EDITOR'S NOTE: For business marketers looking for a primer on effective use of the Web, one recommended source is the book "NetMarketing: How Your Business Can Profit from the Online Revolution," by Bruce Judson, general manager of Time Inc. New Media, published by Wolff New Media LLC, the creators of the NetBooks series of books.
Excerpted below is one chapter of the book, devoted specifically to business-to-business marketing on the Web:
Because so many of the early users of the Internet are business people, the Web has immense potential for assisting businesses that sell goods or services to other businesses.
For example, Grey Poupon's Web site (http://www.menunet.com/
sn/greypoupon), which is located on an online hospitality network named Restaurant SupplySite, markets its famous Dijon mustard to restaurant and hotel owners-a classic business-to-business strategy and one that harmonizes with the goals of the larger site (http://
The best way for a business to approach creating a business-to-business Web site is to think of it as a living example of how the company's top salesperson would sell the company and its products.
In other words, the site should include a clear overview of what the company does and an explanation of why it is superior or unique as compared to competing companies, a vision of what the company hopes to accomplish for its customers, detailed product descriptions, case studies of satisfied customers, and several places for potential prospects to interact with the business marketer and volunteer their names.
While most of these are self-explanatory, the last two-case studies and interaction areas-merit more detailed discussion.
Case studies: A case study works well when it includes a clear summary of the business problem and an explanation of how the services or products provided by the business marketer solved that problem-but it works best when it uses the name of a well-known customer.
If appropriate, the ability to describe several case studies, involving different types of customers, is particularly persuasive to potential customers:*It shows flexibility in the event that the visitor to the business Web site is looking for something unique.
A particularly effective example of how to use case studies is incorporated in the Internet Solutions area of the Hewlett-Packard Web site (http://www.hp.com), which describes how Hewlett-Packard created new Internet-based businesses for companies from a wide range of industries.
Interaction areas. A company should view its Web site as a powerful tool for making a sale or building a relationship with a prospective customer. How? Well, a company could either create an area where visitors could indicate if they wanted to be on a product related e-mail list or develop a corner of the site for customers to ask questions about the company's products.
Sending customized e-mail to anyone who responds to these areas will build loyalty among existing customers and respect among prospective customers.
Once a company builds the business-to-business element of its site, it must promote the site. Here are a few specific ways that business-to-business sites can promote themselves:
nInclude the URL on sales materials and the business cards of salespeople.
nInclude the URL and a description of the Web site in targeted trade advertising, promotional materials, and even on product packagingnList the site in appropriate commercial indexes, such as the Commercial Site Index (http://www.directory.net) and other industry-specific indexes on the Web.
In addition to positioning companies as reliable sources of information, the Web can help individual businesses create low-cost secure networks that link them with their customers and their suppliers. These "enterprise networks" use the Web's secure communications capability to efficiently link customers and suppliers.
To date, enterprise networks have been both company-specific and industry-specific; the second type, so-called industry directories or master sites, provide listings and information on a geographic basis for companies looking to buy or sell specific types of products.
For example, Industry.Net (http://www.industry.net) includes immense amounts of information on the wholesale supply of thousands of products, including a comprehensive list of trade shows nationwide and 250,000 listings for suppliers of virtually every product and service used by industry.
As a communications (and community-enhancing system), the Internet also has the ability to diversify the kinds of buyers and sellers it unites. Several new sales mechanisms are likely to emerge in the age of the Web, including various forms of barter and auctions. All of these new techniques recalibrate the relationship between production and consumption.
Barter sites, for example, allow users to post items they want to barter, what they will accept in exchange, and a mechanism for contacting the business that posted the offering. As the number of companies doing business on the Web increases, the overall barter business is likely to grow, and it may well emerge as a significant arena in which sellers derive value from merchandise that they cannot sell at full price.
Auctions are a variation on this selling mechanism in which goods are offered for sale to the highest bidder. And the National Materials Exchange Network (http://www.earthcycle.com/g/p/earthcycle/index.html) gives new teeth to the old saw "one man's trash is another man's treasure" by allowing companies to sell or trade, on a global basis, used and surplus materials.
The NMEN has already accumulated 10,000 listings. Business-to-business networks can also streamline the bidding process, the process by which companies make their services available to other companies.
The General Electric Co., for example, has established the GE Trading Process Network (http://
www.ge.com/tpn/index.html), which "enables suppliers to bid for GE contracts from their desktop computers, reducing the time and cost associated with business-to-business transactions." GE expects TPN to handle $1 billion of transactions in 1996.
Intranets, Web-based networks that connect a company's employees with World Wide Web technology, are also becoming increasingly popular.
Most intranets are private, restricting access to a company's employees. To prevent non-employees from accessing the information available on these internal networks, companies have created "firewalls," or security gates.
Intranets allow companies to continuously post the most up-to-date information and avoid the costs of printing and distributing employee handbooks and other materials. For companies with salespeople spread across a large geographic area, an intranet can be a particularly valuable tool.
Salespeople can use this network to access current pricing information, technical data, and position papers. This eliminates the need to travel with heavy manuals, and for headquarters to update the information that their salespeople have in a swiftly evolving, competitive environment. Excerpted from "NetMarketing: How Your Business Can Profit from the Online Revolution," copyright 1996 Wolff New Media LLC and Bruce Judson. Call 1-800-NET-1133, ext. 102, to order.