It Ain’t TV

How to build a Web site that will hold thier attention

Broadcast advertising is the art of saying something loud enough and long enough and frequently enough that it earns mind-share. People walking down the grocery store aisle see a brand name item they recognize and feel comfortable buying it.

“As Seen On TV” still carries weight, even in these days of infomercials. The jingle heard on the radio during the morning commute does, indeed, have an effect on what people buy in the evening. As annoying as all of the placards and billboards and bumper stickers may be, they work. Sad but true.

But today, we have a new medium with a new mode of getting us to buy: the World Wide Web. The marketing model on the Web is 180 degrees away from the broadcast norm. It is a pull medium, not a push medium.

Creating a World Wide Web site for business does not give the business person instant access to millions of electronically connected prospective customers. Instead, it gives them a way to invite prospects to learn more. It gives them the means to distribute product and service information at a very low cost, to those with an interest.

Here are a couple of tips for creating a successful commercial Web site:

Navigation

You are going to create an electronic environment for people to explore. What do you want them to find? Where do you want them to look first? What do you want them to learn?

Navigation is a serious matter in this electronic environment. You don’t want to lose your audience in a maze of entertainment. You don’t want them to get turned around and give up because they can’t find what they’re after. Be sure to provide some sort of an electronic map so they know where they are at all times.

Interaction

This medium offers your prospects the ability to interact with your computers. It is up to you to provide an interesting, engaging activity. Your Web site should be fun, interesting or useful – or all three.

You don’t send the owner’s manual to everybody who calls for a brochure. You want them to learn slowly so they understand each step. You don’t want to overwhelm them with information, instead, you want to calibrate their reaction at every turn. Now your computer can distribute product literature for you, in direct response to their need for information.

Be sure to engage the viewer in the activity of leaning about your products. Make them participate instead of being a passive spectator. Demand action from them, force them to make decisions, keep them actively involved.

Feedback

Above all, don’t forget to ask questions! Who are they? What are they interested in? What do they like about your products? Your company? Your competition? Your Web site? Probe them and respond quickly with thanks and praise for their participation and good ideas. This will help create the bond that will keep them customers for life.

Customer Service First

So now you have a Web site up and running. Why? Because the group in the MIS department showed how easy it was. Because the gang in marketing wanted electronic brochures. Because the CEO didn’t want to be the only one on the golf links without one.

But what is your Web site doing for your customers? How is it benefiting the people who keep you in business? Your customers should always be at the top of your priority list.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your phone rings every day with the same questions: Does it come in blue? Can I get it shipped overnight? How long is the warranty? You probably have standard answers written out or in a database for your customer service people to peruse while on the phone. Put those answers on-line.

If satisfying your customers insatiable need for knowledge isn’t motivation enough, consider Sun Microsystems. They assigned conservative costs to 1-800 number calls, personnel to answer those calls, printed material and software tapes sent out in reply to those calls, and the postage to do so. According to their calculations, they are saving $7 million — per month. Maybe on-line customer service is not such a bad idea after all.

Frequently Discussed Questions

In addition to the questions your customers need answered, are the issues they’d like to talk over with somebody. “Does it come in blue?” is a breeze to answer- yes or no. But, “How easy is it to install?” is a lot different. This is not covered by a set answer, but with a discussion. Yet, that discussion doesn’t always require your highly-trained (and highly-paid) staff.

Your Web site can contain a bulletin board/discussion group for your customers. After all, they’re experts. They know more about using your products than you do. Oh sure, you know how to make them and sell them, but they know the ins and outs of using your products on a daily basis. Let them knock a few ideas around and give each other helpful hints.

And if you moderate this discussion with a gentle hand, you might even learn a thing or two. These people, the ones who pay the bills, are willing to tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and what they think should be improved about your products.

Specific Account Information

Consider how much time you spend dealing with routine questions that are customer account specific. “What’s the status of my backorder?” “Can I extend my credit line?” “How many have we purchased in the past six months?” These questions are ripe for automation.

This  will be the most secure level of your Web site. The Frequently Asked Question should be open to all and the customer discussion area only open to verified, validated customers. Here, we are digging deep into the corporate datacenter and need to restrict access with more robust security. But the payoff will be two-fold.

First, your computers can handle more of the load than your customer service department. That’s going to put you in the same league as Sun Microsystems in the cost-savings game. Second, your customers will love you. On the other hand, if you let your competition implement this type of service before you, your customers may jump ship.

The Customer is King

A focus on customer service has always been and will always be good business practice no matter what your business is, or who your customers are. Now that we have a new way to talk to our customers, we should be taking advantage of it.