Sunday, June 27, 2010

Business on the web - A Mandate

"Many a false step was made by standing still". This quote from Tim Ferriss book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich  has a profound impact on me.

In the last few months I have been  interacting with quite a few Small and Medium size businesses ( SMBs) who want to have a foot print on the web albeit reluctantly.In most of these interactions, the business owners think that web is a mere online brochure ware and all it takes is a web developer to design & develop some static pages and have a domain address printed in all their offline collaterals.Cheap and Quick!!!!

Why do they want to go for this half hearted attempt? Simply because they are caught between new age consumers demand for an Interactive website against SMBs time tested ways for marketing and sales,typically offline and push based approach.The stated answers for resisting change includes:

  • Don't want to spend a lot of money on a new channel 
  • Not sure of the RoI
  • My customers prefer offline marketing and sales
  • Online is not personal. B2B business need personal touch
I tried exploring the reasons for the resistance/half hearted attempts to move the web and found that most of the reasons emanate from lack of knowledge of doing business on the web which further results in  trust deficit. Result: SMB owners contract a small time web designing agency ,usually chosen based on cost considerations,who inturn with scanty information and no direction will create a static brochureware website.No prizes for guessing the result of this initiative.The result of this initiative will prove the SMB owners  words ," I know that this will not work", prophetic.. .Project failure... Investment down the drain. All these are as a result of fear of unknown, lazy thinking and indiscriminate action

Dear SMB owner... doing business on the web isn't a choice anymore...Its a Mandate. Consumers across demographics research online before purchasing offline. This phenomenon is called as multichannel buying.

Doing business on the web is not all that complicated. . All that the SMB owner needs is clarity on the role of the online/web channel, conviction that it will work, commitment in terms of resources and few baby steps to set up the online channel.Few baby steps to set up the online channel:
  • Register a domain name
  • Decide on dependable hosting services
  • Define the role of the web channel based on Persuasion Architecture
    • Who are your target audience?
    • What do you want them to do on the web?
    • What are they doing on the web? If you don't have a website do research on competition website
  • Identify design agencies who understand your domain,your customers and technology
    • Build a website with a theme and a personality based on the product,brand and industry maturity
    • Need for subject matter experts and user experience consultants
    • Use a simple content management system which help manage the website in a seamless manner- Plenty of open source options like Joomla,Drupal can come in handy
  • Need  an ecommerce site with payment processing capabilities. Can set up a store front using
  • Need a payment gateway to accept customer payments
Now your website is all set... Launch it...What next?
  • Draw customer traffic to website - Based on budgets, the campaign can be pan echannels.To start small, invest on
    • Google Adwords or Pay Per click campaigns- choose specific keywords that relates to your business and run continuous campaigns.Refer to
  • Know more about your customers,optimize website and Measure results
Very easy and simple isn't and interestingly most of these tools and services come at competitive rates...monthly plans are available.Now that you know your cost and website goals( it can be leads or online sale), its easy to calculate RoI. Tools like Google analytics provide such info on a dashboard. With these baby steps, 2 out of the 4 objections, high cost and RoI issue, stated by SMB owners have been addressed. 

Once the online business is in an auto pilot mode then it is imperative enter the world of web based customer interaction & intimacy - web 2.0. Will try and address the other 2 objections of SMBs in the next blog post


Vanitha Suresh said...

Very useful topic, Rajesh. And very well written as always! I'll email this link to a few of my friends who are looking to set up websites for their small businesses.

Rajesh Rangarajan said...

Thanks Vanitha

Ashwin said...

I also think, with overwhelming participation (clutter) in social media, any social media consultant should bill customers based on PPA kind of models than the old school T&Ms.

Heck, we can measure the tweets, likes and Follows with existing infra and so why not inspire some confidence by showing results to SMB.
I also think that high impact concepts like "Free" pricing mixed with "Social media campaigns" can result in realworld buzz and patronage for SMBs.
Thats a disruptive business idea in itself!