"What this company needs is a great World Wide Web site!"
Today companies all over the world are being bombarded by this
"World Wide Web" phenomena at the office, on television,
and in the news. The sudden explosion of the Internet has left
many companies in its wake and managers grasping for direction
and expertise on how to utilize this new medium effectively to
market their business.
There are no text books or specific marketing courses that give
you a magic answer on how to proceed with the process of establishing
your online presence.
It is not surprising that many organizations find themselves faced
with a flood of Internet/World Wide Web developer proposals and
cannot distinguish the differences between what the vendor companies
provide. In many cases, the proposal that is implemented does
not produce the desired results and disillusionment of the entire
Internet/World Wide Web begins.
A strategic online presence must be a "winner." If the
online presence does not increase the exposure, increase sales,
or lower marketing costs, the effort was probably a waste of time.
An effective online presence is the result of a commitment by
the vendor and your company. Anyone can develop a mediocre online
presence. However, if the support by your staff and vendor are
not adequate the presence breaks down and leaves those potential
Remember: This could be the very first opportunity for
you to communicate your business message to this potential customer.
If the site does not respond, it is the perceived equivalent of
(the phone not working), the site is slow (the service is slow),
the site is under construction (it is a waste of the online consumers
time), site doesn't respond to my email reservation ( the company
is not worried about getting my business), or the Web site responds
by telling me I am not using the appropriate online service or
browser ("Who is the customer here anyway?). These common
problems I have just mentioned are practiced by businesses large
and small. Fortunately, you do not have to be one of them and
you can plan appropriately for the design and implementation of
your new World Wide Web site.
In defining your business needs for an online marketing presence,
you need to look at the internal resources of your organization
as well as the current marketing strategies used to generate business.
Ask yourself a few basic questions.
1) What type of customer demographics do I currently have; resort
golfers, private County Club, community etc.?
2) Do customers travel long distances to play golf at my course
or are they primarily local residents?
3) What are all the services I can provide a golfer at my course?
4) How do I currently differentiate my course from other courses
within my geographic area?
5) How much money do I spend in advertising, what type of exposure/advertising
do I receive for the money, and what are the results?
6) DEFINE YOUR SPECIFIC GOALS in what you intend to accomplish
or the desired results from developing an online presence.
The answers to these questions will put you well on your way to
defining your online needs and developing a strategy to pursue
an effective World Wide Web presence.
Now that you have defined some basic requirements, you can begin
the process of identifying vendors/developers which you feel can
provide the level of services you need. In today's market, the
best way to find and evaluate these companies is to search for
other businesses within the golfing industry that have established
Web sites by performing queries or searches in the large search
engine data bases. Below are a few popular search engines you
will find suitable for this purpose.
Most importantly, you have to establish an account with an Internet
Service Provider (America Online, or local ISP ) and begin to
use the World Wide Web. As you begin to use the services, your
defined needs may change due to experiences you have had with
accessing various Web sites. Regardless, actually using the Web
to find and locate information is the best learning tool for you
to understand what the basic consumer is faced with in trying
to find or access information.
With your ISP account established, begin to perform searches at
these search engines by entering descriptive words about the types
of companies you are looking for (ex. "hilton head golf courses").
This search should provide a list of Web sites pertaining to golf
in Hilton Head, SC. After identifying and comparing various Web
sites you find appealing based on your defined requirements, begin
to contact the companies that have developed the Web sites or
the customers themselves to better understand the services that
have been provided and are available. This does not have to be
an expensive time consuming process. Remember, Use Your Email!
In establishing your expectations to measure the effectiveness
of a new Web site it is important to interject a little realism
into all of the hype that has been generated by the media and
a number of overzealous sales representatives. It is great to
be optimistic about the development of your new Web site, but
unrealistic expectations can very quickly frustrate both the vendor
and you the customer. This is a "No Win" situation for
both parties, because the over sold expectations will probably
never be met. However, if realistic expectations are established
to begin with, the process of watching the Web site continue to
grow and prosper will be a very satisfying and successful experience.
Expectations for your Web site have to be benchmarked primarily
against the other mediums and advertising vehicles used to generate
business, but you also have to take into consideration the depth
of the message and information provided for the cost.
