You are the MD of a good-sized business. You have a simple brochure-ware website and a vague feeling that you should be doing more on the Internet – perhaps selling online, linking up with suppliers or communicating with customers – but you don’t know where to go to get help. What’s the best way to develop an Internet strategy if you don’t want to spend a million pounds with a mega-consultancy but you want to be sure the job will get done professionally and on budget? I talked to Moti Shahani, MD of E-Marketing (www.e-marketing.com) and Paul Hodgson, a senior consultant at Adcore (www.adcore.com) to find out.
As it’s name suggests, e-marketing.com concentrates on helping businesses use the Internet to help their marketing and sales. He cites The Fabulous Baking Boys (www.bakinboys.co.uk) as an example of a traditional medium-sized company that started out with a simple corporate presence site. With e-marketing.com’s help they expanded the site with some simple games, a ‘forward a joke’ email page and a customer feedback mechanism. This increased brand awareness and sales within the company’s policy of not doing any above the line advertising. The next evolution was to sell over the Internet, hence their mail-order muffin company called Muffin The Mail (www.muffinthemail.co.uk). It’s fun, irreverent and now their second biggest channel after supermarket sales. Shahani’s case is that if a bakery can become an Internet company, anyone can.
Internet Marketing Menu
- Buying and using targeted, opt-in email lists and opt-in email subscriptions from your own site. A good, targeted email campaign can generate 25-50% click-throughs.
- Viral marketing, like the email-a-joke page
- Grassroots marketing in chat forums and newsgroups
- Interactive TV
- Advertising on WAP, AvantGo or other channels
- Banner advertising
- Site sponsorship and cross-linking websites with strategic partners
- When advertising a site use different ‘entry pages’ so that you can track where people saw the advert
- Make sure you use every opportunity to promote your site in other media, such as packaging or letterheads.
- Providing timely, appropriate, opt-in customer support and information via SMS text messaging
Adcore combines technical design and development with a business strategy consultancy. Hodgson believes that digitising any business has to focus on relationships, between the company, its suppliers, its staff and its customers. He argues that an MD of any company is looking for a business benefit from any investment – the days of launching an online site because everyone else does have gone for good. Consequently, a typical Adcore project begins with a strategy workshop involving their consultants and the client that aims to identify business opportunities and evaluate business models in order to properly quantify and define a project before it begins. These opportunities are not necessarily about selling online. Recent projects have included implementing a WAP interface to an existing online service and a content management system to automatically translate content to the new format. Another was to translate a website into a number of European languages. A third was to implement a sophisticated personalisation system on an existing ecommerce site so that it would change its appearance automatically based on information it held about different users. Anchoring a project to a given business objective gives management a way of assessing the likely benefit and involving the consultant early on helps them cost the project much more accurately.
Since there is no such thing as an ‘average’ website, there is no such thing as an average cost. However, from talking to these two companies, some broad benchmarks emerged. A micro-site with a few pages and a basic response mechanism (like a mailing list sign up page) might cost £2000-£5000 and should only take a couple of weeks, while a more sophisticated company brochure-ware site would be in the region of £10,000-£50,000 and might take a month or so. Adding elements like: e-commerce, a degree of personalisation, content management, or extensive integration into business systems like order management will push the cost up with small ‘representative’ projects costing between £50,000 and £100,000 and more complex ones up to double that. For these larger projects three or more months are usually needed. Of course, it all depends on the complexity and ambition of the project. You will also need to budget for hosting the site, either internally or with an ISP and this can cost as little as a few hundred pounds for a non-interactive, low traffic site to several thousand pounds a year for managed, dedicated server with an ISP.
Tips from the Experts
- Define your business objectives early on and measure your plans against them.
- Identify metrics that will allow you to measure the success of your site, such as unique visitors, registrations, actual sales or qualified leads.
- Consider a step-by-step strategy – do a piece at a time and measure each piece’s success.
- Don’t forget to plan and budget for ongoing maintenance and updates.
- Think about your internal systems and integrate them into your plans.
- When commissioning a project, expect to pay for very detailed design specification.
- Understand the design, planning and implementation process that will be used. Make sure that there is a process in the first place.
- Changing the design is infinitely cheaper on paper than during the development, so make sure you understand the design and that it does what you need.
- Make sure the spec includes a detailed list of the browsers which will be supported by your site
- Don’t gold plate your site with features that don’t support your objectives.
- Make sure that there is a sensible change control process in place during development and after launch so that you don’t get any surprise costs.