Making your e-business profitable Featured

5:18am EDT October 29, 2004
When companies invest in an e-business solution, the goal is to give customers more access to a company's products, service and information. Twenty-four hour access gives customers an opportunity to do business on their own schedule, which reduces operating costs while opening new revenue channels.

Unfortunately, many companies don't realize a return on their investment because they don't do enough to promote their e-business solution. Establishing an online presence takes development effort, sure, but there's more to it. Your customers need to know you're online, and they need to know how your e-business solution works.

The rollout of an e-business solution is somewhat like an advertising campaign. Clear objectives must be set from the start. Answering simple who, what, where and how questions will help you determine where to focus energy when developing a strategy for your promotion.


* Know who your audience is. Before you begin your campaign, you need to know your audience. The first question you should ask is who will be using your Web site. Identifying your potential users will not only help you develop solutions they'll find beneficial, it will also help you decide how you should market your application. Don't make the mistake of speaking to a CIO in your communication, when your users will be IT staff members.


* Know why they use your product. Have you identified your target market and explored the ways they will use your e-business application? What are the benefits? What will potential users gain?


* Say when your site goes online. Build your campaign around your go-live date. It's a way to build excitement for the launch of your e-commerce solution. Don't miss this opportunity to contact your target audience and teach your users something new about your solution.


* Show where your Web site is online. Do your users know where your solution can be found? The URL should be on every piece of promotional material you send out. Think of each mention as a sign pointing the way to your site.

Also, do not underestimate the importance of a branding your site with a unique name and logo. If you have answered the first question, who, then you should know what will trigger your users' interest.


* Show how your e-business application works. Use your marketing materials to explain not only how the application works, but how it benefits your target users. If members of your target audience don't know how the application benefits them, they won't use it.


Why, when, how ... wow

Once you've developed your strategy, you need to execute it. Do you use direct mail? E-mail? Print advertising? Press releases?

Figure out what your users respond to and then wow them with eye-catching design and clear communication.

Most organizations don't have the expertise or internal resources needed to run a campaign efficiently. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time and money creating a campaign that your target audience could see as tasteless or confusing.

Marketing can be tough, and it takes time to roll out a complete program. It takes effort to build a strategy upfront, and to answer the "why, when, how" questions, but the results can mean the difference between a successful launch and a disappointing ROI.


Team up

If you don't have the expertise or resources in-house, consider teaming up with an agency. Agencies exist for the same reason your company does -- they are a resource with highly skilled and experienced people that can be hired to accomplish difficult but business-critical tasks.

It's important to find an agency that understands your product and your business. Choose the wrong agency, and you could go through a long, expensive learning curve, particularly if your product is difficult to understand.

Whether you partner with an agency or use internal resources, start planning early to make your rollout a success. Without a good strategy and careful planning, you run the risk of losing your target audience before they ever log on.


Barbara Ware is manager of marketing and communications at BravePoint, a supplier of e-business and enterprise IT solutions to mid-market companies. Reach her at (770) 449-9696 or