Are You Doing E-Business, Or E-Commerce?

You're not running an online store. You're running a business that is now online. Greg Carter walks you through the difference and the seven questions you should ask before hiring a web agency.

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Your distribution business is unique and so is your industry. In the case of my company, Electrical Marketing, it’s Industrial/Electrical distribution where manufacturers and distributors have large inventories, databases and complex supplier relationships. Understanding an organization’s “e-Business” versus e-commerce needs means we don’t deal with plumbing supplies, automotive parts or something else.

You’re not running an online store; you’re running a business that is now online. E-Commerce is selling online. E-Business goes beyond technical. It takes into consideration your operations, your competitors and the marketplace. It’s strategical and tactical. It also includes Business Intelligence.

As a marketing director with independent and national distributors, I hired web agencies to write code. Beyond that, we did everything “in-house”. We knew our business and developed our skill sets to run the online business. Eventually I found a service provider with hands-on, staff experience that matched our organization’s business model. This literally extended the staff’s existing resources because they’d walked in our shoes.

Ask These 7 Questions Before Hiring a Web Agency

  1. What is their experience with (YOUR INDUSTRY HERE)? Without having worked on staff with a company like yours, web agencies can have a significant learning curve understanding your operations, how your sales team uses a CRM sales funneling and other systems like ERPs you’ll be discussing.
  2. Does the agency talk about profitability and return on your investment? E-business is about generating revenue and increasing profitability. If you’ve built an attractive web site that gets lots of traffic but isn’t generating much business, pay a small fee to have your site reviewed by an e-commerce consultant with a track record of implementing e-business strategies in your industry.
  3. Do they understand your products, services and the supply chain marketplace? Without this experience, you can expect a learning curve and extra hand-holding requiring more of your time.
  4. Do they have industry and product knowledge to help you develop substantive written content? Without unique, substantive content about your products, services and solutions, you aren’t much different than the next e-store. Can they help convey your subject matter expertise and differentiate you? Remember, you don’t just ship boxes do you? You’re a knowledge-based sales organization.
  5. For website content, are they only providing OEM SKUs, product descriptions and product images? Your competitors already have, or will get these digital assets too. Original written content (e.g. product reviews, instructional/educational, white papers, video)  will not only differentiate you; It will place you above the competition on search engines because you are providing solutions to customers searching the web for answers. Google will show you some love!
  6. What can the agency offer beyond technical knowledge to build websites, amusing posts to social media and reports? Do they have experience developing industrial/electrical distributor marketing strategies and executing tactics that have grown businesses like yours?
  7. Can they speak the language of supply chain distribution and quickly integrate with your IT, Sales and Marketing teams? Or do they prefer working independently? Ideally, they’d offer cross-training to empower your team to become more self-sufficient.

Greg Carter is owner of Electrical Marketing Group, an e-commerce consultancy exclusively serving the industrial/electrical supply chain including large distributors, independents and OEMs. He can be reached by email: netmarketing@comcast.net or by cell: 856.381.7834.

View this article on Electrical Marketing Group here.

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