The first example (Exhibit 1) I would like to use is a media comparison
between what is happening in the Newspaper Advertising industry
and online marketing. The figures for the top circulation Newspapers
during the six month period ending March 31, 1994 show a decline
in the Sunday circulation from the same period last year of (.83%).
The figures for the top circulation Newspapers during the six
month period ending September 30 1995 show a decline in the Sunday
circulation from the same period last year of (2.12%).
Ironically, during this time Newspapers increased advertising
rates an average of 6% each year. The Internet on the other
hand is increasing the number of users and your potential customers
at a rate of almost 10MM "enabled users" per year. Enabled
users are those described as using a World Wide Web browser. Source:
Alex Brown and Sons Research, Georgia Institute of Technology,
The next example (Exhibit 2) is a monthly media comparison between
two companies in a golf resort area competing for the same customers.
The Company #1 media evaluation for this particular month shows
in the first column what type of medium the company has purchased,
in the second column how many phone inquiries were received, in
the third column how many reservation nights were booked, in the
fourth column how much the advertisement cost, in the fifth column
what was the cost per inquiry, and in the sixth column what was
the cost to book one nights reservation. The cumulative totals
show that on average that it cost the company $45.66 to
advertise and send a potential customer its company information.
In comparing the effectiveness of online marketing to the print
advertising results, Company #2 spends $2,200 per month
on an annual contract. For the same month that Company #1 spent
an average $45.66 to generate a phone call and mail out
information, Company #2 had 2,785 people visit their Web site
and view an average of 8.1 pages of information. Out of those
2,785 people visiting the Web site 182 vacation requests were
made by email directly through the Web site. Phone calls originating
from people visiting the Web site were estimated by Company #2
to be approximately 30 additional, but are not used in calculating
these figures. Company #2 virtually had 2,785 company brochures
requested and viewed by a potential consumer. The information
provided the consumer was not unsolicited direct mail or a small
display advertisement with pictures and a toll free phone number.
It was a specific request by a consumer, who was spending his
own money to take the time to read and view the information Company
#2 had made available. The Company #2 figures with 2,785 visitors
show an inquiry rate of $.79 per inquiry. However, if you
want to look at the numbers differently and the captured name,
address, phone number etc. is where you feel the valued result
should be measured , the number is $12.09 per inquiry.
This still represents a substantial difference.
Exhibit 2 also shows the conversion comparisons of the two mediums
and how they differ. The CPR or cost per reservation night for
Company #1 is $52.71. The CPR or cost per reservation night
for Company #2 is $19.30. The majority of the companies
surveyed for this type of statistical example did not even track
these numbers and in the case of Company #1 the numbers were tracked,
but never evaluated.
The next example (Exhibit 3) is a recent comparison of direct
mail campaigns by two different golf courses versus the average
results of two World Wide Web golf course presences. The numbers
for the golf course presences reflect 3 months of results. The
first "Direct Mail" golf course, Company #1DM, sent
out a post card mailing to 2500 homes in their market area at
a total cost of $4,000. The golf course received only 3 phone
calls from this mailing. This results in a $1,333 CPI (Cost
per Inquiry). The second "Direct Mail" golf course,
Company #2DM, sent out a 15,000 piece mailing at a cost of $8,000
and received 40 phone inquiries. The results of this mailing were
a little better, a $200 CPI. The two golf courses
utilizing the World Wide Web to promote their clubs each pay for
an annual contract, which costs $299 per month. Therefore, to
evaluate the 3 month time frame we will use $897 each as the cost
for the period. Company #1WWW received 1381 unique visitors to
their Web site and 27 Reservation Requests made for tee times
or additional information ($33.22 CPI for actual Reservation
Requests). Company #2WWW received 1825 unique visitors to
their Web site and 38 Reservation Requests were made ($23.61
CPI for actual Reservation Requests). Exhibit 4 provides a
sample of an actual Reservation Request for one of the golf resort
companies and shows the type of information captured.
As you can tell from the examples I have covered, the World Wide
Web/Internet medium is not something to ignore. If utilized in
the proper manner it can produce some very effective results.
Figures are for six months ended March 31, 1994 compared
with the same period last year.
|*Wall Street Journal|
|Cleveland Plain Dealer|
Figures are for six months ended September 30, 1995
compared with the same period last year.
