Livin’ La Vida Internet

I started taking piano lessons last October. I’ve always been attracted to music, and it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even walk by the piano in our living room without it calling out to me, so I decided to give it a try.

It was tough. Practicing was a chore, progress was slow, and even with lessons stretched out to just once every two weeks, I would sometimes find myself cramming the night before one of these, only to have to live through the awkwardness the next day of not really knowing my stuff.

After about nine months of this, the piano was feeling more like a nightly obligation than the joy I had hoped for, and it seemed likely that the Rolling Stones would not be calling me to tour with them anytime soon.

One day last June, as I wondered out loud if I should just give it up, a friend suggested that I get one of those electronic keyboards for my office. That way she said, I could play in short spurts throughout the day, and rather than the piano being one more thing to deal with at night, it would become integrated into my daily life.

I took her advice, and sure enough, today I chip away slowly but steadily at the things I want to learn. I have found that this approach is not only more enjoyable, but it has also led to a significant improvement in my piano playing.

So, what’s this got to do with doing business on the web? I thought you’d never ask.

Many of you are treating your web site in exactly the same way I had been treating my piano. You look at it as a sideline; a thing to work on when time allows and the spirit moves you. Take it from me, this is no way to make progress.

Your web site, your enewsletter and your involvement in electronic communications in general, all have the potential to revolutionize the way you do business. In an economy that is stalled and that shows no signs of immediate recovery, you need tools that can — cost effectively — increase lead generation, increase sales effectiveness and increase customer lifetime value.

You’ve got all that and more at your disposal with the web. But as long as the tools continue to live on the outskirts of your “real business,” you won’t realize the potential.

Here are three suggestions for making it happen.

• Track it. Track your electronic efforts with the same vigor and diligence that you apply to your traditional tactics. Whether it’s sales, response times, customer inquiries, whatever, if you’ve got systems in place for measuring offline results, make sure you build an equally robust machine for measuring online results.

• Teach it. New ideas don’t drop out of thin air; people need to be continually exposed to what doing business online has to offer. Send them to seminars, bring in speakers, subscribe to electronic business publications (Interactive Week is a great one for keeping the ideas flowing). Use the success of others as inspiration for your own efforts.

• Live it. Look for ways to continually improve your online tactics, step by step, day by day. Hold regularly scheduled meetings with your staff to discuss and brainstorm enhancements. Encourage feedback from customers to learn what they want and what they don’t want. Don’t simply work on projects;transform the way you do business.

Bottom Line: Like learning to play the piano, fluency comes from small, daily improvements, and the trick is in finding ways to move online tools front and center in your organization. Now excuse me, my phone is ringing and I’ve got a feeling it just might be Mick Jagger on the line.

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