that the interactivity of the Web, which distinguishes it from traditional advertising, makes possible another sort of business relationship.

If you are not taking advantage of this opportunity to provide customer service to your clients, you will soon be left behind. Consider the findings resulting from a study by The Kelsey Group and ConStat, Inc., which suggest that a quarter of all small businesses are using the Internet right now to provide customer support and service.


"The Local Commerce Monitor, an ongoing study of 600 small businesses, found that small businesses are integrating Internet and e-commerce technologies with their offline operations in order to streamline customer interactions. Ten percent of all small businesses now report using email marketing as a promotional tool."

Online promotion is inexpensive and effective, and can make it possible for your small business to compete with major players on a level playing field. Your arsenal consists of direct mail, reciprocal links, affiliate networks, community chat, bulletin boards, free banner ads, paid banner ads, and more.

A survey by SmartAge.com and Millward Brown Intelliquest provides the following results:

Eighty percent of respondents expect online promotions to help them compete more effectively.
None of the respondents feel online promotions will not be of any help in the future.
Forty five percent of respondents believe that online promotion has already helped their organization to compete more effectively in today's marketplace. Only 11 percent of respondents feel that online promotions do not help them compete more effectively.
Thirty eight percent of respondents are primarily trying to reach a national consumer base through their online promotions, 35 percent are primarily trying to reach a local market, and 9 percent are trying to reach an international market.


"So, remind me. What will a website do for my company?"

It's something like sitting by the side of the creek with a bucket of bait. If you're running your ads in the Yellow Pages, on the radio or television, in the newspapers, then you're sitting on the side of the creek pitching your bait into the water. That can be a lot of fun. It might not catch any fish, though. But if you're running your ad on an interactive website, the bait has a hook in the middle of it.

What a Website Will Provide Right Now, in 2002.
    • cheaper, better newsletters
    • cheaper, better marketing slicks
    • cheaper, better catalogs
    • customer service, around the clock
    • sales, whether your door is open or not
    • global advertising reach
    • a defining presence for web-active customers
    • employee access to the company network, including email, telecommunications, and other
    • a community, whether of like-minded individuals or customers

What a Website Will Do in the Future.
    • allow significant e-commerce transactions for commodities
    • replace much of the communication function of traditional mail
    • replace print advertisements, slicks, and newsletters
    • represent your organization to the community of customers as television and radio do today, but on a global scale
    • provide employees access to the company network, including email, telecommunications, and other

"Why does a website cost so much? My kid can do it for $300."

What do you want your website to do? Put your picture and some text on the screen? Let your kid do it. You'll be just as happy, you'll get off a lot cheaper, and you don't have to call him on the phone to complain when you finally see it for yourself. You can just tell him at dinner. But if you intend to use your web site as a low cost, well-tuned, infinitely editable, immediately updatable, globally viewable marketing slick, newsletter, or other marketing and cataloging tool to present your image and your offerings to the public, especially to the web-savvy public, then you want your website created by the people who can create not only your website but also your low cost, well-tuned, infinitely editable, immediately updatable, globally accessible marketing slick, newsletter, or other marketing and cataloguing tool. Still want your kid doing this?

"I'm not getting a million hits a day. Nobody uses the shopping cart or the forms. It's all your fault. What's wrong?"

A website can be expected to be an effective marketing tool for that portion of your clientele that seeks information about goods and services on the Web. That may not be everybody who comes in your shop in 2002. So, who is using the Web today to shop and get information? Consider the following statistics:

How many customers do you have? In mid 2002, your web site visitors are probably a subsegment of your customers. This portion will look for you on the Web. If they do not find you, they will characterize your business accordingly and, additionally, will probably see your competition there.

What about the rest of your customers? They're coming. The nature of the Internet user is evolving. Online consumers now mirror the rest of your market. "After years of slowly converging, the profile of the average adult American Internet user looks like the profile of the average American, according to online market research firm Insight Express."


The early Internet was young, relatively wealthy, and mostly male, but the shift to average Americans now makes the Internet a mainstream marketing and advertising forum as important as television or radio. Nielsen NetRatings' data compiled in May 2001 indicates women are 52 percent of the Internet universe, as they are of the population as a whole. And this trend is not just the case in America; if your market is international, you'll be interested to hear that Nielsen NetRatings' data indicates that "Australia women now make up 48 percent of the Internet population, followed by New Zealand (46 percent), South Korea (45 percent), Hong Kong (44 percent), Singapore (42 percent) and Taiwan (41 percent). But whether you are interested in marketing internationally or not, you should bear two things in mind. First, the demographic you will be addressing now looks like the street, and second, whether you want to market internationally or not, if you're on the Internet, you will be.

There are a lot of people on the Net, and there are going to be a lot more very soon. But you're still not getting a million hits a day on the web site your yard man made for you. You've examined your customer base and prospective customer base, and you've compared it with who you now know is on the Net. You've compared your walk-in and phone-in customers before and after you put up the web site, and there's no difference. What else could be wrong? Registration? Search engines? Spiders? Bots? Counters? Links from related specialty sites? Rings? Each of these can send traffic your way, and each is especially useful for different reasons. If you cannot say you have tailored each of these factors to your best advantage, you're not going to get as many hits as you can. This kind of development requires a conscious, concerted effort.