Only Top Circulation Papers
|*Wall Street Journal|
|Cleveland Plain Dealer|
The figures above are from Ad Age Magazine.
*Wall Street Journal does not have a Sunday circulation.
EXHIBIT 2 (WWW vs Traditional Print Media Example)
|MEDIA TYPE||INQUIRIES||RESV. NIGHTS||COST||CPI||CPR|
|Travel Agency Trade
|Follow Up Mailings for Inquiries||$4,425.00|
|Unique Visitors||Resv. Requests||Resv. Nights||Cost||CPI Visitor||CPI Resv.||CPR|
|World Wide Web|
EXHIBIT 3 (WWW vs Direct Mail Example)
|Company #1: DM|
|Company #2: DM|
|Company #1: WWW|
|Company #2: WWW|
EXHIBIT 4 (Sample of actual Reservation Request
Contact Me! My clubs are packed and I'm interested in a ABC Island vacation golf package! Here are the details...
Name: Kathy Smith
819 W. State
Chicago, Il 60622
Home Phone: 312-555-0715
Fax Number: 312-555-0826
Email Address: kbs@your_isp.com
Arrival Date: 5 24, 96
End Date: 5 29, 96
We are looking for:
Home with private pool
We need to accommodate: 8-10
In the price range of: $3500 & Up!
Comments for ABC Island:
Planning a trip for 4-5 couples, with children under 2. Prefer a single large house, either on beach or with private pool. Interested in playing some golf. Would consider renting for full week if necessary.
In evaluating your potential Online vendors and their
customers, there are many questions that you should ask to educate
yourself enough about the companies services to make an intelligent
decision. Exhibit #5 provides you with an example of an easy to
use process of pre-arranging the questions you would like to ask
and an area to write down the responses. This questionnaire can
also be faxed to potential vendors for a pre-bid evaluation. This
will allow you to quickly narrow down the number of vendors you
will evaluate for the final selection.
1. Company Name:
2. How long has your company been providing WWW/Internet
development services and what are your previous credentials, s
3. Who are some of your current customers and what
are the URL addresses of the Web sites? Would you give me the
names of the contact persons to ask them some specific questions?
4. Do you have WWW/Internet packages with fixed pricing
for my particular business or do you customize all development
services and charge per hour?
5. Are domain name registration (www.yourcompany.com)
and hosting services included in the pricing? Below are specific
questions and information about hosting services you may want
Domain Name Registration Cost: No more than $200
should cover the registration services. This pays for the domain
name processing and registration for the first two years. The
cost will be $50 per year after the first two years expire.
Web Hosting Services Cost: Setup Fee: Monthly Fee:
The setup and monthly fees are usually the same if
broken out separately in your proposal. If the vendor -developer
is hosting your Web site, the fees will probably be included in
his proposal price along with the management of your Web site
pages. However, if you are wondering what pure hosting services
would cost the Tier 1 services would cost from $100 to $300 per
month for virtual hosting as of 10/1/96. Tier 2 & 3 hosting
services can be obtained anywhere between $25 to $50 per month.
Services included vary.
BASIC WEB HOSTING QUESTIONS:
a) Am I limited to the amount of data I can transfer
per month? Note: 250MBytes/month would be ample.
b) How many other companies are hosted on the same
computer and what type of system do you use? Whatever the answer
is to this question, test a few sites that are hosted on the service
to see how quickly the pages download compared to other Web sites.
Recommend (high capacity) UNIX based system.
c) Does the service include redundant Web servers
for back up capabilities? Should have an alternative back up.
d) What are the server connection speeds? (Computer
to Router) Min. of 1.5MB/ per sec. Recommend 10Mbps
e) What are the router connection speeds and who
provides the bandwidth?(Router to Internet or major ISP (Internet
Service Provider) MCI, Uunet, Sprint etc.; Recommend a minimum
f) Do the Web hosting services have 24 hour 7 day
a week Network Operations Center support and UPS systems (Uninterruptable
Power Source)? This makes a huge difference in network connection
performance up time.
6. Do I receive monthly reports on the use of my
Web site? This should be standard.
