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Web Results: Leveraging the Power of Web Sites

By Sylvestre Ngoma
MS. in Internet Strategy Management

The Internet has invaded our world. With its array of fast-changing technologies, it is fundamentally reshaping the way we interact, play, work, learn, communicate and do business, forcing enterprises to reinvent themselves. Many companies today would not be as effective as they are or even exist without the Internet.

The World Wide Web, the most revolutionary publishing medium since the printing press, has achieved an unprecedented technological success. In only few years, the World Wide Web has become an everyday staple for millions of people around the world. Compare this to four decades for an equivalent spread of electricity, and about two decades for television and the personal computer.

Given the tremendous potential the World Wide Web offers, many enterprises are rushing online for what appears to be unclear purposes. Some go online just because everybody else is there, including their competitors. That's the trend. Others go on to try to harness the economic power that the Internet has, without first investigating that power. Very few embrace the Internet with a well-thought-out strategic Internet plan. As a result, only a handful of web sites produce net results.

Getting results on the Internet can, indeed, be a big challenge for any enterprise. But some web sites seem to adapt rather easily to the new medium. What makes these web sites unique? How do they achieve their goals and objectives? What follows is a look at these crucial issues.

1. Strategic Planning

Having a sound Internet strategic plan for an enterprise is tantamount to a sailor having a good compass. By developing a responsible, thorough, and strategic Internet plan, your enterprise will be prepared to prevent things from happening in a random fashion, minimize uncertainty, choose between alternatives, know how to assess the outcome, think and act effectively. This is true for any type of business, but new media call for new ways.

It is essential to define the mission of your web site: what do you want it to do? A web site is only a tool, a means to achieve certain goals. If it is set up unstrategically, it is likely, with very few exceptions, to put an enterprise in a precarious defensive position. Before throwing a site on-line, decisions about site functionality, messaging strategies, types of feedback features, tracking site access, site promotion and positioning, marketing strategies should be firmly made. In addition, questions about ethics and policies should be well carved out. For example, what is going to be your privacy policy, especially if you are engaging in e-commerce? How do you handle competition?

Having a complete and detailed plan based on the new media makes it more likely that an enterprise can be in a position to leapfrog the competition. Always evaluating the plan and keeping up with both market and technology changes is essential. Thinking long-term is very important. It shields you from what I would call the "Management of Surprise".

2. Management of Surprise

Many enterprises adopt the wait-and-see, trial-and-error approach about the Internet. We've seen companies engage in Internet presence and then only think of policies as problems come! They wait for legal and ethical issues to come up first and then think about solutions. They wait for marketing or design issues to come up and then try to envision solutions. Some use traditional models that have produced results in "traditional" media and are startled when they don't do well on the Internet. This is called "Management of Surprise", and the surprises are mostly unhappy ones.

But, management of surprise only surprises shortsighted managers. By not having a clear, articulated mission and vision for the web venture, the management is not prepared to operate a web site, monitor it or evaluate its success or failure. Far from being able to determine events and outcomes, web site operators who manage their web presence this way often are unsure, at the outset, of what a web site needs to do, how to produce results, what is needed in order for the web site to produce results, and how the web site can best sustain the company's effort. The fate of a web venture should never be left to luck.

3. Effective Web Presence

Enterprises that attain results on the Internet (such as Amazon Bookstore and Yahoo to mention but a few) are the ones which make efficient and effective use of their Internet resources. Successful web sites are the ones that actually listen, interact, and talk with their target audiences. A cursory look at many commercial web sites show that they are busy talking to unidentified netizens. Yet, the web offers a rich means for fruitful, multi-level interaction possibilities that other media do not.

Web managers need to be constantly aware of the necessity to keep an open mind, to learn from other experts' best practices, to immerse as best as possible in the changing culture of the World Wide Web, and to learn to adjust and adapt critically. Results on the World Wide Web are often tangible. Whether it is online transactions, or expanding networks, or selling ad space, or creating critical masses, or broader market reach, or building rich relationships with actual clients and potential clients, or expanding client base, etc., these results can be mission-critical.

In essence, web sites that work successfully do so as a result, in most cases, of hard work: sound business strategy, well-thought-out strategic plan, and interactive and user-friendly design. Business managers should always remember that the World Wide Web can well be a world of tears or a world of laughter. All depends upon how it is embraced. The web provides a unique opportunity for global presence. What is needed is to acknowledge it, exploit it and expand it, strategically.

© Congo Vision

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