"Business on the Web" Seminar
First thing I noticed was a sandwich lunch was being provided. I just paid for one downstairs. It might be nice to mention that in the sign up materials? The seminar was presented by Robert Cleveland and Jeff Klemm of ICON Multimedia Publishing , Inc.
I e-mailed them a couple times before the seminar trying to encourage them to include at least a small blurb about the concept of using the internet an informational resource for doing business in addition to their "how to put up a web page" presentation. I never received a response from them.
They encouraged us to know our customers. Also we were encouraged to follow today's "paper trail" and provide these capabilities on the net.
We differ in basic philosophies. I think large companies should either develop the skills inside or hire professionals and bring them on board so the internet efforts become an internal effort. I think smaller companies, with less demanding needs can meet their internet advertising needs with some very basic "construct it yourself" pages. I agree that if you want to conduct financial transactions on line you need some "pro's." ICON promoted farming out your internet needs out to "Internet Publishing Companies" such as themselves. I think the internet has to many opportunities and is changing so rapidly that you must bring these skills "in-house" or you will be losing out. Even with my basic difference in philosophy I did pick up a few ideas and even changed one of my perceptions of the industry.
The presentation centered on what an internet web site could do for a boating company. Meeting informational requests, promoting you and your product, describing your offerings. Allowing the visitor to fill our forms, complete registrations, sign ups, and actually purchase goods on-line.The presentation listed items that might be in a beginning effort and in an advanced effort by business category (Marina/Marina Service Dept., Boat Sales New & Used, Manufacturing, and OEM.)
It was suggested not to use generic department e-mail addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Visitors have more confidence their message is actually being read when the persons real name is in the e-mail address, such as email@example.com.
They talked about working with a Web Publisher. "It is not typical for most companies to take this on their own shoulders."
You can advertise your website on other similar websites. This means the audience is already interested in your topic and have the ability to go online. This is a basic concept, but struck me like a revelation. If you advertise your site in printed media, you may find people interested in your site, but they may not be able to get online. If you advertise online on similar sites, your audience is certified as being able to get online.
We were encouraged to "push" phone conversations over to the internet. Get them up on the internet and show them the materials there. Talk them along. I have done this several times myself and found it to be very effective.
During the Question and Answer Session I asked for a show of hands of how many were from companies that already had an internet presence. I estimate a little less than half of the 64 in attendance raised their hands. Of those that did have a presence, when asked if they did it in house or with a web publisher, over 3/4 of them did it with a web publisher. That surprised me. I would have estimated that more would have in-house operations.
I asked if the speakers had any comments about being a part of a boating community web site vs. just being an independent site. They said it was better to be an independent site. I think it may depend a bit upon your product. During the trade show I visited with an accessories manufacturer who had a web site that was drawing much traffic. It was a unique product and not the kind of thing that people would look for in the search engines. His company name is not a household word. If you search for "boat accessories" you get a kazillion sites. I suggested he consider joining one of the "boating communities." A good networked community site would allow him to drawn from those visiting the general group of boating related sites. These visitors would otherwise never have found his product.
They also mentioned that cable modems and much faster transmissions speeds are coming.
A German visitor asked to visit with the attendees who had came from overseas after the seminar was over.
The seminar ended and I joined the international group of about 5 individuals. The German gentleman was gathering materials for an article he is writing on the international use of the internet in boating. He asked them several questions about providers, access speeds, phone lines, and their use of the net. It seemed like most of the responses were similar to what you would hear from a group of U.S. businessmen.
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