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Old November 19, 2000, 05:06 PM
Linda Caroll
 
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Default Hi Sandy.. more thoughts in response..

Hi Sandy!

If there's one thing I do enjoy, it's a good discussion like this one... which is my way of saying thanks for posting. : )

The first part of your question is almost two questions, or perhaps two answers, so I've divided it in half..

> After all the columns in magazines, >proliferation of internet companies with the >purpose to offer e-commerce solutions, I wonder >why the present information is not serving the >needs of internet users. I agree with you on >the point..but the question is "why?"...why are
> so many businesses not "getting it"?... why >don't internet commerce businesses know how to
> show people how they can use >this "communication medium"(I like your
> definition) to make their businesses more
> successful? why are business owners
> mystified in how to use it?

In a sense, the root of the problem (in my humble opinion) is the same thing that's the root of the problem for many things. Money. You would think that with the proliferation of ecommerce companies out there, that there would be an abundance of information to help the business owner, right? Not so. You see, the ecommerce companies want to make "their" sale.. and often at the cost of the bottom line to the consumer.

Here's a prime example. I had a design client come to me because his site "didn't work." He wasn't making sales. The first thing I did was test run his ecommerce system by making a "dummy" purchase using a test credit card number. The cart was slow, took over 5 clicks to get to the point where a purchase could be made, and was hard to navigate. I asked him if he was open to changing to a new shopping cart. He replied that after signing up for his merchant account, he was told that "this" was the only shopping cart that was compatable with his merchant gateway.

I know of at least two merchant account companies that pull this garbage. They make it "easy" to qualify... sign up the client for a 6-12 month term - and *then* comes the fun. "Oh.. you need a shopping cart? We didn't realize that. Well, we do have one that works with our gateway. It's *x* number of dollars to purchase outright or "y" number of dollars to lease per month.

It's pretty scummy... but it happens all the time. And - while it makes the sale for the ecommerce company, it sure doesn't educate the business owner very well. In addition, it puts the business owner in the mindset of "once burned, twice shy".

>do you think perhaps the web
> designers should take more of a role in
> communicating how a site can bring foot
> traffic to your local business? maybe web
> designers are doing this-if so enlighten me...I > personally know of a small mens clothing
> business where the owner spent $20,000 to >design a website; got some p.r, had 10,000 hits >and didn't even have an ezine , coupons or >anything to capture the names of those people >who viewed his site...he's still kicking himself >and starting from square 1...he thought all he >had to do was contract someone to do a website >and leave the promotional aspect to them...

I wish I coulc tell you that most designers educate their customers. Sadly, it's not true.
You see, with the arrival of html tools, a lot of "designers," armed with their software, have hung their shingle out without having the first clue about how to develop a business.. which, in essence, is what we do when we develop a website.

I had a lawyer email me in a panic one day. She'd paid handsomely to have her site developed and was ecstatic with it. Until a client told her that the page had huge white (blank) spaces in it - and was missing information when loaded in the "other" browser.

Then there's the story of the company who bought a series of ads in a huge publication (with over 22 thousand subscribers) .. blissfully unaware that their site loaded in only ONE version of ONE browser.

Then there is the website design company that contacted me for consultation about why no one was signing up for their newsletter. I went to check it out and asked "what newsletter?" The designer replied "You know... the one in the popup that loads when you load the main page" Turns out the popup only worked in Netscape 4.x.
Considering that 75% of the net is now using some version of IE, and some of the remaining Netscape users are using 6.0 - is it any wonder?

I could go on and on.. but the sad fact is that finding a website developer that knows how to build a business (not just design a site) and also knows what "works" on the internet is as rare as the proverbial needle in a haystack.

> . The average surfer will
> And why is this? what does this say about
> human nature if anything?

*smiling* It tells me that we humans still like and need entertainment... that a smile is still a welcome addition to every day and that laughter is good for the soul. Heaven forbid that should ever change. Even when we "work" we need to be able to feel good about it and have something to laugh about.

