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Online Technologies That Fuel Growth
This article originally appeared in the Big Idea Book, 2004 special edition of Baltimore SmartCEO

Critical components must exist and work well together to make businesses thrive. Well-implemented and well-maintained online technologies compliment these components. Corporate structure determines how the components will interconnect, but what processes guarantee that the corporate structure hums along? Once again, properly implemented web technologies increase the effectiveness of underlying business processes.

Three essential elements that must feed into each other for any growing organization, and how web technologies can be utilized to improve these elements, are described here.

Marketing

Marketing includes all communications and how your company is viewed. These are just a few tools already marketing your company, for better or worse:

  • Location - This includes geographical location, surrounding environment, accessibility, visibility, property upkeep, and anything else generating an emotional or intellectual response in regards to where you are and how people find you. The value of location has driven the Internet to become an invaluable tool. Where do people congregate and interact most? Where is the most valuable location, where a business wants to be? If a poll was taken of the SmartCEO audience, or of retired persons, or of teenagers, the result would be the same. American society and the international markets are fulfilling their buying needs online. From electronics and music, to churches and restaurants, you can find the largest selection and the most convenient and appealing options online. For some services and commodities, physical location is still important; however, there is a new component. For most, if you are not found online and accessible through search engines, most people won't know you exist.

  • Employees - The skills, knowledge, presentation, decorum, work ethic, ethical behavior, customer service and any other value adding employee attribute counts. Share best e-mail communication practices around the office. If you fall short in understanding proper e-mail etiquette, or knowing what is sure to be filtered or not when sending documents to prospects and clients, ask for a consultation.

  • Clientele - This includes who they are, how their need was met, the market niche, impact of the offering on their business, how long they have been a client, and anything else easily researched. Are you tailoring communications and reaching out through properly acquired opt-in or customer-only email? Is your website answering the right questions for your client and prospect profiles? What additional electronic security requirements must be met in your clients' industry? Is only U.S. CAN SPAM law important, or do EU and Canadian laws also apply?

  • Products/Services - Quality, cost, availability, personalization, uniqueness, ease of purchase, urgency of need, and even the life cycle of the product, influence the purchasing decision. Did you know that the freshness and professionalism of website content not only influences your buyers' behavior, but also your search engine rankings? Improper presentation of products and services can drive away both the search engines and your prospects.

Many business components work as marketing aids, and many web-enabled technologies need to be selected from. First understand your target consumer, before making any business altering decisions.

Sales Talk

Wonder why your business isn't growing, or why prospects aren't interested in becoming your customer? It might be the way you approach the prospect.

Instead of relying solely on the sales pitch to gain a new client, the sales person needs to research and understand the prospect, in order to approach them in a unique way. Each company has a unique set of goals and in order to be positioned as a supplier, the sales person must take the time to uncover the prospect's goals and determine how you will help meet that set of goals. Although the supplier is in a position to maximize service benefits and ROI to the buyer, it is also important to help optimize expectations, growth and budget for that client. Approaching a potential client in a manner best suited to their business structure and goals will establish the foundation of a sale and a long-term relationship.

Customer Service Is More Important Than You Think

Considering that clients are the foundation for success, quality customer service is not to be sacrificed. Even in the smallest of details and circumstances, the outcome can be of utmost importance to the client. Take into account the rule of five (one person tells five people who each tell five people, and the outcome grows exponentially) which usually occurs after negative outcomes. Eventually enough bad word-of-mouth spreads that a negative image has been created. However, great customer service fosters more good will and growth. Deliver great customer service, and help your clients do the same.

Every reasonable action must be taken to ensure that a client is not only satisfied, but delighted you are on their team. If not, there are plenty who will gladly acquire disgruntled clients. Competitors may or may not turn them into satisfied customers, but they will easily paint a picture of greener grass if your customer is dissatisfied and blaming you. On the flip side, pleased and well-informed clients are apt to promote a business to other prospective customers who are like the clients you already love to serve.

Favored companies differentiate themselves by customer service. These companies stay in the forefront of the mind and create positive branding. Businesses should engage all resources at hand to establish a wonderful customer experience, and appropriate response times. An experience creates an emotion, which is a driving force for purchasing decisions.

Especially online, we must concentrate on customer experience, and there's a lot of uniqueness of experience to be offered. Does your website and email offer value to customers? Are you measuring and tracking to make sure you're meeting customer needs? Are you offering events or services both relevant and enjoyable? Are you properly communicating that yes, you fit that need they're looking to fill, whether it's comfortable stylish shoes or a million dollar manufacturing piece needed to sustain profitable operations?

The Full Circle

An effective corporate strategy blended with marketing, customer support and sales boosts the growth of a company and creates an immediate competitive advantage, as well as branding and positioning a company for sustained long-term growth. For a profitable partnership that helps you effectively apply web-enabled technologies to marketing, customer service and sales, or to other business processes, contact us to discuss furthering your specific business or agency goals.

by Connie Mazur
CEO, CyberVillage Networkers, Inc.

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