Los Angeles, California -- We live in a time of frenzy. Not long ago, engineering innovators were forced to work their wonders by manipulating limited tangible materials. Not long ago, new technologies were only slowly embraced in markets that defied change. Indeed, a frustrated Buckminster Fuller complained that an engineering breakthrough took an average of 30 years to find acceptance in the marketplace.
Today, technological hypermutations spring hourly-and from intangible, protean pools of electronic information. The "innovate or die" mantra continues to be heard in the hue and cry of commerce. Today, gold-fevered engineers (who raced with Rubick cubes in kindergarten) so manipulate the speed of business that markets have never been less predictable or more volatile.
Enter a new species of business temptation. As companies gain know-how in the new e-business algorithms of Cross-Functional Integrated Applications, Real-Time Process Integration, Electronic Customer Relationship Management, and Electronic Supply Chain Fusion, they often turn visionary and lose balance. But there lurks a potentially disastrous by-product when the decision is made to enter whole new frontiers of marketing headlong. Managers who allowed Web tactics to eclipse sound Web strategies have experienced that sinking feeling.
Service Your Brand. Brand is defined here as the deliverable promise that a company makes to its customers. Businesses that follow techno-fads to market without keeping solid footing in basic marketing principles will fail. On the other hand, those who damp down the hype and harness their e-commerce technology strategies to the service of brand will stand a better chance of riding the Net to success. It's the properly grounded managers who will survive the heady flash of the Wow.
It is imperative to constantly groom your company's Web site. But, either when choosing a new Internet team or working with your current team, make sure that you:
1) Always remain focused on customer needs. Understand what they value and, more important, how they interpret value. Talk to lots of customers, especially those who aren't yours!
2) Depend on old-fashioned, one-on-one market research to tell you what customers are perceiving and needing. Make sure that at least one quarter of your marketing budget is dedicated to staying in touch with customers. Incorporate their thinking into a customer-centric Website strategy.
3) Never divorce strategic from tactical thinking: Allowing brand strategists to marinate their thoughts separate from the designing "wow people" is a sure recipe for dismal results with your Website traffic.
This is precisely what happened to Levi Strauss & Co.'s customer-direct Website.
4) Companies achieve market share and higher profits based upon customer mind share. Work exclusively with those experts who adhere to the above points when planning and building your Website. While 50 percent of those who walk into a traditional retail store also walk out with a purchase, currently, only three percent entering virtual e-stores exit "sold".
It's vitally important to understand the force of change within the context of those marketing truths that do not change. Trend spotting and Web innovation must be fused with solid traditional brand marketing. Your prospects still look for the value proposition before they write the check, just as they always have. Connect the dots for them in proper sequence on your Website by:
A) identifying customer needs and your brand characteristics,
B) creating strategies that flow from those characteristics and
C) choosing tactics characteristic of your brand.
Otherwise, you court creating confusion and disconnect in the mind of your prospect.
A business is going to need to do more than employ evolving Website technology; it is going to need to take control of it. A customer-centric Website is a constant lifeline your brand throws out; only use the technology that makes sense for your brand. If the company does that, in ten years it might not be making or selling the same thing, but the brand will lead all others on the Net.