It might be easier to answer the question by asking what you can?t use it for. It is one of the most adaptable means of communication that we?ve yet come up with and it can be applied to any aspect of your business where communication is a requirement.
The most commonly used Internet facility by far is electronic mail or E-Mail as it is popularly known. It is a quick and effective means of exchanging messages and files with anyone in the world who has an E-Mail address. It also offers businesses the opportunity of making huge saving savings on their fax bills especially if they communicate regularly with customers and suppliers overseas.
KEEP TABS ON THIS: It might make strategic sense to get your business used to using E-Mail because the day will come when only parcels travel by snail (or conventional) mail. A recent report in the Sunday Times in London said that the Swedish Post Office is planning to provide all Swedes with E-mail addresses because they believe that snail mail will be dead inside ten years. And they aren’t the only ones…
The next most common thing that businesses use the Internet for is to advertise themselves. The reason why this is so is partly because of the huge numbers of people who use the Web to find things that they need and partly because it is comparatively cheap to establish a Web site. Canny business people have noticed that they can spread their message to a worldwide audience at a price which is often less than the cost of a single page in a local newspaper.
The real beauty of advertising on the web is that it is a great leveler of companies. In your local market you may not be able to afford the same volume of advertising that your larger competitors can but out there on the web everyone is equal. Prospective customers can just as easily land on your site as on thatof a huge multi-national corporation.
Once you have a site advertising your product on the Internet why not allow people to order and pay for it on the site. The Internet is jam-packed with sites offering a wide variety of products for sale and there’s no reason why yours can’t be one.
The Web is an ideal hunting ground for you if your business is selling information to others. Whether you are selling a financial newsletter, an online encyclopaedia or the latest sports scores, the Web is the place to be because it allows your customers to access the information whenever they want to.
It is also a great place to publish your work if you’re a writer because it’s cheap and you don’t have to wait for a publisher to notice you. You’re sure to attract some criticism which might be good or bad and, who knows, you might even find people willing to buy printed copies of your work.
You will also find the Web very useful if you are in the business of manufacturing or reselling products which require a great deal of ongoing support . The trick here is to put all the available information about the product onto the web where it can be accessed by your customers.
The fact that customers can access information for themselves adds considerable value to your service because the information is available on a 24-hour basis. Another likely benefit is a reduction in the burden on your support staff because there are less support calls to handle.
Many large companies have a wide area network (WAN) so that their branches can communicate with each other. The cost to the smaller enterprise of establishing a private WAN would be prohibitive but there is absolutely no reason why your business’ branches cannot communicate with each other using the Internet.
The Internet is cheap to use and it is ideal because the branches can link up to it using their closest service provider. They can even use a dial-up connection if the volumes of business at each branch are not sufficient to warrant a permanent connection to the Internet. There are many ways the process might work but it will most likely be similar to the example below.
- At predefined times of the day the branches dial the Internet and connect to the business’s central Internet site.
- They update the site with particulars of all the transactions completed since they connected last and any messages they might have for head office.
- They then download the messages, dispatch notes and updated stock and price lists that have been left on the site for them by head office.
- At other times of the day the head office computer connects to the company’s Internet site.
- It downloads messages and orders from the branches as well as the latest transactions for integration into the main database.
- It uploads messages and dispatch notes for the branches as well as updated stock information.
The Worldwide Web can be very useful wherever you need people to fill forms in. The benefits are that you can save something on your printing costs and that you can always be sure that people are using the most recent version of a form. Another bonus is that the information captured through Web forms can be fed straight into a database eliminating any need for retyping.
Remember that we said that the Internet and the Web is a tool that can be used wherever you need to communicate. You’ll find it just as useful for communicating with staff as with outsiders. See the article on Intranets for more on using the Web technology inside your business.