TECHKNOW: The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Web Alley

TECHKNOW: The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Web Alley - WEB OF FEAR: The message is still not getting through to estate agents, car dealers and the like that the internet can actually help them acquire new customers. The very busi

by MARCUS MARKOU, founder and CEO, BusinessesForSale.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

WEB OF FEAR: The message is still not getting through to estate agents, car dealers and the like that the internet can actually help them acquire new customers. The very businesses that have the most to gain from the web feel the most threatened by it. Yet the internet will never spell the end of estate agents or car dealers. It simply heralds a better way for businesses to reach new customers. Unfortunately, this mixture of fear and opportunity makes agents slow to react and mistrustful of cyberspace. When they finally get on the net they have often failed to understand why they're there in the first place.

FICKLE FUNDING: I read last week that the dot.com sector is now about as fashionable as the chicken-skinning business. I welcome this. Nothing is more dangerous than the fickle fancies of fashion. When a sector is touched by fashion, silly ideas get funded.

KEEPING UP IS HARD TO DO: The biggest falsehood about the internet is the notion that it has a low barrier to entry - that it's easy to get into and 'anyone can do it'. However, technology moves so quickly that unless you have very deep pockets you will be quickly left behind. That's one of the reasons that some businesses are beginning to realise how outsourcing the management of their web site to a dedicated third party is now the way forward.

So, whenever rivals say they can generate more enquiries than us, I simply tell them they will probably have to refit their entire database into an XML format to allow them to distribute their information on digital TV, WAP devices and affiliates. There is usually a silence here, followed by: 'What is an XML?'

It's not the job of businesses to develop, manage and maintain their own web technology; this invariably ends in tears as the bills mount for costly and bungled in-house attempts.

DIVIDED BY A COMMON LANGUAGE: I recently had to deal with a US customer who sent me a nagging e-mail to say I had spelt the word 'enquiry' wrong in a previous communication. I replied that in the UK an 'inquiry' was something akin to an investigation and apologised for any misunderstanding. He then wrote back arguing that the English language was arcane and illogical.

But I believe I had the final e-mail when I pointed out that our site - a key component in his business - was built, maintained and run from the UK and any images of foggy old London town, Beefeaters and Dick Van Dyke should be distrusted. Surely we're not that bad, are we? Mind you, it did get me thinking ... which UK dot.coms are doing well in the US? Are there any? Answers on a postcard, please.

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