business on the Internet
Have you ever thought of putting your business on the Internet, but simply
not known where to start or you're not sure whether the Internet is really meant
for your business?
Most of the time we see the big Internet businesses like Google, Amazon and
Yahoo or the big corporations like Microsoft, Airlines companies and banks being
successful on the Net. On the other hand you find someone with a brilliant idea
who slaps a website together and makes a huge success with very little effort
simply because they had the right idea and acted on that idea. Of course, there
are also those who recognizes a good idea, jumps on the bandwagon and shares in
Bu what if your company does not fall into any of those categories? What if
you have a traditional business where you manufacture a product or offer a
service to your local community?
Does your business still belong on the Internet?
Most definitely!! Other than a place to share information, the Internet is
intended to be a marketplace where we can find things that add value to our
lives. If your local community finds value in your service or product, then the
rest of the world should also. And even if your product or service cannot be
made available to the rest of the world, which is hard to believe, the Internet
could be used simply to make your product more attractive to your local
Can your business still be successful on the Internet?
Again, the answer is most definitely!! It simply depends on how you choose to
use the Internet.
Let me give you two examples of local, South African businesses that
successfully use the Internet to advance their business.
The first is Sizanani.com, an
Internet logistics company that is tremendously successful in South Africa. They
do not rely on their website to bring in new customers and yet the website is
the core of their business. To my knowledge, Sizanani is the largest logistics
trading zone in the Southern hemisphere. They have more than 200 customers and
more than 400 transporters (who are actually also customers of Sizanani) doing
huge amounts of business on the Sizanani.com website every day. Yet, when you look at their
homepage, you would not believe that there are hundreds or probably thousands of
transactions processed on that site every day.
In my opinion, the secret of Sizanani's success is not in their brilliant
Internet marketing skills, but rather lies in a concept often forgotten on the
Internet - Human Interaction. Every customer, including the transporters, has
physically met a representative of Sizanani. When a customer needs help with the
Sizanani system, they do not send an email to some faceless email address or
fill in a meaningless form on the website. Instead, they pick up the phone and
talk directly to someone they know at the company. In other words, this is a
real-life, old fashioned company doing traditional business as we knew it before
the Internet. The only difference is that they are using the Internet as a
viable and convenient medium for delivering their service to their customers.
The second example is Qushum.co.za. This is a fairly new website and is not nearly in
the same category as Sizanani. However, it is again an example of a business
successfully using the Internet to deliver their service to their customers.
Qushum is a consulting company that helps their customers to obtain ISO 9000
accreditation and maintain that status. By placing their service on the
Internet, they are not offering some incredible solution to their customers
which has never been possible before, but the Internet is simply making the
service more accessible to their customers and therefore making the customer's
day-to-day life more convenient. Also, by putting their business on the
Internet, they have taken a lot of mundane tasks out of their own hands, which
allows them to spend their time more effectively on growing their business.
These are only two examples of traditional business being conducted
successfully over the Internet. I am sure there are millions of other such
examples, but I simply wanted to show you that the Internet can be used as an
effective medium for traditional business. In both cases they are not putting
their faith in specialized Internet marketing techniques or employing search
engine optimization specialists or any of those concepts that generally scare
old-fashioned business owners away from the Internet. They are simply using the
Internet in a fashion that adds value to their businesses. Isn't that the whole
So how do you get started?
There are millions of articles on "Getting your business on the Internet" and
I won't repeat that here.
If you approach a web design company and ask them to "put your business on
the Internet", they will most probably sell you a complete restructure of your
business with online payment and product catalogues and whatever else goes with
an online business. Not because they are necessarily trying to make a quick
dollar out of you, but simply because this is what most people think they want
from the Internet.
My advice to you is this: Before you approach anybody about designing a
website for you, decide what it is you want. How can the Internet add value to
my existing customers? Think of the two examples above and try to use that
approach in your own business. If you can find a solution to that question,
then, by default, you will have a solution that will add value to new customers
as well and your business will sell itself on the Internet.
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