The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Golden Rules of Websites - Rule 1 in a series

By Ron Stark

I lost a customer a few weeks ago. Here's what happened.

I got an unexpected email from a client, telling me that they no longer wanted to be a Snapsite customer. If this ever happens, I always try to learn why - was it price? Was it service? Did we do something wrong? Did somebody else offer a more attractive alternative? Was it our content management system functionality? Whatever it is, we need to know so that if the problem lies with us, we need to fix it - fast.

When I spoke to the client, they complained that the website was not delivering customers to their business; in any case a relative of the business manager could arrange cheaper hosting. Now this particular client manufactures high-value consumer goods, in the price range of $50,000 to $80,000 each. For them to be missing out on business - even a single enquiry - would presumably be a really serious matter.

This got my alarm bells loudly ringing, so I started to investigate where the problem might be. The amount of site traffic was high, partly because their adverts in glossy magazines always included their web address. But then I discovered that there were 43 serious enquiries still in their website enquiry logs over the preceding 3 months, totalling in excess of $2 Million.

Now I don't know about you, but I wouldn't complain about a website's performance when it delivers that much business in such a short time. I quickly telephoned the client's business manager and told her that I'd discovered all those enquiries that had not been responded to.

I was floored by her answer and, to be honest, now relieved that they are no longer clients. She said "It's not important. If a customer is really serious about wanting to buy from us, they can track us down by some other means and get the information they want that way."

Now, 3 months later, their cheap website is still not operating, they don't have a proper email address, and they're still spending tens of $'000s on glossy magazine adverts that proudly promote this non-existent website and an inoperative email address. And still the business manager confidently proclaims "If a customer is really serious, they'll track us down some other way."

Golden Rule 1

A successful website depends on attitude, not technology.

Marketing problem? Doubtful, judging from the traffic they were getting. Customer demand problem? Not likely, with over $2 Million worth of website enquiries in 3 months. Product quality problems? Not at all - as many enquiries came as a result of referrals as from magazine ads. Website problem? Never!

Their problem is all too common - it is simply that they are ignoring the most fundamental rule of all when it comes to websites. A successful website depends on your attitude, not on technology.

This is the first article in a series that exposes the many, yet frequently overlooked basic business rules that successful websites should follow. The author Ron Stark is the founder of Snapsite, a website company that puts service and your business needs before technology.

The Australian Small Business Blog

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