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Continually examine, test your e-commerce role

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Executives are grappling with the following decision: Should they host an e-marketplace, join one of the existing independent or consortium-backed exchanges or hunker down on the sidelines while the U.S. economy slows to a crawl?

Unfortunately, there is no single answer—although it is a question that every company should be asking. For starters, you’ll want to carefully weigh the multitude of business models, examine what choices your competitors have made, and think long and hard about how participating in an e-marketplace may disturb your existing channels and partnerships. You’ll also need to look at the technical and organizational challenges of e-marketplace involvement.

This much is clear: Even brilliant Internet players sometimes make mistakes.

Take Dell Computer Corp., which quietly shuttered the b-to-b procurement site it launched just four months ago.

Of course, Dell is no stranger to e-commerce. The computer manufacturer makes over half of its $30 billion in annual sales through its Dell.com site. But the company was unable to leverage this position into a general-purpose procurement exchange. Dell Marketplace only managed to attract three anchor suppliers to the site, which critics say lacked sophisticated collaboration services and other features buyers and sellers demand.

What can we take away from the Dell experience? First, Dell was correct to launch its marketplace. Second, it was right to close shop when the site failed to gain traction.

The only real mistake is not continually reassessing your company’s role in the Internet economy.

BtoB is extending its editorial province. Just last week, we launched the first editions of two e-mail newsletters—“On the Money” and “Hands-On”—to deliver customized content, news and resources to marketing and e-commerce professionals. Go to the MyBtoB page at www.B toBonline.com/register for free registration for our newsletters, as well as our daily BtoB e-mail news alert.

In addition, BtoB editors and reporters are taking their expertise on the road, participating in a growing number of industry events and conferences. In April, we will co-produce the Internet & E-Business Conference & Exposition in New York. BtoB will be responsible for the marketing track at the iEB, which is expected to attract some 18,000 attendees. To register for iEB, go to BtoBonline.com’s Resource Guide and follow the link to "Conferences."

The guiding objective for these and other editorial products is to serve you, our audience. To that end, send me e-mail about how BtoB can help marketing and e-commerce strategists do their jobs better.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB. He can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.

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