So Gary and I (Ryan) spent a few happy hour minutes over Boulevard Nutcrackers at Patton Alley Pub yesterday selling each other on Flywheel’s web services. I’m sure we looked like two mosquitoes of sales who’d just hit the artery of persuasion, as we repeatedly cut each other off to voice our latest epiphany about the present and future necessity of great web design. And since you may resonate with some of our thoughts, I’ll share some of them from time to time. For now, let’s deal with The New Infrastructure concept.
In some cases, the internet has almost completely supplanted the old brick-and-mortar economy. Hardly anybody sends personal letters anymore, except at Christmastime. Few non-students go to the library to research a topic, and nobody buys encyclopedias anymore. Map and newspaper sales are way down, along with CDs and, to a lesser extent, DVDs. But there are plenty of ways in which the internet will never replace the storefront, and this is so obvious I won’t bore you with more examples.
People know this. Business owners know this. But what they may not realize is that, even in the latter industries which are safe from web-annihilation, the internet is still, nevertheless, “the new infrastructure.” But allow me to back up a bit.
Many business owners are very tech-savvy, and eager to jump on the latest digital trend. Others, however, are appropriately skeptical of each new promise to boost exposure and, thereby, profits. Social Networking is the latest movement to prompt this reaction, because it can so easily become “just one more thing.”
However, if approached and used wisely, Social Networking doesn’t create more work, it simply replaces, and amplifies, the (net)work(ing) that used to be done at the pub, the coffeehouse, the church, and the PTA. These are the bricks-and-mortars that used to be on the front end of the buying process; where people formed their first impressions of businesses and their decision process begins to find direction.
The next step used to be to make an initial, fact-finding trip into the store itself (if, indeed, it’s close enough for a trip. Otherwise forget it.) Now virtually all these facts can be gained by a visit to their website, if their website is up to snuff. This saves the customer gas, travel time, and waiting around for assistance. If their web experience is good, chances are they’ll wind up making that trip, but not till they’re already pre-disposed to buy.
For example, I may have to pay an actual visit to the music store to find my new guitar, but I will gain familiarity with my options through Twitter, ascertain the reputation of each store through Facebook, f0rm an understanding of their personalities and product offerings through their websites, and communicate with their sales associates and technicians (both before and after the purchase) by e-mail. All of these things used to happen in buildings, but now occur on an amplified and streamlined scale over the web.
As it turns out, building a first-class website, and maintaining a strong social network on the web, is not just “one more thing”. It actually amounts to “many less things”. Don’t open a new location! Just build a strong e-commerce website for much less money, and access many more customers (and their money) than a second location ever could. Don’t spend all your free time at the golf course (unless you really like to golf!) Just keep those Facebook statuses coming, post interesting stuff on your wall, and respond when other people do the same. Don’t waste your day chit-chatting with customers in your store who just wandered in cold. Focus your efforts instead on customers who’ve already been around the block, know what they want, what you have to offer for how much, and have brought their money with them.
So don’t shed a tear over your beautiful new showroom… because the New Infrastructure will never destroy the old. But don’t dare ignore the New… because there’s really no limit to how much the two can complement one another.