InterGuru's Published Articles

Your Business on the Internet

Published in The Board of Trade News, (The Greater Washington Board of Trade), April 1996

"Get Me on the Internet!" It's a cry I hear often, but my follow up question, "What will you do when you get there?," quiets the one making the request. Understanding new media always takes time. As a commercial marketplace, the Internet is under two years old.

The Internet is the first two-way mass medium -- or to put it less elegantly -- it is the first mass media where the viewers can talk back. What this means is that those who treat the Net the same as other media like print, advertising and television, which deliver a one way message to a passive audience will either fail, or at the very least, fall behind. Those who succeed with the Net are those who use the Net to establish close relations with their customers, offering something of real value to start the relationship. The roots of this strategy are in the Net's pre-commercial days; it started as a widely dispersed group of academics and researchers who developed the Net as a cooperative venture.

When the Net went commercial, the first businesses carried on with this cooperative spirit. Netscape became the dominant World Wide Web browser company by giving Web programs away to individuals . "Great! You say, but how do they make money?" They do so by selling support and licensing to commercial accounts. Sun Microsystems produced some of the basic Internet software, and gave it away. The result, Sun is the leading seller of Internet server computers.

Noncomputer related businesses must do the same thing. Use the Internet to get your customers, and potential customers to stay in contact with you, even when they are not thinking of buying. Give your viewers something of value. Cushman Darby and Cushman, a DC based Intellectual Property Law Firm, posts current news briefs and articles by its partners. Computer Literacy Bookshops in Vienna Va. posts staff-written book reviews . The Government Contractor Resource Center furnishes a free online copy of the Commerce Business Daily.

In the rush to get onto the Web, don't overlook e-mail and Internet news. Carefully targeted e-mail can cement a customer relationship at no additional cost. The Florists’ Transworld Delivery’s Internet Service not only posts its catalogue on the Web, it asks its viewers to list their important birthdays and anniversaries. The service then sends out e-mail reminders to order flowers for these events. Sun Microsystems publishes a monthly e-mail newsletter which goes to 125,000 subscribers at a distribution cost of less than $100 per issue. Internet news groups (bulletin boards) allows you to monitor industry trends, and judicious posting can increase your visibility.

The first step is to check what your competitors are doing on the Web. Maybe you can do something better. As always, the future belongs to the clever.

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