E-business survival

To make it in today’s e-business economy, companies must adopt a new model. It’s not just about adjusting the business plan or setting up a Web store, because the fundamental rules have changed. Companies need to deploy a new means of attack to compete and win in the e-business economy.

Don’t Think Department. Think Company.

Assuming you know everything about your customer is a mistake. Most companies still house their customer information in separate silos. By default, this data is not exchanged across separate lines of business from marketing, sales and customer service to accounts payable, HR, manufacturing and other back-office operations. To promote the idea of a single customer view and gain a three-dimensional, enterprisewide understanding of their customers, companies need to get beyond the confines of siloed departments. Marketing, sales and customer service departments must work as a team. After all, customer service has a significant relationship with customers. Wouldn’t it be ideal if sales was privy to the information collected by the customer service department? Otherwise, a potential sale could be thwarted by an existing service problem that is not properly addressed.

While businesses may have a history of customer transactions, that is not enough. To truly understand their customers, businesses need to see the whole customer picture, including feedback, problems and purchasing patterns. Only when companies see the whole picture can they build one-on-one relationships with their customers. Then, customer service can be leveraged to sell, up-sell and cross-sell when based on trust and personal relationships. The better a company serves its customers, the more trust it garners. The end result: Better relationships mean better sales.

Providing personalized service is key to finding and retaining those customers who will make your e-business efforts successful.

With a complete view of their customers, businesses can also add value to promotions, share knowledge and build communities.

Don’t Think Strategy. Think Tactics.

Strategy setting shouldn’t be a process that takes many months and many minds. To stay ahead of the changing market, the customers and the competition, companies need to spend less time planning the overall strategy and more time executing, testing and evaluating a marketing campaign. Companies should strive to easily change the course of any campaign based on customer feedback. The Web is one tool for doing so.

In this model, companies will realize that failure is an option, and that’s not a bad thing. Failure becomes an opportunity to gather data and feedback, and further evolve tactics.

Don’t Think Web-Only. Think Web in Addition.

The Web is important, but strategy can’t be Web-only. Companies need to be everywhere customers buy. After all, the competition offers many choices and venues. As a result, companies need to integrate and synchronize all their channels, including the phone, Web, fax, stores and so forth. Every touch point must also provide a consistent level of service.

The new e-business economy does offer tremendous advantages for those companies that are able to rethink their traditional business methods. Those that revamp will enjoy e-business success. Those that don’t won’t be around tomorrow.

Jeremy Burton is senior vice-president of worldwide marketing at Oracle in Redwood Shores, Calif.