A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies
e-Business North American Tour
The Foundation Phase
e-Business World Tours
Phase 2: The Exploitation Phase
8. The Communications Stage
The Communications Stage involves the use of the Internet as a communications tool. This is a strategy that can be used to improve communications with key stakeholders as well as reduce costs.
Companies can reduce long distance charges by using the Internet extensively to communicate via:
One simple way that companies in the Health and Health Care industry could reduce long distance and travel costs is to use web conferencing tools such as CentraOne that allows attendees of a meeting that are in different locations to share PC desktop applications and presentations. It even combines voice over IP for the audio component of the meeting to eliminate the need for a traditional land line teleconference.
9. The Collaboration Stage
The Collaboration Stage involves the use of the Internet to improve collaboration between employees, or with large customers, channel partners and/or suppliers. The goal is to enable improved product development, a high level of customer service and quick speed to market.
An interesting approach to enabling collaboration between stakeholders involves the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) strategies and technologies. P2P is a unique environment whereby communications and collaboration are integrated into the desktop functionality of all of the stakeholders involved.
For example, Napster is a P2P environment that allows all members to share music files. Other P2P environments could allow the sharing of text, data, graphical images, etc. In this environment, users could collaborate and effectively work together to build products and services.
In the Health and Health Care industry, collaboration could be used to:
10. The Research Stage
The Internet is an incredible environment for conducting research. It could be used to research everything from sources of venture capital to free business plan templates to patent and trademark information (Canada, U.S.). It can also be used to research possible business partners or channel partners in other parts of the world.
This research can be conducted on the Web or by participating in e-mail discussion groups. Examples of Web search tools include Google, Yahoo, Altavista or Dogpile. In order to find appropriate e-mail discussion lists to help you with your research, try going to the Liszt web site where there is a searchable database of over 80,000 discussion lists in which you can participate.
Here are some interesting research databases and e-business articles relating to the Health and Health Care industry:
11. The Competitive Research Stage
The Competitive Research Stage involves the use of the Web to research and monitor competitors' offerings, strategies, tactics and actions. This could involve conducting research at a competitor's web site in order to better understand their offerings and market positioning, especially if you are in the midst of a competitive battle.
Here are some links that can be used to track the competitors in the Health and Health Care industry:
Another concept to think about for this stage is called stealth competitive research. This refers to techniques that can be used on the Internet to monitor competitive activities. For example, NetMind's free Mind-It service can be used to silently monitor your competitors. You identify a particular page you would like to track such as a competitor's press release page, and you will be notified instantly whenever there is an update.
Another way to track competitors in your industry is to subscribe to news services. By specifying which competitors you want to track, you will be notified whenever there is trade press that mentions those competitors. A look at the Jobs section of your competitors' web sites can then reveal where they are making hiring and expansion investments.
You can also conduct searches on e-mail and USENET databases for your competitors and their offerings to see what actual customers are saying about their user experiences with those products and services. This could reveal competitive weaknesses.
12. The Market Research Stage
The Market Research Stage involves the use of the Internet to research market trends, understand customer product requirements and obtain an ongoing stream of web improvement suggestions. This can be achieved by accessing secondary research and/or conducting primary research.
The Web contains a wealth of secondary research on everything from market size estimates to market forecasts to customer needs analysis. Sources of secondary research include sites such as Industry Canada's Strategis, Statistics Canada or the U.S. Bureau of Census.
In the Health and Health Care industry, specific Canadian market research information can be found at these sites:
Primary research involves conducting your own research which can be done in many different ways:
There is some evidence that companies in the Health and Health Care industry are conducting primary research. For example, The Canadian Institute for Health Information is currently distributing a report on the current state of Health Care in Canada [PDF file; 3.3 MB]. Before downloading a copy of this report users are asked to complete a brief survey about themselves and how they found out about the report.
I have coined a term called stealth market research to refer to a very specific type of market research on the Web. This is a form of market research whereby the targets of the research do not necessarily even know that the research is being conducted.
A simple example of this would be an analysis of your web visitor logs to determine which of your pages experienced the heaviest traffic. Another example would be a test of 2 different offers at your web site. These offers could be randomly presented to visitors at your web site to determine which one was the most effective.
A good example of stealth market research in action was found at the BMW web site. At one point BMW had a feature at their web site called "Build your own BMW". Although this feature would not actually enable you to purchase a BMW online, thousands of people went through the process of selecting their dream car – the model, the colour, the type of seat fabric, the type of stereo system (e.g., CD vs tape), etc.
When I questioned the BMW executive about the value of a feature that didn't generate any online sales, he pointed out that the market research information that was being obtained was very useful.
A simple example of stealth market research was found at the Association of Campus Emergency Response Teams of Canada web site. This site tracks visitor logs including monthly, weekly and daily statistics; specifics on access levels for each file; domains from which the web site was accessed; and error reports of faulty pages/files.
13. The Education Stage
The Internet has vast potential as an educational resource that can be exploited in numerous ways:
The Internet, extranets and intranets can also be exploited as an educational infrastructure by companies that want to build and launch their own educational offerings. These can be used to educate employees, prospects, customers and channel partners. The ultimate goal could be to move people through the sales cycle, improve the skills of channel partners or provide a mechanism for just in time education to employees.
Examples of companies in the Health and Health Care industry that are exploiting the Internet as an education infrastructure include the following:
14. The Purchasing Stage
Most companies focus their Internet efforts on e-commerce – selling their goods and services on the Web. These companies may be missing a golden opportunity to increase their profitability. Rather than focusing on generating revenues, they could be focusing on reducing costs by using the purchasing power of the Web.
Publicly posting tender notices on the Web could result in several more competitors bidding for your business. Depending on the industry, this could result in a decrease of overall purchasing costs by 3% to 10%. Another way to reduce purchasing costs is to participate in Web buyer groups. Rather than buying a Palm for $329, you might be able to go to Mobshop in the U.S. (or Buyit in the U.K.) and buy one for $299 by placing a volume order with 20 other buyers.
Another objective of using the Web as a purchasing tool could be to reduce purchasing processing costs. According to GE, their Trading Process Network has cut their "purchasing cycle times by 80% and associated costs by 30%." According to IBM, last year they saved $240 million by reducing the number of paper invoices they processed from 5 million to near zero.