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Using Widgets To Compete - Companies must use Web 2.0 technologies to stay ahead of rivals. Mon 18 Aug 08

Your best customers don't want to come to your Web site.

If this isn't true now, it will likely be true in the future. This especially applies in the business-to-business arena, but is also true, perhaps to a lesser extent, in the business-to-consumer arena. Upsetting, isn't it? And you probably think I'm crazy too.

Here you've spent all that time and effort developing your site and I'm telling you that your best customers don't want to come see it. You put extra effort into making it look good and easy to navigate. You've probably loaded it with all kinds of goodies--up-to-date information, order tracking services and perhaps even some useful applications. What's not to like?

To be sure, you've probably made all the right moves and really do have a good Web site. The thing is, competitors have good Web sites too. Having a site is no longer unique and competing companies' sites often have many of the same features.

The frustrating thing about technology is that it is very difficult--some would say impossible--to maintain a technological competitive advantage. The competition can do the same things you did. And if you were the trailblazer, rivals might be able to learn from what you did and accomplish it more quickly and less expensively. Sad to say, life just isn't fair.

The good news in all of this is that customers want all of that information--they want those cool applications--they just don't want to come to your Web site to get it. They want you to deliver it to their Web sites or intranets.

Like it or not, our customers deal with lots of suppliers. Some are our competitors and some are in completely unrelated fields; all of these suppliers have Web sites with lots of useful tools and information. As much as we'd like our customers to come to our sites, allowing us to capture all the good marketing data, we have to keep in mind ours isn't the only site they will go to.

If we were the only ones out there, it wouldn't be a big deal. But when they have to go from vendor site to vendor site to collect all of the information they need, it can become a real burden.

What customers prefer is for us to deliver the information directly to them. EDI and trade-partner arrangements have done this in some of the more routine, data-intensive areas, such as purchase orders and advance-shipping notices. But what about looking up a drawing or a manual or the current status of their orders?

This is where some of those Web 2.0 technologies can help. What if you used an RSS feed to update an order status? Or how about a widget for your intranet that allows you to check your inventory status while you're on the phone with the customer? Perhaps a widget to look up spare parts for a certain model number? A few weeks ago I talked about these types of applications in "Why Companies Need Web 2.0." The possibilities are endless.

Sure, you can coast along and wait until someone else does it first or your customer asks for it, but do you really want "me too" to be your strategy? The downside is that our customers only want to allot a limited amount of real estate on their intranets for vendor-supplied information. If customers are already getting information they need from your competitor, what incentive do they have to add your information?

In "Why Companies Need Web 2.0," I suggested that you need to consider using Web 2.0 to meet employee and customer expectations. Now I'm suggesting that you'll need Web 2.0 to remain competitive. Is this reason enough?

This article is also posted on Forbes.com.  Feel free to join in the discussion either on this site or at Forbes.com

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» Selling Web 2.0 To IT from Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms
IT departments are still skeptical of social networks, wikis and widgets One of my favorite bloggers, Eric Brown, recently wrote a great post, Web 2.0 in the Enterprise. He states that even though companies are using more Web 2.0 technologies, [Read More]



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