Navigating the Internet Minefield Pt. 2

Tom Snyder photo by Tom Snyder on Apr 05, 2007

Last Month, we began our series of articles to look at the perils of developing your own Web presence. We're likening the Internet to a minefield, with potentially fatal missteps. In this issue, we continue with:

Internet Landmine #2: Customer Loss through Brand Erosion

I built a simple Web site for my company. Now my site visitors are asking me why they can't do e-commerce on our site, or search the site for keywords or phrases, or check their order status, or order replacement parts. I don't even have time to answer their emails, much less get all this stuff in the site...heck I hardly have enough time to keep the content updated and still do my regular job on top of it!

Give it awhile! Soon, you'll have all the time in the world, because most of those customers will be gone!

Your Web site needs to reinforce your brand. And that means more than just including your logo and a bunch of thrown together text and images. Your brand is so much more than that. It's what everyone who has a relationship with your company believes and has come to expect from you about that relationship. And an ever growing number of the people are expecting a company's use of the Web to totally reinforce all those brand experiences. The companies who will ultimately succeed are those do everything they can to meet (and exceed) those expectations.

That's because the loyalty landscape is evolving. In our internet-savvy culture, people who previously had intense brand loyalty are flushing that loyalty in a cyber-second when they find similar offerings to yours available in an intuitive, user-centric Web presence.

Your customer's loyalty may be the result of relationship with your company where he can walk into your location or call you on the phone to buy a product from you. If that product isn't in stock, he can order that item. If he has specific customization needs, know him well enough (by files or memory) to know exactly what he needs or usually buys. And he can find out at that moment exactly how long it will be before that item will be in his hands, how it will get there, what it will cost and how he will pay for it. And while that may have built previously bullet-proof customer loyalty, once that customer becomes Internet-literate, he'll expect you to duplicate that brand experience real-time on the Web. If you're not willing or able to do that, he'll start looking for someone who will. And you will have spent years teaching this customer what good service means, only to send him (and his loyalty) to a competitor.

I know it from my own dealers, retailers, computer software and hardware vendors, professional service providers, hardware stores, hobby suppliers...all to whom I've been loyal forever. However, in the past few years, well crafted, intelligent Web strategies have taken all those brand allegiances and completely negated them in the two or three minutes it has taken me to go to a competing Web site and realize that someone else "gets it." I have enough frustration in my life, and trying to do business with someone who won't allow me to communicate, transact and learn via my chosen channel is just not feasible any more. That may seem harsh, but it's the new and growing reality of our world.

Successful companies understand and act on that. And if you think you're competing with them with a simple Front Page or GoDaddy Web site, you're in the middle that minefield already. Good luck finding your way out safely.

There are several more landmines... and we'll cover several more in next month's newsletter!

-Tom Snyder

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