Today more than ever, it’s important for all businesses and organizations to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve effectiveness. Do more with less. Fortunately, today we also have an incredible new tool called the internet that has amazing potential for helping us, regardless of our organization size or budget.
Why start with the internet? The internet is a unique tool in that it can distribute any type of information, anywhere in the world, anytime day or night or holiday, with virtually no transaction costs. Plus it works two-ways so it can also collect data for you under those same circumstances.
Here are five strategies for using the internet to streamline your business, reduce costs, and generate more results with less effort. All of these strategies can be implemented gradually and inexpensively.
1. Improve advertising effectiveness
The old advertising adage says “80% of all advertising is wasted” the trick is finding the 20% the works. Traditional advertising sends a message to large audience and hopes a small percentage of target prospects will see it and act. You pay for potential eyeballs, not for results.
The internet lets you measure and track results in ways that radio, television and print could never imagine. You can track how many people view your website every hour, what pages they viewed, where the came from, even what search engine keywords they used to find your site.
Internet advertising is significantly cheaper than traditional advertising, and even has models where you only pay for results. Consider moving some of your traditional advertising budget to internet marketing and see how much better results you can achieve.
2. Streamline communications
The reason email caught on so quickly is that it is faster than traditional mail, cheaper than traditional mail, easier than traditional mail, and you can do things like send attachments that would be very difficult with traditional mail.
Email newsletters, blog posts, automated text messages all have these same benefits and economies. By pushing more of your communications to the web you are improving accessibility, reducing delivery time, and virtually eliminating delivery costs.
Look at your communications that are current going out as postcards, flyers, telephone calls and letters and see if they can be converted to emails, email newsletters or website posts.
3. Develop a self-service library
The 24×7 nature of the internet, and lack of transaction costs, makes this an ideal tool for distributing all kinds of information. Maybe you have prospects or clients calling your office requesting brochures, or product info, or simply your address and business hours — all these can be distributed via a website. This makes the information more accessible to your client (still available after business hours and holidays), and reduces your operating costs (no labor, postage, printing).
Develop a continuous process for identifying the resources that can be provided via the web. This will improve your customer service and reduce your production and labor costs.
4. Automate transactions
The two-way nature of the internet means customers can do more than just pull files from your website, they can do simple transactions. Shopping carts and simple registration forms are quick and easy to implement. They give you 24×7 customer service and take no labor resources.
Even if your business can’t sell products over the internet, there are probably standard transactions, forms, registrations, or information requests that can be automated simply and inexpensively.
5. Build community
The newest hot commodity on the internet is building community. It may be called social networking, users groups or fan clubs, but the principle is to connect your customers (community) with each other and make them accessible to your potential clients. Instead of just pushing out advertising, you provide a place for people to learn about your products and talk with others about it. Instead of directly pushing for sales, you are taking a leadership or expert role in this new community.
Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn give you the tools to do “soft marketing” through social networking. Just like in the physical world, networking takes time, but there is little hard cost.
All of these strategies can be implemented gradually at extremely low cost. In each case you can save money quickly and pay for the internet solutions with only a fraction of the savings. Look at your business for ways to reduce costs and improve results by using internet technologies. You’ll be amazed how easy it is.
Main Street is developing a white paper with additional information on these strategies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy of this report when it is released.