Business over Internet - known as e-commerce or e-business - has its own peculiarities. To be successful in e-business – its essential that you understand these peculiarities and adopt in your marketing plan.
First thing to understand about e-business is that its different from conventional business - not so much in the fundamentals, which is essentially same for all businesses, but in its approach to customers.
You might have a wonderful product and very competitive price line - but that holds no guarantee of success in e-business. This is not to say product quality or competitive price has no effect on sales - on the contrary these are extremely important qualities as competition is intense in Internet. However, these qualities come to play only when customer accepts you as seller. To understand why customers may not accept a seller on face value – we need to examine certain peculiarities of Internet based b2b marketplace
Unlike physical world where buyer and seller can meet, evaluate each other and satisfy themselves about each other's capability - Internet is virtual. Here buyer and seller are separated by thousands of miles, come from different countries, have different cultures and may even speak different languages. In other words - there's huge uncertainty.
To make matters worse for business - Internet is anonymous. It was designed for free exchange of information. Such anonymous culture is good for intellectual growth and societal development - but does no good for development of business confidence.
Nobody wants to do business with strangers - specially when significant amount of monetary transaction is involved.
So first step in Internet based b2b portal trade is to develop trusted relationship, remove uncertainty as much as possible and nurture mutual understanding.
How to Build Trust ?
Trust develops between businesses through mutual interactions, commitments and delivery. Its a long drawn process. However, what happens when you interact with new customers ? Internet offers the opportunity to reach thousands of new customers across the globe. How can these strangers come to trust you, if your first point of presence in their lives is through an anonymous e-mail ?
The first step in building trust is to be 'trustworthy', to be perceived as dependable. Help your customers know who you are and offer them an easy way to verify you. Your customer should be able to find your physical address where you can be contacted whenever needed, information about your business, products, services and, if possible, some third party verification/certification such as ISO certification, association membership, customer testimonials etc.
How do you communicate all these qualities about your business through an easily accessible medium ? Obviously, the best way is to have a credible web-presence.
Importance of Credible Web-Presence in E-Business
Mark the word 'credible'. Does your web-presence inspires confidence ? What works with your friends may not work with your customers. You are in business and your customers expect businessman-like conduct from you. Social networks like Facebook or Wordpress may be good for promoting your business but can not be considered credible business platforms.
You need to invest in a professionally designed business web-site like www.yourcompany.com. Without a credible web-presence - its going to be an uphill task to convince new customers about your ability and close transaction.
Is that all ? Certainly not - professional web-site is only the beginning or rather foundation of trust building process. Next step is to build bridge with your customer through credible and professional communication. First requirement of credible communication is business e-mail.
What is Business E-Mail and Why its so important in E-Business
E-mail is your face to anonymous world of Internet. In the absence of physical contact – you are represented by your communication. Make sure your communication is not only credible and professional – but is also able to stand-up in a crowd and be counted. Business e-mail ensures this feature.
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Even experienced businessmen sometimes make the mistake of not using business e-mail while communicating with customers. Before explaining vital importance of business e-mail - let me explain what is business e-mail.
Business e-mail - as opposed to free mails (such as hotmail, gmail, yahoo etc.) represents your business. Its a derivative of your web-site and usually takes the form of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org when your website address is yourcompany.com. Its never anonymous as one can easily identify owner of this e-mail by placing the part after @ in any Internet browser (i.e. placing www.yourcompany.com in Internet Explorer).
To understand importance of business e-mail - consider a buyer who has floated trade enquiry for buying a product. As it happens in Internet - specially for popular products like garments, textile, handicraft etc. - the buyer receives dozens of responses from multiple countries. On opening his/her e-mail box - the buyer is confronted with dozens of e-mails, only Visible parts of each e-mail being date of receipt, sender and subject line.
As it happens with all of us - fate of an e-mail gets decided on 2 items of visible information. If sender name and subject line are not appealing enough - the e-mail may not get opened or in worst case, end up in trash folder no matter how good its content is.
E-mails having distinct business names as sender (as opposed to gmail, yahoo etc.) and displaying precise and specific subject lines stand up among multitude of e-mails and carry far more probability of being opened and responded to.
Best part of business e-mail is that - its FREE ! You get business e-mail automatically when investing in a web-site. In fact, business e-mail is part of web-site - you can not separate one from the other.
Web-site and business e-mail creates the foundation for a trusted relationship building. Next step is to look at communication style – next week