The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.
Make the Internet a Two-Way Street for Your Business
Published on Feb 22, 2011
Read 'Make the Internet a Two-Way Street for Your Business' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
When the PR Department at AT&T coined the term “Information Age” in the 1960s, it was a promise of things to come. But use of the term began to skyrocket in the early 80s because an interesting concept had become a clear reality. By the mid-1990s, businesses began to realize that the Internet was the single most potent tool ever created for disseminating information to current and potential customers.
But many businesses forget that the Internet is a two-way street. In addition to putting information out there, it’s one of the best ways to keep information flowing IN for the health and growth of the business.
Here are five areas in which Internet info-gathering can pay off handsomely for your business:
Use the web to investigate your industry and competitors. An hour spent on the website of a competitors is an hour very well spent. Take the time to track industry trends, survey your market, and glean ideas for everything from web design to product packaging to overall branding and customer communications. Dig into their financials. Check out their press releases. Get on every major competitor’s mailing list! It has never been easier to “peek under the kimono” than it is today.
Research trends in pricing. Are your prices competitive with your most direct competitors? If not, does your website clearly explain the added value that makes the difference worthwhile?
Search for sites and topics that can inform your business practices. Use Google Finance or the business categories on Infoseek or Lycos to troll the web for information and ideas in your industry. But don’t be bound by your industry—there a lot to be learned across the boundaries. Good marketing is good marketing, and many best practices in one industry can inspire brilliance in another.
Know your clients. The more you know about the people who use your business, the more your business will thrive in serving those people. Check on the websites of your clients as often as possible, especially before client meetings. Nothing impresses a client more than a business that cares enough to do its homework, and doing that homework has never been easier.
Hire smart. Use sites like Monster.com and CareerKey.com to browse the resumes of people in the job market. An hour online can save you a week of interviews.
If you make information gathering on the web a suggested activity for times when there’s nothing else to do, it will never happen. Make it a scheduled part of the day or week, for yourself or for a member of your staff. Create an easy mechanism to record whatever is found—an intranet web form, for example. Then take the time to sit with the gathered information and glean the wisdom that can make your business bigger, better, and most of all, smarter.