Keep the Web on a Personal Level
Distributors discuss how to profit from Web strategies without losing sight of the importance of their personal relationships with clients.
There is one common thread shared among distributors when it comes to their Web sites. Regardless of whether a site is managed in-house, is outsourced, is in the process of being developed or is well-established, distributors are adamant that e-commerce does not take away from cultivating lasting relationships with customers.
Distributors agree that the Internet continues to be a highly effective business strategy in the forms industry. From making their site more interactive with Web-based forms for tracking inventory, to promoting their site through a direct sales force, the following two distributors and one consultant discuss innovative ways to turn Web-based management into something both profitable and personal:
- Doug Clary, president, Intraform, Reno, Nev., www.intraform.com
- John Fox, president, Northern Printing Network, Wheeling, Ill., www.northernprint.com
- Hal Hinderliter, owner, Hinderliter Consulting and Creative Services, Boulder Creek, Calif., www.halhinderliter.com
1. When designing a Web site, what types of features work well and which do not?
Clary: The site needs to be attractive, but not too cumbersome or busy. Very little if any "flash". It's meant to be primarily an information Web site and a link to online ordering.
Fox: We are currently redesigning our Web site because initially we took our brochure and posted it to have an online presence. We've slowly been expanding on that to incorporate more e-commerce solutions, and online stationery solutions including business cards, envelopes and letterhead. That's growing pretty quickly, as are the e-commerce solutions. We plan to offer commercial printing and ad-speciality items online, in addition to document management and forms.
We haven't used our Web site necessarily as a marketing tool. Some companies may set up their sites and just sell items, but we're planning to customize our site for each client. We also intend to link to our suppliers' sites and maintain an FTP site so artwork can be exchanged between our customers and vendors. The other capability we purchased, which we're not using yet is a variable print module, which allows customers to enter our site and change variable data on a form. We have the foundation for a lot of capabilities, they're just not up and running yet.