> I agree here...yet I work in an office with
> the best internet access and capabilites and
> 80% of the people still prefer to use the
> phone and get caught up in voicemail tag
> ....
> I use the net to communicate with customers
> and businesses and most of the people I work
> with think "that's strange"...they
> have plenty of questions about the anonymity >component and accuracy of the information
> etc..they don't get it...but what mystifies me > even more is they don't want to get it...I
> guess old habits die hard...I'm interested in
> your comments on if the media has failed to
> inform people what the internet is about and
> WHY?

Do you know what I really think, Sandy? Your comments about your co-workers reminded me of a situation that happened about 20 years ago when I was working in the corporate jungle. Being in management in Canada's largest retail chain, it was often my responsibility to oversee staff training or assigning someone to handle relevant training. We brought in computerized cash registers... one of the first stores in town to get them. I remember one sweet little lady.. she was about mid 40's then .. coming to me and asking me if I would demote her and assign her a position in the store cafeteria cleaning tables or washing dishes. I was stunned and asked her why. She said she did not want to learn to use the cash registers. I promised her that it would be just fine and she would learn them along with everyone else. No, no, she insisted, she did not want to. I took the lady for coffee and we had a heart to heart. She was crying as she told me that she was sure she was going to make a mistake and mess up and wreck the machine. Then - she got to the heart of the matter... and told me that she was afraid she would find out that she was too stupid to learn it, and that it was better not to try.

I made the lady a promise. I told her I'd personally train her myself and stand by her side until she told me she didn't need me there if only she would try it. She did. I don't know which of us was prouder when she told me she didn't need me to stand there anymore.

I really think that a lot of people are intimidated by this "new" medium. They don't know if it's "safe" and they don't know what to think of "privacy" issues... they are out of their element in a sense, so they revert to familiar ground... the telephone.

That's why they "dont want to get it.." - we humans, as a whole, have a tendency to gravitate to the familiar. It's the rare few that embrace change with excitement.

As for the media, I don't know that they have failed to inform the public so much as perhaps many of them aren't any more sure of it than many of your co workers. There are a couple of media people that have great knowledge about the Internet and I see their articles regularly at Salon Magazine and Clickz... but on the whole, I think a lot of the media "doesn't get it" either.

Then again, perhaps it's deeper than that. Perhaps it's that the media is writing for their target audience, and their target audience "doesn't get it" so they write at a comprehension level that the public can and will understand. You know, I think I might put that question out to some media contacts. : )

> When I go to some discussion boards for
> example around certain industries, I see b2b
> companies popping up providing VORTALS ...yeah > this makes sense: show a small local business
> how to connect with the world but they don't
> know how to use the internet to boost sales in > their own communities. The example you gave
> concerning the dry cleaners is a perfect
> example...

I agree. In a sense, it boils down to the same situation as the ecommerce companies. Every portal site wants the numbers.. they need them to get the advertisers. Their concept is good.. their follow through isn't so good. In a sense, many of them are learning what works as they implement it. Trial and error.. and the small business that follows the advice given during the trial and error phase ends up paying the price.

> Do you think the implication here is the
> magazine media (trade journals)are deficient in
> providing accurate and wise information on
> how small to medium size businesses can use the > internet to help their local businesses?...

In a sense, yes. Not intentionally. I don't think anyone can learn "how" it works without actually doing it. A tarde journalist isn't depending on their website to provide their income. They are relying on information provided by third party resources... by interviewing this person or that. If the information they are given isn't accurate, they don't know that because their paycheck does not depend on it.

The person being interviewed often wants the publicity, so they say what they say for their own reasons.

The sheer number of "marketing gurus" that spew garbage amazes me.. and journalists print it.. and people read it and follow it.. and who pays the price? The small business person that followed erroneous advice because they thought it was the right thing to do.

(I think I need to start a thread on good advice versus bad advice... *laughing*)

> Thanks for providing a stimulating
> post...I'm interested in views on this issue...

You're very welcome... and thanks again for posting..

Sincerely,
Linda Caroll




Your image - is my business
 


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