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Alan Meckler - The Three Most Important Uses Of The Internet For Small Business

Story:

In this interview, Alan Meckler discusses a wide range of issues related to the Internet and business. He is the CEO of Internet.com; he founded one of the first commercial content ventures on the Internet in 1990 (just before the World Wide Web). He also started the Internet World tradeshow, the largest tradeshow and conference for the Internet.

He refers to the following three aspects of Internet as particularly important for small businesses:

  1. "...we're going through an evolution where the Internet will replace the yellow pages in the average citizen's mind" - you need a web presence
  2. You must learn how to use e-mail newsletters to market your firm
  3. Watch the wireless Internet carefully; the Internet will always be available to your customers by 2004 or 2005; you need to have a presence on the Internet to compete in that space.

Analysis:

Let's take them in order:

1) How do consumers find your company? A generation ago, the Yellow Pages was a common way to find a kind of company; many people still use the Yellow Pages and it certainly makes sense to be listed.

However, studies have shown that people with ready access to the Internet are changing their information-gathering habits. A usable web site provides far more information that even the most expensive Yellow Pages advertisement - and customers know it.

2) E-mail newsletters are currently being touted as the killer application of the Internet for small businesses. An e-mail newsletter is just what it sounds like; a short e-mail letter that provides several "news-style" stories about your company.

Frankly, we believe that the era when you could get someone's attention just by having an e-mail newsletter are already over. Don't you already get too much e-mail news? Your customers feel the same way.

However, if you have a service or product that lends itself to newsletters, and you are careful not to overwhelm your customer, e-mail newsletters really do have a place in your e-business strategy. For example, suppose you have a lawn care business (and a list of customer e-mail addresses.) You could send out a targeted newsletter to customers at just the right time of year to both

  • educate them about your seasonal product (say, fall leaf raking)
  • and provide them with an easy way to get the service (include a special URL with a form for them to fill out.)

3) The wireless Internet refers to the use of web-enabled cell phones to gather information. Although this seems like science fiction, it is a currently viable technology. However, there are frankly not enough people using it to justify your time investment, unless you are in a field where you have a large number of mobile customers and a service or product that makes sense to offer via phone (like restaurant reservations.)

Don't be fooled, though: this is one of those technologies that you need to stay current with, and a good way to do it is by having a strong web presence and an understanding of the issues.

Link:

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