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Are You an Ostrich?

Aussie Emu

I remember the first time I ever heard of the internet. It was back in the 90’s and I was serving as the President of the New Hampshire Chapter of the Society for Training and Development. One of the board members told me that we needed to start looking at how training would become impacted by the internet. I think I said something really profound like, “what are you talking about?” At the time, ironically, I was working for Digital Equipment Corporation, who was responsible for building a good portion of the infrastructure for the world wide web. However, I was not quite ready to embrace the possibilities of what that www acronym would come to be - my how things have changed.

While I don’t really like to think of myself as a technophobe, I don’t think that the people who know me would describe me as a technophile either. And while I had trouble understanding the ramifications of the information super highway 13 years ago, I do understand a few things about it now. It has changed the way people buy. But, I am not talking about ordering used books on Amazon, I am talking about everything.

Yes, it took me a long time to get it. However, it is taking others longer, and that is what demands some attention. No matter what the it is that you sell, there is information about it on the web, there are people researching how to buy it on the web, and your competitors are attempting to attract those prospects to themselves before they find you. And what is even more profound about all of this is that even if you are not attempting one ounce of effort to do business on the web, your customers are talking about you. Your products and services are rated, your prices are quoted, and happy and unhappy customers are sharing their feelings about you.

Welcome to Web 2.0.

What I find astounding is that I have customers who still believe they don’t need to pay attention to this. They still think that their prospective customers will find them at a convention or will be waiting idly until a sales person shows up at their doorstep. I have clients who have customers who know more about their products than their sales and services people do because of the research they have done on the web and the people that they have interacted with who are also customers. Something has to be done about this ostrich behavior.

For those of you out there who don’t think this whole internet thing applies to you I say – get ready. You need to be prepared, because even if there is only a little bit of business done via the internet regarding your products or services, it is going to increase faster and further than you ever expect.

If you do recognize this as a requirement for conducting business today, the better question is what can be done to be more ready for internet driven business development. It is easy to recommend that you develop an internet strategy. Below are a few other readiness factors to consider.

Optimize your findability – We all know about search optimization, but are you doing it? There are a number of new rules for improving your visibility on searches, which I won’t get into here. It is important to follow those as it will drive business to you. But don’t be confused about this – just because somebody comes to your site it does not mean they are ready to buy. It is critical to do everything you can to drive activity to your site, but you also have to create reasons for people to stick around.

Nurture your prospects – Don’t expect that you can capture a prospect visit to your site and convert it to a lead that is ready to hand off to sales. You will more than likely drive that prospect away. It is better to offer them more information electronically, such as an opportunity to download a whitepaper. Once they have been window shopping adequately, you can hand them to a sales person for more active pursuit.

Go both ways – One of the new rules of Web 2.0 is that you don’t just push information one way. Interaction is key and can happen in many ways other than e-mail, such as chat, and blogs. This may require some experimentation before you make it work effectively, but it is key.

Age matters – My septuagenarian in-laws run a business using e-bay, which is proof that the internet is not just the realm of Generation Y. However, I do see that my under-30 business colleagues have a different way of thinking about the web – it is more innate to their way of acting. If you don’t have professionals under 30 who are helping to guide your internet strategy, you are leaving out a very critical point of view.

Immerse yourself – If you are not regularly working on the web to learn about other businesses, you are not getting a full appreciation for how prospects are learning about you. It is OK to assign the under thirties to the tasks above, but you too need to really understand what this is all about. Read more blogs and do more searches and get active with it. Research your customers; watch what your competitors are doing; do the social networking thing. Get that head out of the sand.

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