Sounds like the take on the latest lottery pot, right? Nope; it is the number of active websites on the Internet as we close in on the end of 2012. As I'm sure with many of you, the end of each year, and the anticipation of the next, causes me to reflect. This morning I began to ponder the question, "Were there any common threads in our web development business this year, and if there were, what were they?" And perhaps more important, "What learnings should we take away?" The answer is there were!!!
Each year brings new challenges, and causes us to revisit some of the "long-lived" old school ones. I decided to make a valiant attempt to touch on and provide my views around possible solutions, with the hope interested folks will see more than a glimmer of truth and value in the ravings of a web developer.
Even it is not specifically stated, I would gladly bet my half of the next huge lottery pot that most folks see building a website as the end all, be all to improving their company's top line revenue. Great idea, which may have been true for the first 15 minutes after the first browser hit the market with graphical capabilities. With the current state of the Internet, that idea could not be further from reality, if it ever was. As the title of this post says, "644 Million and Counting." Your company's website is going up against significant numbers of competitors that offer similar, if not identical services. Think of it this way. Without certain things in place, the chance of a potential customer finding your site, and then actually buying something are VERY similar to winning the lottery. Really, if you sell products, you are at some level, competing with every other company on the Internet who has the same set of offerings. It's no longer the guy or gal down the street or across town, it's the guy or gal in another state or country. If you happen to be holding the reigns of a small company, you need to take at minimum a regional view of your competitors, if not wider. Yet, if you don't web and web well, you can't win. Having come out of the banking industry years ago, I began to see the effects of ever-expanding competition years ago.
Time was the "norm" meant walking into your bank, up to your favorite teller to transact business. Think; when was the last time this scenario happened to you? I'll bet it's been quite a bit for some of you. The "norm" now is electronic deposits and withdrawals. The average customer only visits the bank rarely on special occassions. Which implies there is a ever-growing portion of the customer base that could just as easily do business with a bank out of state. Money is money. Checks are checks. Credit cards are credit cards. Is some of this beginning to strike a chord? So, what is the silver bullet? In the majority of presentations C2C gives we stress there is no silver bullet. You can read about the other critical points of being competitive with your web presence in our other blogs, but in my humble opinion, if there is a secret weapon in the war called small business, it's customer service, customer service, customer service. There I said it. You likely never expected that to eminate from the fevered brain of a web developer did you?
The Big Differentiator
You can compete. You can win. You must make the following partial (you should have additions) list of beliefs and processes non-negotiable in the ways you conduct your business on the web or otherwise.
• People do business with people they know. Treat them like it.
• View your website as a way to start a transaction not a way to handle it, and most definately not how to finish it.
• Include easy ways on your site to "opt-out" of the site and deal with a human.
• Be responsive, these are real people, not just faceless browsers.
• Find ways on your site to let your customers feel part of something, not that you just want the sale.
• Remember how you did business before you ever heard of the Internet?
• The list goes on ...