Whither Web Budgets?

For those of you in full-bore e-commerce or web-based organizations – you, who are tasked with mastering the user experience and commanding your brand’s complete surface area: Skip this article. You’ve got other fish to fry.

This article is meant for webmasters who have to fight running battles for budget allocations, lonely web evangelists in large, somewhat hide-bound organizations, and corporate web marketers who still have the uneasy feeling that they’re not being included in all the reindeer games.

It’s been hard for you thus far. But gird up your loins, friends, because it’s probably going to get tougher. Why? Well, it all begins with the world’s safest prediction: The US economy is going to, someday, sooner than later, slow down.

There, I said it. Hate me. Feel the chill in your 401K. Whine: “But I didn’t get in on all the Internet stock crazies and make my first million in two weeks of shrewd investing… and now you’re saying the party’s over?”

No, the party isn’t gonna be over, as in over over. But it’s not unreasonable to assume that the US economy will take a breather or slow down in the not-too-distant future.

The question is: By the time the slowdown happens, will the web be so much a part of your corporation’s psyche that it will be largely immune to the COO’s or the CFO’s meat-ax? The answer may well be a resounding, “No!”

Now isn’t the time to be timid. Grab the latest Forrester Research facts about business-to-business web usage. In case you haven’t seen it, the B2B market is projected to represent over 90 percent of the dollar value of web transactions going forward, amounting to trillions rather than billions, or so Forrester predicts. Read everything you can about using the web to accelerate business processes. Find out just how much your company can save in order entry via the web, as opposed to human order-takers.

In short, stop talking about this or that technology-rich or -poor media. Instead, attach the web to the realities of your enterprise’s business.

Bring the value of your current web activities to the foreground, calculating savings in time and printed materials. Get bolder. There are things slow that can be sped up. There are things dumb that can be made intelligent. There are things dictatorial that can be made conversational. There’s a sales force that needs real-time, customizable materials to shorten sales cycles. There are customers who want their own extranets to improve your customer service.

Don’t think of the web as just a web site or an intranet. Think of it as a conduit for information or a way to link up your supply chain. Marshal your facts. Fight the good fight.

In many – I would argue MOST – large enterprises, the web is still viewed with suspicion by top executives. It occupies a troubling category in their brains: Yet Another New Thing I Don’t Know About. They use it for email and to check their portfolios, but that’s about it.

They haven’t got the religion like you and I, Magee. And when you hear their heavy feet trudging toward your cube – or that of their budget-cutting henchmen – what will you say?

Don’t talk software or hardware. Cleanse your documents of acronyms and technospeak that make senior executives feel dumb. Don’t come off sounding like a quasi-reseller for this or that technology.

Talk dollars saved, sales cycles shortened, customer service improved, cost-per-lead reduced. Cite research. Mention any trailblazing competitors. Talk about leadership vs. laggardship. Create simple, business-focused presentations. Begin with a joke. Rehearse. Make eye contact. Repeat.

And remember, it’s your company, too. It doesn’t just belong to those who believe that every dollar invested is $.25 too much. Ultimately, as Pollyanna-esque as this may sound, the company belongs to those who create the most value. And, if you set web thinking free to jump across all the standard categories and functional silos, it can create more value than an entire army of cost-slashers. Fact.

Good luck.

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