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ARCHIVED  November 1, 1995

Business must learn to market on Web

What’s the most savvy way to buy or sell products and services these days?

Nope, it’s not the Home Shopping Network. It’s on the all-encompassing Internet’s World Wide Web, sporting shopping malls and online catalogs galore.

If you don’t “create a presence with a graphical storefront now, you competition is going to be doing it. Just like the yellow pages, you can’t afford not to be there,” advises John Golliard, president of Intertrain, a Loveland-based consulting and training firm that helps businesses develop marketing for Web sites.

And, not being shy, entrepreneurs and big businesses alike are sprouting “home pages” like you’ve never seen, selling items from boxer shorts to software to automobiles.

These digital merchants know they have an unlimited client base unbounded by geography. They don’t have to pay wages to salespeople and telemarketers, worry about shoplifting or pay for expensive ads and mail campaigns.

With 15,000 storefronts now, “By December 1996, there will be twice as many hypermedia retail outlets on the Net,´ said Ottawa-based Michael Strangelove, who publishes “The Internet Business Journal” and wrote “How to Advertise on the Internet.”

The Web is a perfect business marketing tool. It displays graphical and audio HyperText home pages, which are like tables of contents offering pathways and links to a wide selection of information about companies and products. With Web browser programs such as Netscape and Mosaic, you can easily search through these storefront sites by using universal resource locators, or URLs – text strings that browsers use to find other network resources.

But to organize and design a home page to be interactive and friendly as well as deliver information can be confusing. Fort Collins-based InfoCast Systems and Technology is developing yet-unnamed software to alleviate that confusion.

“It’s now impossible for magazines and catalogs to provide updates and inventory very easily on the Net,´ said Tom Higley, president. Next year, “You’ll be able to use our software to distribute information and products on Web pages as you now distribute them by mail.”

Higley said InfoCast helps answer the questions: How do we get to the right people? How would they use it? What’s the best way to show our products so people will sustain interest? How can we follow up – with an 800 number, e-mail or fax-back? “People are still stumbling; there aren’t any hard and fast rules,” he noted.

Security is another obstacle to big sales.

“Truly secure transactions are some time away,” Higley said. “The attention to all the security break-ins is a good thing. In a relatively short time, companies will develop more-secure ways to do electronic business.”

But Higley believes the security issues are overblown.

“People will get used to buying products through the Web, just like they did catalog shopping,” he said.

Without spending much in advertising costs, some early storefront players have made millions using 800 and fax-back numbers. Yet most companies have yet to see much profit.

“Businesses must understand that with a Web page, they only reach a small group of potential customers,” Golliard said.

He suggested Net-friendly tactics to remind the Internet community about your product. For example, “if your company sells sports gear, post the latest hockey scores.”

Fort Collins’ Clearwave, which provides telecommunications software for computer and phone-integration, has gotten some leads through its Web page, said Scott Lamons, vice president and director of product development.

However, Lamons cautioned not to give up traditional marketing methods. “We still sell our products through Egghead, for example. And it’s a hassle for some people to buy over the Web. They can’t get connected, there are busy signals or the site itself is busy. People don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to stuff like that.”

What’s the most savvy way to buy or sell products and services these days?

Nope, it’s not the Home Shopping Network. It’s on the all-encompassing Internet’s World Wide Web, sporting shopping malls and online catalogs galore.

If you don’t “create a presence with a graphical storefront now, you competition is going to be doing it. Just like the yellow pages, you can’t afford not to be there,” advises John Golliard, president of Intertrain, a Loveland-based consulting and training firm that helps businesses develop marketing for Web sites.

And, not being shy, entrepreneurs and big businesses alike are sprouting “home pages” like you’ve never…

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