By Nancy Ingalls In most cases, a web presence means less to companies that what it can do for them. November 1, 2004 -- Doug Firebaugh, chairman and CEO of Passionfire International points out that, in the end, communication is really all anyone ever gets paid for. And if you cannot effectively communicate, you will pay--not get paid! Hmmm, how true. Is corporate America is aware of this concept? Maybe. Or maybe not. Think about the web-presence many large corporations have implemented. More than a few companies invested in some fancy gimmicks before truly thinking about what their objectives were--and whether the resulting site would live up to its potential. And that opens up some opportunity for you. The medium is, well, a bit incidental In most cases, a web presence means less to companies that what it can do for them. It is less about branding and marketing and more about reaching out to customers. The web site is a vehicle that can dispense complex product or service information, qualify sales leads, complete purchase transitions, or perform customer service tasks while maintaining an effective informational data stream for later use. In doing these things, your clients still need to find a way that will allow them to treat customers as individuals in an integrated, rational manner. Implementing such a solution is not necessarily a simple matter, and customers may not be willing to make the changes to their existing web site. You, however, can provide them with a site that offers personalized materials using a personalized approach. You can provide an array of print-related services on your server that are created in such a way that the pages are indistinguishable from your client's site, and deliver real value to them and their customers. And, along the way, you can differentiate yourself from the competition. Three Objectives One approach is to offer a web presence that provides value for your customer in a way they have not been able to do or have not thought of doing. To do this, the web site you provide should accomplish three basic objectives: The solution should directly impact revenue: selling products, services, collecting subscription fees or advertising payments Reducing costs or improving efficiencies, such as with self-help services for customers, employees or partners. For example: Provide a solution that automates personalized mailing campaigns and sending some marketing materials to customers from sale reps for new product introductions, promotions or seminar series. A bit more sophisticated is a site where customers can create what they want, when they want and make it personal. Simplify and improve the ability to order material and be able to modify it and display it on the web and ship it to the customer or individual ordering it Indirectly generating long term benefits for your client that helps increase brand awareness or their image. Many web administrators--not being customer oriented-- continue trying to gather the same demographic and descriptive information companies use for targeting their mass-media ads. Other administrators gather the data but don't use it! An effective site should identify each visitor, or give each an incentive to self identify, differentiate each visitor on every visit, based on past and future needs, very much like Amazon.com or many airline sites. Various software to do this is readily available and works without administering long questionnaires. It tracks and interprets click streams, retains a memory of each visitor's actions, and customizes itself to meet the individual preferences of individual visitors. Unfortunately, many web administrators--not being customer oriented-- continue trying to gather the same demographic and descriptive information companies use for targeting their mass-media ads. Other administrators gather the data but don't use it! Similarly, I've seen implementations of sites that accomplish creation of a personalized document but don't attempt to personalize the experience for the visitor--or replicate it on their next visit. Walk the Walk What if you had an intelligent web site that offered visitors new downloadable images based on information gathered from their previous visit? To get started, build your own site first. Then use the same thinking and technology to build a site for your clients. For example, what if you had an intelligent web site that offered visitors new downloadable images based on information gathered from their previous visit? Set up profiles to serve the needs of the kind of customer each profile represents. Then, when a visitor arrives at your site, suggest they choose the profile that best fits his own needs. Based on that knowledge, you could offer them layout options, promotions or business cards based on a profile-driven selection. What you are doing is giving visitors the opportunity to designate an "agent" that will represent their own personal needs and preferences. This agent may be rudimentary, but it allows a site to employ a more interactive business model than one that treats all visitors identically. For example, let's say you are setting up a web site where a client's employees can create their own business cards, point-of-sale materials, direct marketing post cards or letters, and other promotional materials. The site should first ask visitors to identify themselves, then start with what you can offer, in terms of increasing convenience. You should shepherd the visitor through a series of successively beneficial and informative interactions, perhaps even offering some form of incentive, such as a discount or free shipping. The more they use it, the bigger the personal impact. Software that can help you do many of these things is readily available from a number of vendors. Implementing web-enabled printing solutions can significantly differentiate you from your competitors and help ensure that you, and your customers, can communicate more effectively--and get paid. See you soon.