Magazine article Information Today

Marketing on the Web

Magazine article Information Today

Marketing on the Web

Article excerpt

Have you noticed that you increasingly find yourself saying to potential customer, "Here is the address of our home page on the Web" instead of "Give me your address and I'll send you a brochure"? This growing phenomenon was the topic of one of the better panel sessions at the Third International World Wide Web Conference held recently in Darmstadt, Germany. Members of the panel at the session titled "Marketing on the Web" shared some of their own organizations' home page experiences with the audience. The speakers included Dale Dougherty of O'Reilly and Associates (founder of Global Network Navigator), Martin Haeberli of Apple Computer, Russ Jones of DEC, Anita Schiller of Silicon Graphics, and Hassan Schroeder of Sun Microsystems.

Perhaps the most entertaining of these panelists was Dale Dougherty, who outlined what he felt were the four definitive stages in the Web Life Cycle. He described these as:

Phase I--Getting a site up and running. Several of the other panelists subsequently agreed that in many companies the catalyst is often "a guerrilla action by a few techies" who understand the technology and arc convinced of its value. These dedicated few typically have to strike quickly before anyone else in the organization has time to notice or object. The initial results of their efforts include Web pages with lots of "Under Construction" signs.

Phase II--Generating traffic. The organization's management, now aware of the server's existence and convinced it might just prove useful after all, decides to invest some effort in promotion and awareness. Vice presidents bring in undergrads to figure out how to generate traffic. T-shirt and coffee mug giveaways, along with efforts to get on the NCSA What's New Page and into directories such as Yahoo, are the order of the day.

Phase III--Making it a serious Web sire. You built it and they did indeed come! The organization excitedly adds new Web services while expanding existing offerings. The V.P.s assign M.B.A.s to manage the undergrads, and the project becomes a budget center--a true sign of organizational acceptance.

Phase IV--Marketing in the mainstream. The organization now considers its home page an integral part of its overall sales, marketing, and customer service strategy. You know your company has arrived at this stage when your URL is included on letterhead and business cards. "Click here to order" becomes a common phrase in sales, and access statistics are mentioned in the company newsletter and press releases.

This description of Web site evolution struck a chord both with the other panelists and with the audience. Many felt that the only major variance between Dougherty's chronology and their own experience might have been the length of time it took to evolve. Odds are, though, that it takes less than a year for most of us.

BUT IS IT A BUSINESS?

There has been a lot of conflicting speculation as to whether or not the Web will emerge as a legitimate sales channel. Concerns about security and consumer acceptance contrast with success stories like the one Hassan Schroeder told about a $300,000 order resulting from someone browsing the Sun home page. Russ Jones offered that, while buying a product over the Internet might not appeal to someone looking for a new washing machine, it does have its appeal in certain circumstances. …

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