! Updated 12 May 2000 !>
By : Jim Pinto,
By : Jim Pinto,
Where does email rate as your business tool? Are you part of an "e-water-cooler" network? If you are not, you should be.
in Controls Intelligence & Plant Systems Report, May 2000
Buying & Selling TimeTime is a resource that everyone values - we all have the same 24 hours every day. By delivering convenience - by saving time - the new, connected economy yields significant improvements. CISCO was the most valuable company in the world for a while, with a market-cap equivalent to the combined value of 10 major old-economy DOW companies, through offering one primary value - making the Internet faster.
You know the old saying, “Time is Money”. Indeed money was invented to save time (bartering took too long and common currency was a convenience). Millennia later, the credit card was invented, again saving time and changing the financial landscape. But, this still leaves the high time costs of seeking and selecting the items purchased. How long does it take your customers to compare the specifications for products they need and then find out price and delivery? And does your printed catalog really help? Or do they still need to track down the local Sales Rep, or call the factory? And when they do call, do they leave voice mail and wait for your return call to their voice mail? Or do they wait patiently, on hold?
Email speeds up businessI’m not quite sure why some people still dispute the value of email and complain about all the emails they receive. These are probably the same people who didn't need a fax machine and now think it is all they need. Email does not replace other means of communication - it complements them. Of course a fax is useful, if you need a hard copy and a signature; but it costs a telephone call (typically long-distance) and may get lost in a pile at the other end. Email arrives directly on the recipient's computer just seconds after you send it and it waits patiently to be answered when the receiver is ready. And it's basically free.
Email is certainly one of the most important means of one-to-one business communication today! I happily receive more than 100 emails a day and spend less time on the junk-mail than I do opening my daily snail-mail junk - I just click them into the trash. There are a few I save for reading later when I have time and some that I answer immediately. “Hey, Jim! Are you in today? When can I call you?” And my equally brief reply, “I’m in now - call me.” Or, “I’ll be in at 2:00 p.m. today and I'll call you.” I have just saved myself and my business colleague several minutes, or even hours, of voice mails and wait-on-hold frustration.
Fast response is magicHere is one of my pet peeves - emails that go unanswered for days or even weeks, just as if they were snail-mail. When I e-contact someone who doesn’t respond within a couple of days, I write them off pretty quickly. Hey, if they are out on a business trip, or are on vacation, and haven’t discovered the automatic out-of-office reply on their computer, they probably aren’t worth knowing anyway. There are CEOs and VPs of some of the biggest companies (I won’t mention their names - you’ll think I’m name-dropping) who I can always depend on to answer their email the same day, no matter what. They appreciate fast and effective communications and our relationship is built on that mutual value.
The e-water-coolerPeople have often asked me how I get all the industry news and insight I write about. My answer is simple : email. I have a network of e-moles who keep me abreast of what's happening, who's hiring and firing, opinions regarding possible mergers, and so on. I'm not implying that these people are disloyal to the companies they work for, or that they are telling me anything that is confidential. They are simply exchanging knowledge and information at the Internet equivalent of the office water-cooler.
For a significant discussion on this topic, take a look at:
Marketing TimeBack to marketing in the Internet age. Do you still print 30,000 catalogs at $ 3.50 a piece and bulk mail them with postage of at least a couple of bucks each? How quaint….
Today, it is clear that, in the couple of months that it takes to prepare and print a product catalog, or a new price list, these items are already obsolete. I can’t count how many times I’ve visited a customer who couldn’t quite find our catalog and then finally found an out-of-date, 3-year old copy in the next cubicle. And I've been asked countless times: “I have your price list here - is this the latest price? And what is the current delivery schedule?” Sure, there are some people who are still not e-connected (technology laggards, in marketing lingo) who need a catalog. It is a matter of marketing judgment whether serving the laggard provides the best cost versus benefit for the time and money spent.
It is clear that going online dramatically cuts the cost of searching for and selecting products in ways that were simply not available before. Companies that deliver products with the greatest convenience (the least friction, the minimum time) are the ones that will prosper.
B-to-B E-commerce ingredientsYour B-to-B online store should be ready to provide any information your customer might need, with clarity and intuitive ease, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This should include not just your standard on-line data-sheets, prices and deliveries; it must also provide applications information, answer question on standard or custom products, show comparisons with competitive equivalents, provide details regarding servicing and maintenance. Clever technology should give your customer the impression that you offer more bells and whistles than any competitor in the universe. And they must feel that your amazing applications engineers are always available when needed.
The Infomediaries will winThe successful companies of tomorrow are not simply providers of traditional goods and services. Electronically linked networks of supplier alliances, sales reps and distributors - the "infomediaries" - are rendering traditional manufacturing and marketing obsolete. The winners are those who create innovative new transactions for their customers and make them come back to a “sticky” business portal. Those that deliver the best total package will prosper.
Companies succeed (become leaders) by creating and structuring their own markets. This means offering their customers innovative new ways to receive value. E-commerce provides only the technological means, the delivery mechanism - the good marketer must use it creatively, in ways that will generate new value for all the parties involved. And the significant “new” competitive value today is Time.
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