Be your Web site's harshest critic

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The Internet is a much more advanced communications tool than anything which has come before it, including hard copy brochures, catalogs and the like. The efficiencies are phenomenal. For instance, it is particularly unappealing for most companies to reprint new collateral material when boxes of the current version are lying around, compared to updating some copy on the Web site. Furthermore, the ability to create a user experience via the Web that is timely, compelling and highly personalized is phenomenal, relative to print.

What this line of thinking doesn't properly account for, however, is the fact that maintaining a great site requires considerably more internal resources than are required for more traditional media. For example, catalogers have had a very cyclical routine that they followed for their print editions. In the weeks before a piece went to press, there was a heavy workload and a lot of scrambling. Once it was at the printer's, things largely quieted down for several weeks or months, depending on frequency.

The Internet by contrast is 24 x 7 x 365. And best-in-class sites are likewise dynamic in terms of content, offerings and news. Visitors are typically quick to identify sites that are stale or not user-friendly. A couple of years ago simply having a Web site was a sign of being a progressive organization. Today a site that is outdated or lacks polish can be perceived in a very negative manner.

Shopping through the mail or reaching out to a company and making a request their brochure was a relatively non-dynamic process, which didn't encourage much comparison shopping in the era of catalogs and brochures. By contrast, a bevy of competitors is easy to locate today though the search engines or comparison shopping sites for just about anything.

Try and scrutinize your site as often as possible to make sure that it is presenting the image, content and accuracy that your customers and prospects expect. The costs associated with this effort are different than in the past (people versus printing), but the significance should not be underestimated.

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