Using Technology To Enhance Your Business

Our second annual summit asks experts to focus on the issues and innovations that can help small companies be more productive and efficient

part about the technology for minority businesses and entrepreneurs. It has done a lot to make the playing field more level. You lose all your discriminatory factors as you move into cyberspace.

BE: How can entrepreneurs use the Internet to their best advantage?

WHITTLE: You should exploit all technology to the maximum but know what your customers expect. Direct mail still works. Phone calls still work. The Internet is great but everyone is not there yet. They’re going to get there at some point, but you have to have a flexible marketing mix that lets you really do what your customers want. If they want Internet e-mail, that’s great. If they want to get a phone call, give them that.

ood use of the Internet is sales force automation. NexGen uses the Internet primarily for inter-connectivity purposes. We have a library of presentations on our server that’s accessible over the Net. So our person in the field can get to our site and grab a presentation wherever they are, whenever they need it.

WHITTLE: The goal of a Web site is either awareness, trial, purchase or satisfaction. It could be all those things or it could be just one of them. Satisfaction can be the way you support your customers, where they find the tools and information for your products. All you might want to do is let them know that you’re in business and this is what your business does–it’s just awareness. Maybe you want a chance to try out your software or services but you need to frame it in that sense and then decide what you want for a Web site. It doesn’t have to be all those things because you may never do sales over the wire. You may not do any commerce because it may not be a goal.
If I’m using my Web site to generate sales, then I need people who are processing orders. I need people who are taking and fulfilling the orders unless I decide to dedicate the site development resources so that it can be virtual.

SALTER: There are some companies who do from soup to nuts for you, including taking care of financial transactions and credit card authorizations.
The issue becomes, Are they reasonably priced for a small business? We’ve got a service called Secure Buy that will give you the creation tools that can do it for you. On the other hand, you can contract it out to consultants. They can create a Web site for you or do the processing and fulfillment credit card authorizations and financial settlements, for a monthly fee.

FOSTER: If you look again at the cost formula and the benefits, there are some advantages as you determine if you want to buy customer service via the Web. There may be some cost advantages that you can trade off by using the Web. So having that business analysis and assessment can be helpful.

HOWLETTE: One of the things you don’t want to do is put somebody else’s hot link icons

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