Internet Technology: Not So Transparent
This article originally appeared in the February 1999 issue of The Business Monthly
We are sure you have heard this statement before. "We rely on so much technology that it is almost transparent." Take air travel. The marvels of flying and the technology behind jet aircraft are still a sight to behold for air and space buffs. However, does the average air traveler contemplate or require in-depth knowledge of how the plane he/she is getting ready to board works? Of course they don't. Nor would they be interested in a jargon-filled explanation. The traveler expects that the airlines have the equipment and resources available and the expertise to use them. The traveler's needs are to get to their destination on time, safely, and within their financial means.
Another technological marvel, but maybe not so transparent, is the Internet. With more than enough terminology to spare, most do not care about the technological and administrative intricacies of the Internet. They're just glad it works. Most consumers expect to plug their computers in, readily surf, and be able to find on-line news, community, and company sites. Remember that consumers understood the conveniences and therefore adopted the Internet much more quickly than most businesses. For the consumer, the Internet reached mainstream status by early 1998. On the other side of the marketing equation, many companies are just beginning to find out from consumers that they must have an Internet presence.
In all honesty, consumers are driving the Internet marketplace. Consumers know it is convenient, but from the company's point of view, it is a difficult process to start. After all, it is much easier for consumers to walk into a retail shop and buy an item they like, than it is for the storeowner to build and operate that same store. Much the same, it takes much more work for the business owner to build and operate a truly usable Internet site. How do companies or organizations wade through the endless terminology involved before they can make an educated decision of what their course of action is for their Internet marketing strategy?
The business owner is like the air travelers mentioned previously. The company's management knows that they have to be on-line to serve their customers and prospects. They know it will take resources. They may be interested in some technical details, for example the security aspects of e-commerce, but the real bottom line performance issues to them are the popularity of their Internet site and the resultant sales. What should companies expect from those that develop and host business Internet sites? Just like the airline example, these providers should have the expertise and resources to fulfill their client's needs. What are the companies' needs? These needs are exactly the same as an air traveler; to get to their destination (increased sales) on time and within their budget.
So, after we as company owners and Internet developers/hosts begin to understand these expectations and needs related to the Internet, where do we go from there? Here are some suggestions.
If you are a developer or hosting agency, don't rely on acronyms or techno-jargon to explain what you do to clients. Be kind and help explain your services and how (or if) you can help them in easy to understand terminology. Spend some effective time evaluating whether you can really help a prospect. Your prospects need to know that they can rely on you to fulfill their expectations and get them to their destination using reliable, ethical, and responsive ways according to your expertise.
If you are a business seeking an Internet presence, ask questions and expect understandable answers. As you weigh your buying decision for an Internet strategy, be on the look out for agencies you can trust. Yes, budget concerns do drive many decisions, but be aware that commensurate with your decision is an exchange of resources; recurring and non-recurring costs. Also, look for developers and hosting agencies who are, as part of their service, willing to take the time to explain the "how's" and "what's" behind your Internet marketing to a level of detail that satisfies your needs.
by Connie & Ken Mazur
Principals, CyberVillage Networkers, Inc.