WebMonkey Business

The names of the people in this story have been changed to protect Emily’s job.

Last week, Emily received two emails from the same person. The first email was a venomous missive complaining there was an error on a web page she’d developed. The complainer alleged that the error was the reason why business had dropped to nearly nothing in the past month.

The second email, from the same person, recognized how busy Emily is and suggested that a customer who’d offered his services develop a new site for him.

Will Develop Online Strategy For Food

What is wrong with this picture?

First of all, the emailer (we’ll call him The Prosecutor… although it felt a little more like The Persecutor) seemed to think the entire success or failure of his business was dependent upon one sentence on a web page. Never mind that his actual target audience probably doesn’t really get the Internet yet on a large scale. (For the record, the sentence wasn’t actually wrong. It just wasn’t complete.)

Then, in nearly the same breath, he suggested an amateur HTML hobbyist take over the site. He may as well have suggested turning over the site to a trained monkey with a keyboard.

This person has no idea as to what was the larger strategic plan for the overall site of the organization, what were the future plans for the site, and how this particular page fit into the larger scheme of things.

We found it ironic that The Prosecutor was willing to hand over the development and management of a site to a random person off the street, while at the same time giving this particular web page such vital importance.

Of course, this idea is as ludicrous as letting some guy with a home video camera produce a TV commercial for you, or letting some person with a pencil design your print advertising.

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Let’s get one thing straight here, folks .

Just because someone knows HTML does not mean he or she knows how to leverage the Internet to your business advantage. Just because you can tell the time doesn’t mean you can make a watch.

Emily has seen this happen over and over again as she assists people in setting up their sites. “My secretary’s husband did a nice site with their family photos. Maybe we can get him to do our site,” one person said.

One physician in Silicon Valley actually had his teenage son/hacker put together a web site for his practice.

Surgery for the Amateur Hobbyist

Let us set aside for a moment the insult these stories pose for those of us who do this professionally. Small businesses in particular are desperate to get on the web, yet they aren’t taking it seriously enough to hire a professional web developer and designer to do the job. Even worse, they aren’t using the services of a professional communicator — either a marketing or public relations pro — to develop a strategy that brings together online and offline tactics.

In several of our past articles, we have alluded to the notion that the Internet is growing up, maturing as a viable business medium. That means business owners also need to grow up and take the web seriously.

If you expect your clients or customers to take you seriously, then don’t insult them by putting up a half-baked web site that is empty on strategy or lacks professional design.

Use those off-the-shelf programs to create your online family album on GeoCities. But leave your business to the professionals.

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