by Tom Snyder on Dec 13, 2002


It's unbelievable.

It has been years since the dawn of the commercial viability of the Internet. The boom and the bust. The success of the winners and the herd-culling of the losers.

The landscape is filled with the shining examples of successful e-commerce initiatives. Internet retail sales are expected to show an increase of 25% this year (22% higher than the increase in sales of their brick and mortar counterparts). Scores of marketing, promotional, communication, supply chain processes made more efficient by technology are resulting in higher year-end net profits (or smaller year-end losses). Customer service initiatives improved by technology have resulted in greater brand loyalty, and intelligent use of Internet marketing has produced improved brand visibility and top of mind awareness.

Standing along with those successful companies are the experienced, ethical and credible technology and Internet development firms that they partnered with to ensure their success.

The roadside is also littered with the carcasses of poorly conceived or poorly executed Internet business models. Languishing e-commerce initiatives rendered ineffective by faulty design and navigation. Terminally ill Web sites dying due to lack of attention, promotion, visibility or traffic. Abandoned URL's left as a testimony to a lack of capital, planning and long-term viability.

And lying there with them are the road kill of Webshop wannabe's, Internet snakeoil salesmen and hit and run opportunists that, in many cases were responsible for their failures.

The body of evidence and the accumulated historical record are there now to tell us what works and what doesn't. Survivors and even businesses just now beginning to embark on their journey into the world of the Internet have enough accumulated information to know what to do and what not to do. And most importantly the vendors who can be trusted and the ones to run from.

The Holiday season is a time for the telling of nostalgic stories. Here's one, with the name omitted to protect the guilty.

A client of ours for years had always put a premium on our fast service and our ability to provide them with e-commerce "on a budget." The particular solutions we built for them were not elegant, but enabled them to participate in the Internet economy without a great investment on their part. Because our office was less than 2 miles away from their store, we were able to effectuate photo shoots and content updates on almost a moment's notice. The relationship with everyone from the staff to the second in command was good as it gets. And despite some shortcuts to keep the expenses low, the site generated sales all around the world. The relationship was successful and was built on trust, value and mutual respect.

But the boss knew "this guy..."

And one day while visiting with "this guy," the boss decided that "this guy" could take care of their Web site just fine for a whole lot less money. A year later, e-commerce is gone, links are broken or missing, elegant graphics have been replaced by clip art, wildly inconsistent images and font types, styles and sizes run throughout the site, and it is hosted on a server that, according to Netcraft, the Internet uptime monitoring organization, has a maximum continuous uptime of only 8 days between reboots. A site that once was respectable and brand reinforcing is now an embarrassment to the staff, the manufacturer they represent (whose brand is all over the site), and their industry. All because the boss "knew this guy."

We've realized we can communicate, persuade, document, give references, impress, validate and demonstrate value till the cows come home, but we can't make people do the right thing. We feel like we're watching one of those movies where the girl knows there's a murderer in the house, and instead of running for her life, she's going from room to room, backing through doorways and not turning on lights. Everyone knows she's gonna get killed.. everyone, that is, but the the girl.

What's unbelievable is that, as recently as this very morning, we talked to a prospective customer who had met with us. They had learned of our experience with thousands of individual Internet initiatives, projects and updates. They had perused our list of satisfied clients - both large and small. They read through our body of knowledge at our Web site and shared with us enough information about their business and their needs so that we could present a proposal that would confidently guarantee success if executed upon. And despite all that, they called to say: "Thanks... this is tremendous. Your company obviously knows what it's doing, and we really should be using Trivera, but my boss knows 'this guy...' "

- Tom Snyder,
President and CEO, Trivera Interactive