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Do you have a strategic plan for your web site?

"Strategy" may be a terribly overused word, but it certainly isn't a used-enough practice when it comes to creating and managing an effective web site.

The vast majority of web sites out there are just that--"out there," with no clear purpose, no specific goal, no compelling attraction to turn visitors into customers.

They lack a strategic plan.

Solid, thoughtful help has arrived for businesspeople, especially those with small businesses, in the form of Roger C. Parker's newest book, Streetwise Relationship Marketing on the Internet.

Parker spells out in great detail, and with very practical supporting tips and worksheets, what he calls the Customer Development Cycle. It's a five-stage strategy that maximizes one's internet efforts while at the same time putting them in the greater context of one's overall (offline) business strategies and goals. The five stages, which are easily adaptable to publishing businesses, are:

2. Comparison takes place when web site visitors are closer to a purchase. The comparison stage is where the business attempts to communicate a unique competitive advantage over others selling similar products and services.

1. Introduction, where the business and individual web site visitors introduce themselves to each other. Ideally, the business explains its products, services, and philosophies, as well as explaining the benefits of its offerings.

The mutual exchange of information between business and visitor should continue at this stage as more and more detailed information is exchanged. As visitors qualify themselves by providing information about the products or services they're looking for, the business should be able to provide increasingly detailed information.

3. Transaction logically follows comparison if (and only if) the business has provided the right information. Often, businesses will provide customized or personalized incentives to motivate visitors at the comparison stage to make the commitment to purchase the firm's product or service.

4. Reinforcement is the stage that spells the difference between long-term success or failure. At the reinforcement stage, businesses endeavor to create a loyal, repeat customer out of a one-shot transaction. Reselling past customers has long been the secret to the success of most profitable businesses.

5. Advocacy is the final stage, when a business provides customers with the incentives and tools they can use to refer the business to their associates. This creates an ever-expanding community of loyal customers.

By studying his easy-to-read (even enjoyable-to-read) strategies, one can turn a web site that is currently not much more than a highway billboard (with cars speeding by) to the most interactive business tool since the face-to-face meeting.

Speaking of interactive, Parker also assigns e-mail its deserved central role in creating-loyal customers. In tandem with a web site's own information ("meaningful content," in Parker's words), the exchange of information is a vital component often lost on businesses on the internet.

We highly recommend Streetwise Relationship Marketing on the Internet. Even though his many examples and 29 detailed case studies unfortunately do not include a publishing company, his unique perspective of combining relationship marketing and the internet are very helpful in developing and fine-tuning a profitable web site.

Among Parker's more than two dozen books is Roger C. Parker's Guide to Web Content and Design. He is also a regular contributor to NL/NL.

Streetwise Relationship Marketing on the Internet, by Rager C. Parker. forewords by Lynne Duddy and Seth Godin. 332 pp. softcover. $17.95, Adams Media carp., 260 center St., Holbrook, MA 02343,
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jul 15, 2000
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