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 November 5, 1999

Strategic planning essential for online business success

For most companies, both large and small, the prospect of doing business on the Internet is a lot like the early days of the California Gold Rush. The potential opportunities for profit were enormous but the risk of failure was equally as great. Success was based partially on luck, partially on staying power and most importantly, it was based on sound advice and support from people who cared about their success.

The same holds true for today’s 49ers. Just as a network of entrepreneurs sprang up to support the flood of 49ers, the Internet is experiencing a virtual explosion of Web design, marketing, hosting, e-commerce and other services to meet the demands of online business pioneers. In fact, the major challenge in building a successful Web-based business today is not so much a lack of available funds and resources, but rather an efficient manner in which to access them.

With global e-commerce revenues projected to reach as much as $3.2 trillion dollars by 2003 (Forrester Research), the lure of potential Internet-driven riches has created an onslaught of both businesses and service vendors into the world of cyberspace. Currently, the main goal for online business is how to be profitable without getting trampled in the stampede.

Online businesses are asking questions like: Where do I find a place to host my server that is safe and secure? I have a great concept, but how do I find funding to launch my company? How do I increase traffic to my site without incurring exorbitant expense? Though online business ownership is very alluring, it can also be a financial black hole without strategic planning and access to appropriate resources.

There are several critical challenges to doing business on the Internet:

*The Web requires a different mindset. Unlike traditional “brick and mortar” businesses, online commerce requires a completely new set of tools and business processes. From strategic planning and marketing to order fulfillment, the Web offers vast new possibilities for either rapid growth or zero growth. By tapping into the experience of other entrepreneurs, online owners can gain vital insights that help them achieve success and avoid common Internet pitfalls.

*Solving the “Too-Much Information” Syndrome. On the Web, knowing where to look is just as important as knowing what to look for. Web entrepreneurs need to clearly define what they are looking for in order to find the resources that can provide that information in a timely and cost-effective manner.

*Building strategic online partnerships. Just as the Internet consists of a myriad of virtually connected resources, successful enterprises on the Web almost always depend upon establishing and leveraging the right business relationships. By bringing complementary businesses together working in partnerships, there is a greater likelihood that each will have success.

*Keeping up with daily changes. If the Internet could be described by any one dominant characteristic, it is the rapid and constant change in real time. The brilliant online marketing strategy today can easily become a dead end tomorrow, while new avenues to success open daily. Focused information sharing is critical for Internet entrepreneurs to keep current on new industry trends and leverage emerging opportunities.

*Getting the most for your dollars. The opportunity to comparison shop in one place for similar services can be critical to getting the right deals at the right time. Because the needs of different companies can change at various stages in their online growth, it should never be assumed that one size or type of service offering will fit everyone’s requirements.

*Becoming known by others. The notion of “build it and they will come” may work on the silver screen, but not on the Web. Concentrated efforts are required to find, nurture and optimize the kinds of business networks and awareness programs that will ultimately lead to online marketing success.

*Leveraging “best practices.” One thing that holds true both on and off the Web is the value of modeling best practices that have been proven by other businesses. Identifying and sharing key success stories and online business methods from leading Internet companies of all sizes will help large and small Web-based businesses.

*Protecting your online business interests. In cyberspace there is a host of new Internet-centric business challenges, such as securing your site, safeguarding intellectual property, obtaining domain names, etc. Sharing information on these and other critical issues is invaluable with a rapidly changing medium.

*Scaling up as you grow. Ultimately, as your business manages to overcome and surpass all of the aforementioned challenges, Internet entrepreneurs then have to deal with the consequences of their own success and upwardly spiraling growth curve, which provides a whole new set of challenges.

Just as the early Gold Rush 49ers would gather around their campfire and swap tips where to get the best bargains on supplies, the members of Webentrepreneurs.com gather around the glow of their shared Web sites to trade vital information on how to win the Internet Gold Rush of the new Millennium.

Steven L. Morgan is president and CEO of Webentrepreneurs.com, the first and most comprehensive online trade association specifically designed for people and companies that are committed to Internet business success. The site specializes in centralized resources, networking opportunities, priority information and unification of the Internet business community.

For most companies, both large and small, the prospect of doing business on the Internet is a lot like the early days of the California Gold Rush. The potential opportunities for profit were enormous but the risk of failure was equally as great. Success was based partially on luck, partially on staying power and most importantly, it was based on sound advice and support from people who cared about their success.

The same holds true for today’s 49ers. Just as a network of entrepreneurs sprang up to support the flood of 49ers, the Internet is experiencing a virtual explosion of…

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