7. How do you develop your customer Web sites? Are
you focused on the enhancement capabilities of "Netscape"
only or do you develop the Web sites with the other browser types
in mind. This requires making changes in the html language to
accommodate the other browser types.
8. What type of marketing strategy do you use to
make sure your customers get the best exposure they possibly can?
The answer to these questions will give a quick reference
to the companies and what type of services they offer. These basic
questions especially in the hosting areas are where you can expose
what type of investments people have put into their businesses
and whether or not they view their business as a hobby or full
Now that you have narrowed down your list of vendors, educated
yourself about the Internet, and refined some of the company requirements.
It's time to start identifying who will be your outsourcing partner.
Start by getting formal proposals from the narrowed down list
of vendors and be sure to define your basic requirements. Review
the proposals in detail and start to identify the differences
between the companies. Below are some evaluation questions that
you should be able to answer before making the final decision
and signing a contract.
This is a very fundamental question that will tell you who the
responsible parties are for developing and hosting your Web site.
Many times the issues of the "pages are downloading too slow"
or "my Web site is not available" become a finger pointing
contest between two separate companies that are worried about
who's fault it is rather than fixing the problem. This normally
happens if the developing vendor is using a Tier 2 or 3 hosting
service for your Web pages.
What incentive is left for a company to make sure your Web site
is continually functional if you've already paid 90% of the total
fee. Vendors will differ on this, but my reasoning is simple.
If contracts are loaded upfront with huge fees and the vendor
hosts your Web site on a poor performing Web server, the likelihood
of the vendor changing the situation before the term of the hosting
contract ends is not very good unless they are a very conscientious
company. Remember, if your hosting service, you have already paid
most of their fee. The only possible loser in this type of scenario
This is a very common need as green fees change or accommodations
prices increase. You do not want to hear on the other end of the
phone that it will cost you an additional $75 per hour to make
simple editing changes to your Web site and the minimum charge
is 4 hours. This is common with the above type of contracts. If
this is not included, negotiate something in the proposal that
allows for bi-monthly or monthly changes. You will definitely
need this to keep things up to date. Don't let the Web site grow
old with a 1995 calendar of events schedule .
This refers to exactly how the vendor intends to register your
Web site in most search engines. Does the vendor try to register
the site under multiples of categories that would identify your
site. Do they provide hyper-links to other Web sites to generate
more traffic for your site. Does the company provide additional
opportunities or promotional events to gain exposure advantages
over your competition.
Make the vendor provide you with a list of the type of Internet
connections they currently have and where are they connected;
Uunet, Sprint, CAIS Internet, BBN, MCI etc. This will be listed
as T-1 or (1.5Mbps), T-3 or (45Mbps) etc. What type of servers
do they use and is there a redundant back up system? Sun Microsystems
and Silicon Graphics are the leading sellers in high performance
The answer to this question informs you as to whether or not your
Web site will be accessible to the public before the site is completely
finished. If available, this allows you to review the Web site
online to get a feel of exactly how your customers will view the
We hope you didn't forget to call the referrals you asked for
in the beginning questionnaire, to see how the vendor was performing.
This is a very good way to raise some red flags. Remember, you
want to select the vendor that will represent your company with
the utmost professionalism.
Believe it or not, this a great question to ask. In many cases,
vendors are faced with getting those first few jobs. They will
give away the development of a Web site to a company or companies
and they in turn have to become a reference for them. What do
they have to lose, it's free; Right? Many vendor companies put
themselves in a situation where they are servicing so many non-paying
customers that it becomes impossible for them to provide adequate
services to the paying customers because of a lack of resources.
In fact, this is a very common problem. The eventual outcome is
the company is dissolved, the customers who paid lose their investment,
the companies who didn't pay lose their online presences and everyone
loses customers and creditability.
Online marketing remains a new and often fearful experience for
many. The "online concept" has not been recognized by
all organizations. However, the use of an effective World Wide
Web presence will slowly become a necessity as the competitive
environment pressures businesses to differentiate themselves continuously.
The online presence offers opportunities within all frameworks of marketing and advertising. The integration of the technology into all facets of traditional media provide tracking abilities, direct response, delivery of products and services information, and a communications link to the potential consumer.