INTERNET MARKETING;HOW SPRINT DOES BUSINESS ON THE WEB

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Now that businesses everywhere are setting up shop on the Web,

companies are discovering--sometimes the hard way--that getting

potential customers to visit, and keep visiting, is tricky.

Sprint Business boasts a Web site positioned as a business

resource--a place that helps businesses do more business, both on and

off the Net.

The most crucial element in building the site, said

Sue Sentell, VP-marketing communications for Sprint Business, is

making sure the content is relevant to the target audience.

"Everything on the site is focused around a very friendly-looking

file cabinet," Ms. Sentell said. "The theme is targeted to the

business community, and it downloads super quickly so people aren't

wasting time waiting for complicated graphics." The site is handled

primarily by six people within Sprint's customer communications

group; five people at agency Grey Interactive, New York; and three

people at graphic designer Ikonic, San Francisco.

Although a

company can conceivably get on the Web for as little as $100, Brent

Earles, group manager of customer communications, said Sprint

Business' site is a "cathedral of a Web site," and dem

ands attention as well as money to make it work.

"If you're not continually paying attention to your site, you won't draw traffic," Mr. Earles said. "Pouring money into the site is an investment, not a one-time expense. If you neglect to see your site as a continual investment that needs nurturing, then your company's money won't be well spent and you should look to spend it elsewhere."

Mr. Earles estimated Sprint Business spent between $250,000 and $50 0,000 building the site. And the spending doesn3/8t stop there: There are plans in the works to add massive areas targeted to different customer groups, such as government and healthcare.

One of the challenges early on was to demo nstrate the value of the Internet as a potential sales channel as well as an overall value to the brand.

Sprint can track leads and possible sales that were generated through requests made on the Web site.

The company also can track the number of exposures generated by the site and compare that to the cost of generating equivalent exposures through print advertising or through brochures.

Sprint executives won't disclose how much traffic the site gets, but say that so far, it has far exceeded expectations. "Each of these measurements shows the value of the site and builds awareness and positioning," said Mr. Earles. "It's very easy for us to prove that we're more than self-funding."

Other hints for building an effective site:

Bring the site live quietly before planning an official launch.

"The Internet is very fluid, and people will come on their own," Mr. Earles said. The Sprint site went live in December, but the company didn't start promoting it until January.

Pay close attention to measurement and tracking reports.

"Banner ads usually cause a spike in traffic anywhere from 40% to 60%," said Mr. Earles. "Notice if spike s in traffic lead to spikes in leads. If they don't, the banners obviously aren't doing the job of attracting the right people. Then look at the same leads from the spikes in traffic and see if you can track sales back to them."

Understand your company's positioning and branding before building the site map.

"Most companies don't think through positioning on the site and end up watering down their brand on the Internet," Mr. Earles said.

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