shared by winners on the Web
January 4, 1999
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
separates the best from the rest when it comes to Web marketing?
And, what are the best practices?
Why are Cisco,
Amazon.com, Kraft, CDNow, Netscape, Yahoo, iVillage or AOL out
front of the competition?
one of these winners does right can be summed up in seven points:
- They put
their customers first
- They stay
committed to content
- They bring
childlike creativity to the business
extraordinarily communications savvy, and,
- They remain
aggressive, enterprise-wide adopters & integrators of technology.
The best Web marketers really put their customers first, not their
own bottom lines, although the bottom line seems to benefit. Take
business-to-business e-commerce giant Cisco Systems, Inc. CEO
John Chambers grew a grass roots customer service and product
information bulletin board service into a multibillion-dollar
revenue engine. San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco's success wasn't
planned. The executive team organically sensed and responded to
of brilliance: Executives listened to their customers' desire
to share information on-line and they built their Internet site
to serve the demand.
capability is so good, it received online customer satisfaction
scores of 4.2 last August (on a five point scale). Not bad for
a system that saved the company several hundred million dollars
by selling and distributing all their software updates online
versus putting them in paper boxes.
On the retail
side of e-commerce, there are many marketers who put their customers
first. Everyone's heard of Jeff Bezos'Amazon.com, who's easily
navigated Web pages, helpful customer shopping suggestions and
comprehensive search engine (along with customer-written book
reviews) make it a best-of-breed winner. But, visit Kathy Riordan's
Kraft Interactive Kitchen Web site at http://www.KraftFoods.com
At Kraft Interactive,
busy people can get real help preparing dinner tonight because
Kraft has organized their database with the customer in mind.
my favorite web site, CDNow.com, where a pair of 20-something
brothers, Jason & Matthew Olim, thought "customer first"
in a way the local record store never imagined. Frustrated that
the local record store couldn't teach them about jazz great Miles
Davis, the Olim brothers founded a Web marketing company that
provides customers with all the musical knowledge they desire,
as well as real-time sampling of musical tracks before they buy.
going to be best-of-breed on the Web, be sure you think about
your customer first.
- Take CEO Jim Barksdale's company, Netscape Communications Corp.,
based in Mountain View, Calif. They're a paragon of competitive
vitality. They defined the landscape of the Internet with their
first version of Netscape Navigator. They gave their product away
to establish market penetration, gain trial and develop an installed
base. And they courageously took on the Microsoft Goliath in the
marketspace, in the market- place and in the court of public opinion
as well as in the corridors of government power and the courts
of law. -
behind David Filo and Jerry Yang, the founders of Yahoo, but are
fighting back with new innovations, such as their own portal,
Netcenter. A soon-to-be-released version of their new browser
software will be as customizable as "My Yahoo." Watch
for the latest version of Netscape to one-up the competition by
allowing surfers to enter ordinary English text (no more "www"
or ".com") where you normally type your URL, and still
get you connected to your favorite Web site.
Web marketers have endless competitive vitality, like Netscape.
Talk about content, visit Yahoo and see where you can go. Or,
visit any one of the portal sites and see how access to content
is aggregated and organized for the customer's advantage. But
don't stop there. Daily newspapers have always been best-of-breed
content providers at the local level. Check out the next tier
of information aggregators at newspaper Web pages such as Boston.com
(Web site of the Boston Globe). Newspaper Web pages provide users
with local information they've never dreamed of having before.
many specialized niche providers who are committed to content.
As examples, look at business information providers as Hoovers.com
and Arthur Andersen's Knowledgespace.com. They're subscription
services that lead the way in delivering business users with timely
information on demand. Or, go to iVillage's Parent Soup for insights
on raising your kids.
level, quality and commitment to content if you want to assess
whether you're best of breed.
Speaking of iVillage, CEO Candice Carpenter is a best-of-the-Web
practitioner who lives by the mantra, "Web success depends
upon being community-oriented." Lay the foundation and cornerstone
of an electronic community like iVillage's "Better Health"
and the community's users will put up the electronic framing,
the walls and the roof-and may even cut the electronic scrubs
and mow the lawn. For example, trained, unpaid volunteers staff
iVillage's chat communities and enable iVillage to deliver a powerful
audience to cyberspace advertisers who pay real dollars to reach
iVillage's upscale, female audience.
14-year-old want to create a discussion group to share views on
the relationship between Star Trek Voyager television characters,
The Doctor and Seven of Nine (two of the more popular characters,
for you non-Trekkies)? Paramount Pictures has done a nice job
of building a Star Trek information site (www.startrek.com). But,
many teen-agers want to create their own Web pages and invite
others kids to cybersurf over and check out their work.
is a best-of-breed provider who tackled this opportunity. Join
Tripod and they'll give you a set of easy to use tools that will
make creating your own home page a snap. It won't be nearly as
tough as assembling those Christmas presents, thanks to Tripod's
commitment to a community orientation. Not only will Tripod's
members help you develop your Web site, they'll stop by to share
community builders, let's not forget Steve Case's America Online.
AOL has become so ubiquitous you almost forget to mention their
overflowing chat rooms.
building a sense of community online, you're mirroring the best
in the business.
Many sites show awesome creativity. But, creativity, like beauty,
is often in the eye of the beholder. When the rest of the Web
was galloping toward complex home page graphics that were slower
than mud to down load, Yahoo showed creative brilliance. Rather
than follow the herd, its designers created a text-rich home page
that was quick to download and click through. This bit of insight
alone may have made Filo and Yang millionaires.
Web entrepreneurs share is a fearlessness about creativity - a
willingness to be different and to take risks. A fearless approach
that children typically have before they begin kindergarten and
start learning the rules.
If you want
to be among the Web's best you'll need to source the fearless
creativity of your youth.
In attacking Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com has a major disadvantage:
Their name. Who wants to type a long URL into their computer?
And who can remember just how to spell it anyway? Sites like Yahoo,
Amazon and AOL became top dogs because they understood the fundamentals
of marketing communications.
AOL used consumer products marketing techniques ("carpet
bombing" promotion) to get trial and gain their initial installed
base. Yahoo practices brand equity building almost as well as
Coke. And major new sites like Snap!, a new portal, have television
advertising budgets that rival McDonald's. If you plan to be a
Web leader, you'll need to have the marketing communications savvy
of a Nike.
Enterprisewide Adopters and Integrators of Technology
Toysrus.com is my latest favorite example of this critical trait.
Listen to Deborah Kimball, general manager of electronic commerce
and creator of the new Toys R Us Web site. She'll tell you that
getting the entire enterprise, from operations and distribution
to the technology infrastructure linked and integrated is as important
to Web success as having a cool, easy-to-browse Web page. Come
December 12, when the Christmas rush peaks for Toys R Us, that
enterprise-wide technology integration will be sorely tested.
in Web marketing need to motivate, mobilize and integrate the
entire company behind the technology in order to achieve Web marketing
the future hold in Web excellence? While it's still anybody's
guess, one thing's for certain: Change. For a hint at what tomorrow's
Web leaders will do, consider what Mark Tonnesen, director of
customer advocacy at Cisco, says: "The web is just the connection
to draw customers into the enterprise. We're headed to a more
interactive experience with customers, voice, data and video all
integrated. Today you can come to a Web site and get an experience.
In the future you will reach out and talk with someone from the
best-of-breed Web marketers will enable live, interactive communication
between customers and real people, online. Better make that point
Krauss is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at email@example.com.