Wanna Be Like The Big Boys?
My son was always trying to hang out with bigger kids. Consequently, he developed a larger vocabulary, assertive personality, and now generally gets to rule the roost with his peers. We’d all love to have this “trickle down effect” for our businesses. Forbes and other magazines constantly ask, “What if we could learn from the successes of Amazon.com, eBay and Google?” Could your business be transformed by what they’ve learned?
As titillating as that proposition is, it seems the business culture is more likely to conclude after investigation, “that’s cool, but they’re a tech company, we don’t have much in common.”
Behind the Curtain
If you get down to it, without the fancy Internet interface:
Amazon was a warehouse selling books. Not particularly extraordinary for the time.
eBay did auctions. That business model has been around for a few thousand years.
Search existed before Google. We just used directories, libraries, and our friends’ rolodexes. AdWords was called Yellow Pages.
Your Business, Reborn
Yes, the above is an over-simplification, but the common thread you would find between all these companies is that it wasn’t so much that they were doing something completely novel, but that they were building digital interfaces of value.
There are countless articles on how to sell online and make some money. The tips I have for you are the fundamental steps of how the biggest players online went beyond that in creating their best business website designs to reach incredible profitability and growth.
Dell and Backwards Engineering
Dell is a manufacturer. But they are a manufacturer who 1st gave customers the ability to “build their ideal computer” online, and then figured out how to support it with on-demand manufacturing, which turned out to be a very different creature than the other kind.
In your business, what would customers say is their fantasy wish for interacting with your company? Chances are, you probably already fantasize about it yourself.
Wouldn’t it be cool if our customers could design their order online?
What if we had a mobile app so our customers could get what they needed from us at the moment they needed it?
Tip 1: Businesses willing to think from the outside in, and “backwards engineer” their companies to deliver that experience online, create some of the best business website designs, which offer a unique, competitive advantage with efficiencies their competitors can’t keep up with.
All That Programming Costs a Fortune
The problem for even $100 million companies is that purchasing that technology and implementing it successfully is a path fraught with danger, ending in almost certain failure. iTunes is littered with mobile apps that appear to be half-backed when compared to their slick counterparts, yet often they cost a small fortune to make.
Companies with bright ideas for the web hire tech companies to translate their business knowledge into technology. The chances of that working in the real world, within your budget (particularly to deliver a profitable return in any reasonable time) is next to none. Trade magazines estimate 50% of application projects are abandoned without any tangible value created.
I don’t know about you, but flipping a coin doesn’t seem like the right way to bring your company into the future.
Tip 2: Don’t implement your best business website design ideas for your company with the help of technology companies.
Conundrums Can be Fun
So the future for your industry is online, but you aren’t supposed to hire an outside company? What are you supposed to do?
The big players online have teams of in-house engineers who are constantly “tweaking” their sites, making improvements, delivering requested features and functionality, and otherwise spinning business opportunities into digital gold. They create their best business website designs in-house.
Even if you think you might want to build your own little digital Santa’s Workshop, the truth is that it is difficult to create an effective engineering team who is passionate about what they are doing.
Tip#3: Be aware that unless you are a software company, creating a software engineering team in-house may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Y Combinator to the Rescue
Enter the world of micro-startups and software as a service. There are now countless thousands of small, highly dedicated engineering teams who have created online services to address very narrow, specific business needs.
Whether it’s making and managing online forms: wufoo.com
Or surveying your customers: surveymonkey.com
Or a mobile app for your business: appbreeder.com
These companies rely on perpetually making their digital toolboxes more powerful, more flexible, and easier to integrate into other tools.
Put together, they can create a surprisingly powerful digital representation of your business, and allow you to put together the building blocks of your own digital interface.
Tip#4: Leverage the existing talent that has sprung up to meet the demand of companies seeking to create the best business website designs.
One Brick at A Time
When you first start visiting sites like TechCrunch or Mashable and discovering these little companies, it’s likely to set your brain afire with countless ideas.
The key is to start with mapping your existing interactions with your customers and employees, and looking for opportunities to use these tools to reduce workload for everyone.
You may not be able to put an entire process online. Perhaps the tool covers one important part of the interaction, but then your employees have to handle an email or call the customer to take the next step.
This is ok. Take these steps. The truth is, the most powerful innovations of eBay, Google and Amazon were discovered long after they first launched: community ratings on sellers/buyers, selling AdWords in an auction, the “people who bought this item also bought” feature respectively.
Just by interacting with your clients online, you may stumble upon a similar kind of innovation for your industry. Then watch out, because you’ll be in for one wild, profitable ride.
Tip#5: Bend the existing technology to fit your business practices and encourage providers to create updates or add-ons that meet the needs of your best business website designs.
You need someone that can guide you to safety.