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You can reach any specialized market, international markets, local markets and media simultaneously

June 04 - 10, 2001

With advancement in technology, organizations, whether large or small, have changed the way they have been doing business in the past. Gaining competitive advantage through electronic means is cutting across all industries and businesses alike. Perhaps the most convenient tool available to companies is the Internet, along with various other promotional media to establish and reinforce their presence on the Web. With rapid growth in globalization and world communities shrinking into a "global village', the Internet is bound to emerge as the most successful commercial medium. Companies which already have worldwide established channels of promotion and distribution, may start using the Internet as a supplemental promotional tool, and this can be achieved through establishing their own Website.

Approximately 750 million people worldwide have access to the World Wide Web or the WWW (Time, October 2000). No matter what business a company pursues, it will not be able to ignore 750 million people. To be a part of that community, and to show that the company is interested in serving them, companies need to be on the WWW; hence the reason for having your own Website. Incorporating a Website does not simply establish a presence on the WWW, but helps organization create a network. Most of the business transactions start off with passing information, rather than making a sale and this is triggered through passing on business cards. Your Website acts as a business card, specifying what you do, and if people ever need your services, this is how they can get in touch with you, inexpensively and round the clock.

A Website makes business information available like your working hours; means through which you can be contacted; and methods of payment accepted by you; or better you may be able to provide 'specials' today's special; interest rates; exchange rates; public opinion polls. This does not only serve the purpose of providing business information, but also if you are looking for ways to better serve your customers; the WWW technology will show you numerous ways of doing so. Allow your customer to punch in sizes and check it against a database that tells him what color of jacket is available in your store; or make forms available on your Website so that a customer may be able to walk in to the bank and open an account, with the writing formalities pre-completed.

What if your material needs to be published no earlier than midnight? The semi-annual earnings statement, the grand prize winner, the merger news? You can always send the material to the press with The-do-not-release-before-such-and-such-time" statement and keep your fingers crossed. This information can now be made available at midnight or any time you specify; imagine the anticipation of "All material will be made available at our Website at 12:01 AM". The scoop goes to those that wait for the information to be posted not the ones who release your information early.

You pass out the brochure, the catalog, talc booklet. But it doesn't work. No sales, no calls, no leads. What went wrong? Wrong color, wrong price, wrong market? Keep testing!!! That's great for the large companies, but not all that great for you. You neither have the time nor the money to wait for the answers. With a Website, you can ask for feedback and (hopefully) get it instantaneously with no additional cost. An instant email response can be built into Web pages and can get the answer while its fresh in your customer's mind, without the cost and lack of response of business reply mail. Tied into this, everyone knows the cost of rolling out a new product. Advertising, advertising, advertising, public relationing, and advertising. EXPPENSIVE! Once you have been on the web and know what to expect from those who are seeing your page, they are the least expensive market for you to reach. They will also let you know what they think of your product faster, easier and much less expensively than any other market you may reach. For the cost of a page or two of Web programming, you can have a crystal ball into where to position your product or services in the market place.

If you have remembered too late (or too early) to call the opposite coast, you know the hassle. Business may be worldwide, but office hours aren't. Trying to reach America or Europe is even more frustrating. But the Web page serves the client, the partner and the customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No overtime either. It can customize information to match the needs and collect important information that will put you ahead of the competition, even before they get into their office. A word of caution sometimes information changes before it gets off the press. Now you have a pile of expensive worthless paper. Here comes the major advantage of the Web page electronic publishing changes with your needs. No paper, no ink, no printing bills. You can attach your Web page to a database, which customizes the page's output to a database you can change as many times in a day as you need. No other printable piece carries such flexibility.

And finally, you can reach any specialized market, international markets, local markets and media simultaneously. Selling flying lessons, on-line dental consultancies, art reproductions, books, athletic shoes, youth fashions, even University courses are now easily accessible through the WWW. Remember there are 750 million people who are overlapping potential target customers, and even the most narrowly defined segment is within inexpensive reach. With the extensive search programs that the Web offers, chances are that interest groups will find out no matter where they are located.

The author is Deputy Diretor, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST)