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A Higher Standard in Web Design

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IV.  Building Client Relationships

In 1994 there were less than 1000 companies with web sites. In 1998, there were roughly 2.3 million web sites. So far this year [1999], that number has grown to over 5.5 million web sites. It is estimated that the Internet is growing at a rate of 150,000 new web sites per day. The growth of the Internet has taken the world by storm- especially the business world.

This was demonstrated when USA Today mentioned having a web site as a primary marketing tool for the 21st century (along with business cards, letterheads, and brochures); this thought supports the notion that a sound web presence will enhance existing and traditional marketing techniques. When compared to traditional marketing, not only do web sites have an edge in being cost-effective and sharing information, but web sites also help to further develop a relationship with the consumer. Traditional marketing does not; it merely creates an impact. People donít ask for impact any more than they would channel surf to watch TV commercials. People do ask for a relationship, though. A relationship stems from knowledge relating to a specific person, place or thing. The higher the level of knowledge that is attained, the deeper and more meaningful the relationship becomes. Therefore, using a web site to convey information about your business to the consumer allows that consumer to "get to know", or develop a relationship, with your business. The development of this relationship leads to regular business from that customer. For example, a man goes to a bar every Thursday night. He continues going because he "knows" the business; he has seen the same people every week and he is familiar with the atmosphere. Maybe he even participates in a karaoke show. He feels comfortable around these people, whom he considers friends. He has developed a relationship with some of the people there, and therefore the business in general. Another way to achieve this result is through the use of a web site. A person who is simply unfamiliar with your business may stay out of your business precisely for that reason; it would be like going on a blind date. when you go on a blind date, you are anxious, nervous, have little knowledge of the person you are about to meet, and probably are quite hesitant to go in the first place. People like what they are familiar with, which is one reason why a couple develops a relationship and gets married; they are familiar enough with the other person to feel comfortable around them. Business is no different. People stick to what they are familiar with and are often reluctant to try new things. When considering trying a new restaurant, the hesitation stems from the lack of knowledge about that particular business. How is the food? Is it expensive? What kind of foods are served and how vast is the menu selection? Is the atmosphere quiet and romantic, or is it upbeat and lively? How is the service- prompt, friendly, courteous? Will I have to wait for a table- how long? How long for my food? Can I smoke inside? Do they serve cocktails? etc. If the potential customer was able to obtain all of this information up front, do you think he or she would be more likely to try the new restaurant? Of course!

The good news is that thanks to the Internet, now they can! There can be an online menu- showing what foods are served, how large the selection is, how much the food will cost, if cocktails are served, and so on. The restaurant owner generally knows what the busiest times are and could mention that on the web site. They can also mention if the restaurant has both smoking and non-smoking sections. Directions to the restaurant would be helpful, too. Photographs of the restaurant interior can depict atmosphere and setting, while a little bit of personal information about the business owner can go a long way in letting the customer know what kind of people work there (especially in the case of a family run business). Maybe even publishing a group photo of the employees would help. If the owner is married and has three kids, people will be able to identify with that. This is a good thing, because again it helps the customer to develop that relationship with the business. They realize itís a mom and pop gig, not a corporate monster. Speaking personally, I would much rather dine in a family owned restaurant than put more money in the pockets of a large corporate chain. I am certain that countless others feel the same way. People often think of large corporations as bosses and disgruntled employees; but on the other hand, respect the efforts of the small to medium sized business owner. The small business owner is perceived as a portrait of honesty, integrity, and value- the willingness to go the extra mile to please their customers. These characteristics are synonymous with what Internet customers look for. An effective business web site can be very successful in building client relationships. The simple elegance and information that they provide answer the need to develop a relationship with the consumer; and considering the small cost of creating a successful web site, it would be frivolous not to take advantage of this opportunity. Wouldnít you agree?

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