Surf's Up at Work: Catch the Wave

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Five short years ago, the typical executive woke up, read the morning paper and listened to morning drive-time radio on the way to work. At the end of the day, he went home and watched the evening news. The hours in between were filled with phone calls, spreadsheets, meetings and water-cooler chat.


Unless the executive happened to converse with someone who had contact with the radio, television or some other form of media, the news waited until the lunch hour or after work. Ditto for shopping.


But now office workers are discovering the immediate pleasures of surfing the Internet at work. Workers are taking advantage of time online to engage in shopping, checking the weather report, corresponding with friends and "running" errands. And even though connection speeds continue to increase for home modems and residential phone lines, it's likely that Web surfers will still have faster connections at work than at home.


Given this, many workers may wait until they get to the office to download large items or view graphic-intensive sites.


You know all that already. But knowing it and capitalizing on it are two different things. Are you taking advantage of the fact that shopping - from gifts to groceries - now happens at people's desks during office hours? Intercepting office surfers is just another way to catch visitors during their everyday activities.


Business-to-business messages, in particular, are more likely to be noticed and acted upon in the work environment. It's a great time to develop an e-mail relationship with the person responsible for decisions about your product or service.


In general, capture office surfers the same way you'd draw anyone online: convenience.


It's easy to satisfy the surfers' craving for a CD or desire to order office supplies with a few clicks. Emphasize desktop access as a motivator in your offline advertising and direct marketing.


Keep in mind the person who may be ordering from work during the lunch hour when designing your e-commerce applications. Simplicity and speed will be paramount to these folks. Shortcuts, such as one-click ordering and automatic recognition of a registered member of the site, can make the difference between a sale now and one that might happen later - at home - or not at all.


Give workers advice while they surf. Some who browse the Internet at work ease their consciences with the knowledge that they are absorbing valuable advice. (Perhaps even something related to business.) It's just one more reason to provide content that has the potential for pass-along to bosses or colleagues, or that they might forward to their home computers for later reading. If he's shopping for groceries online, give him some quick ideas for dinner. If she's researching cars, remind her that she's due for an oil change.


Grab them with lunch-hour chat. Schedule an online event for the lunch hour to include those at work. Be sure to schedule and publicize the event well in advance (in Internet terms, a couple of weeks) so those interested can fit it into their calendars.


Don't forget contentdesigned to reach them while at home. Someone who spends a lot of time online for work-related activities may be less likely to surf at home in the evening. Encourage these people to continue their relationship with you in the home setting, on weekends, or when they check the home e-mail during the evening hours.


Sometimes a quick break (Remember the old coffee break?) is in order. Offer workers some quick, entertaining hits on your Web site, in addition to weightier content. A quiz or survey question, for example, grabs "quickie" visitors and gives them something to talk about at the coffee pot.


As traditional and online media continue to cross-pollinate, effective advertising and marketing campaigns will take advantage of a world without sharp dividing lines between work and home. It's plausible to reach individuals throughout their day, creating awareness and branding that will pay off when it's time to buy.


The office may emerge as one of the best places to reach your potential audience. After all, they already have their minds on business. Why not get them thinking about yours?
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