Internet / intranet / automation / applications / eMarketing
A few years ago the Internet was heralded as a major break-though in marketing and communications that would change society forever. The cold light of dawn when the dot com bubble burst resulted in a subtle downshift of expectations. Now with a billion or so pages comprising the Internet your site is a very small fish in a very, very big pond...
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Many organisations find that developing an Intranet for internal use can be a useful exercise prior to building an external site. A number of options are possible:
FrontPage or similar (suitable for very small sites) £
Static html pages for simple information delivery ££
Dynamic content (ASP etc) for flexibility £££
Intranet development can be fun for those involved but from a management perspective care should be taken to ensure that there is minimal impact on core activities. Intranets are particularly useful as a media to communicate procedures and to provide access to process automation utilities / applications.
When developing an Intranet strategy consider the following:
What are the benefits of the site to the business?
Centralised or devolved development?
If devolved is the time / capability available?
How much are you prepared to spend (time & money)?
Is there a real demand / business need?
Application V newsletter?
New Internet Sites
Before undertaking an Internet development stop and think! Ideally you should have a strategy / cost justification and project plan in place prior to proceeding. Aesthetic / technical as well as business issues should be taken into consideration from the outset.
Common early errors include:
Lack of project management
Lack of development controls / change control
Excessive application of controls
Too many images / visual effects (eg popups)
Unstable interactive content made live
No management of broken links
Platform / browser dependent code
No real content / not what users want
Too many layers / links
Poor choice of ISP / server
Lack of buy in
Existing Internet Sites
Having build your Internet site a number of challenges present themselves over time:
Visibility when a potential user undertakes a search
Attracting the right kind of hits
Measurement of use
Keeping the interest of the user
Measurement of ROI
Change frequency (particularly for static page sites)
Flexibility over time
Visibility is influenced by a number of factors including: tags within the page itself, the content of the page, paid V free promotion, hits from other sites, etc. However, visibility itself is often greatly over-valued. A site could feasibly attract vast numbers of hits and yet deliver little revenue increase. From the outset it is wise to remember that the site is part of an overall marketing mix. Traditional marketing methods should be used to direct the right type of vistor to the site. Having attracted the right type of visitor the focus should be to convert to a lead rapidly.
As the site matures different challenges present themselves: Where are visitors going / how do they behave / how are they finding the site? How available is the site 24/7? Can your servers / ISP support database population / interactive content?
It is tempting to believe that an Internet site with eNews letters, interactive content and eMail alerts will dramatically reduce marketing overheads. The reality paper and traditional marketing methods remain as important as ever. However, eMarketing does have a role to play within the mix. When considering eMail as a medium a few basic guidelines should be adhered to:
Ensure that your database is clean
Ensure that you can segment your database effectively
Never assume that eMails have been delivered
Keep it simple / keep it small / avoid attachments
Honour opt outs / interest areas
Action server rejects if possible
Use eMail to direct the user back to your web site
Offer something for free (discounts / downloads / ...)
Consider sending eMail following a mailing campaign
Action leads quickly
Test and review repeatedly before sending anything at all
Beware of overlaps / over communication
Abide by the technical rules to avoid being treated as junk mail
Setup your eMail server correctly to avoid being treated as junk eMail
Don't send "spam" - on request only
A few more examples