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Web Report Card

by Keith Thirgood ©1996

Capstone has had its website up and running publicly for about five months now. Evaluating its success is somewhat difficult, but overall we are pleased. The reason? It fulfilled its intended goal.

I would like to say that our e-mail box is overflowing with requests to do business, but it isn’t. Luckily, we didn’t think it would. But I suspect that many people who set up shop on the web are disappointed with their response.

The goal of our site was to boost our image and gain a few leads. It has succeeded in doing so. We’ve made 2 solid contacts that are in the process of becoming clients. That may not seem like much for being on the net four months, but if they become clients, the website will have paid for itself. Any other clients it attracts will be a bonus. That isn’t bad for four months.

Our success will improve the longer we are on-line. For the first month or so, we were in the process of getting ourselves registered in directories and with search engines. Until we were widely listed, no one could find us unless we told them or they stumbled upon the site. Large directories receive thousands of requests per day to be listed. They have to be verified and process, which takes a long time.

Most visitors to our site are never heard from again.They read some articles, gain some ideas and are on their way. That’s fine. But, if we make a connection, being helpful puts us top of mind when they are ready to stop surfing and do business.

For those who weren’t grabbed by our message, they weren’t our target anyway. There’s no remorse. Our site is targeted. Businesses of a certain size, of a certain type, with a certain philosophy may click with us (pardon the expression). It may not happen everyday, but when it does, we have a good chance of gaining a long-term client.

Being on the net, you should be prepared for some negative response. We’ve had some gripes, mostly by web designers, saying they don’t like our site. back when we used frames, they would say they don’t like frames or tell us we need the latest in Java scripts. Are we crushed? No.

Our site was designed to be easy to navigate, download quickly, and speak to our target market. We used to use frames in our site. Frames allowed us to have links, but viewers still remain on our site. Frames also keep downloading time down by not having to reload our navigation buttons. However, there are problems with how search engines deal with frames and we decided it was easier to redesign our site without frames than to fight the search engines.

Web marketing is like any other marketing. Sending a specific message to a specific audience is the best formula for success. For many, the thought of giving up some portion of the market is hard to take. Unfortunately, you can’t have it all--at least not right away.

In the past four months, we’ve learned a great deal about managing our own 140+ page site. Designing an attractive site is one thing, designing it so it is easy to manage is quite another.

Having a website takes time

Regular updating puts a strain on time you don’t have. Keeping up to date on the latest technologies can also be tough (Luckily, we don’t need most of them because our viewers are business people--not fun seekers.). Regularly adding new, interesting information to your site is important if you want to keep those prospects coming back for more. Count on running into technical difficulties

Now matter how friendly the software gets, some days things just don’t work. You can spend hours trying to upload to your server via modem, but if it doesn’t want to talk to your computer, you’re outta luck.

Just learning how to use all the software properly takes time. Knowing how to transfer data in the right formats, putting data in the right directories, making sure all the scripts work and verifying your links regularly are part of the process. If this sounds daunting and time consuming, you’re right, it is. If you don’t have time to manage a large site yourself, scale back or get someone to manage it for you.

The Net is truly international

People have responded to our site from as far away as Kuala Lumpur. One prospect is interested in doing business long distance from California. Be prepared to handle such events if you plan on speaking to an international audience.

Our site has also changed the way we do business

All clients are busy, but ours seem especially so. Trying to pry them away from their office is next to impossible and going to see them isn’t always an option. Putting rough layouts and finals on a private section of our site allows our clients to view them at their convenience. Combine that with the power of e-mail and you just may forget what your clients look like. Our site will continue to evolve and serve our target market better. It may have been a larger undertaking than first anticipated, but we’re happy with the results. With the right design, the right information and a goal, you too can have a positive web report card.

© Keith Thirgood, Capstone Communications Group

Keith is Creative Director of Capstone Communications Group, a Canadian marketing and design firm. He can be reached at
(905) 472-2330 or e-mail him at .

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