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Website as Database Engine: The Web Grows up

by Kevin Bramlett

I was having lunch with a former colleague the other day, and he was telling me how his firm was using an Intranet and Microsoft Internet Explorer to process client leads.

His programmers had built an Oracle database housed on a hefty server, and ftp'ed records into it from various sources, such as an outbound telemarketing firm, their website, and purchased databases of potential clients. The worklists of client leads were pulled up via a LAN to his workforce's desktops in Internet Explorer, and processed using simple point and click technology. Some additional Visual Basic programming on the back end made the necessary modifications to the information based upon decisions and selections made by the workers, and the results were written back to the database server.

Now, this may seem a bit complex to many of you, and no doubt small home based business entrepreneurs don't have the resources available to a multi billion dollar company like the one discussed, BUT, there are still some very valuable lessons to be learned from this example.

I was first and foremost impressed with my friend's use of existing technology to provide his workers' interface. He didn't have to spend a fortune developing Internet Explorer - Microsoft already has. Indeed, Internet technology is perfect for so many business applications because it provides a common interface to users, no matter what the platform the interface is being run on. And with the development of platform independent programming tools such as Java, we are moving closer than ever to true, plug-in object programming.

What this means is that in the future, you won't have to be a programmer to provide top-flight web services - you'll simply visit your local Object library, and check out a piece of code, say a program to collect data from a form and load it into a database, and plug it into your website. Anyone anywhere in the world can access your website using a common tool - Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator - and interact with you without worrying if your systems or file formats are compatible. This universal connectivity will drive the future of commerce everywhere in the world.

Another key part of his strategy is the use of his website to collect customer data, and to use that information in a database that supports reporting, customized querying, and process work flows, enabling his workers to smoothly and efficiently screen the leads for real, paying customers. The website is a perfect place to interact with your prospects in this manner. Web surfers are more likely to share information with you (especially in a quid pro quo environment, where you give information or entertainment away in exchange for their demographic information).

The website as database engine is a powerful emerging concept in Cyberspace, and one that each person should consider carefully. As it matures, the Internet is providing new ways of developing relationships with your customers - interactive ones. Take advantage of this. You don't have to be a serious programmer to develop database information from your traffic. Find innovative ways to ask them to fill out forms, and store the data in Excel spreadsheets, if you have to. It's a start. But begin now to develop an ore body of information about the people who are on your site. Why are they there? What do they want to see more of? What level of experience do they have? What are their needs and wants, and how can you meet them?

Building a relationship based upon this kind of information will result in a solid, long-term commitment, and will ultimately raise the level of success in whatever field you choose to concentrate in. Mine your database periodically by developing and sending out new offers, specials, discounts, and exclusive deals. Your existing clients do not cost you anything to attract, unlike new customers, so you should concentrate your selling efforts there for maximum productivity.

It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day minutiae of running a business. Take time out periodically to come up for air and think about concepts such as the website as database engine, and look for ways to apply such powerful concepts to your own business. Incremental gains over time are compounded into serious growth - and compound growth in a target rich environment like the Internet is an exciting prospect indeed.

Article by Kevin Bramlett. Find out how you can get a FREE Internet Business Video by visiting http://www.WorldWideGuide.com.

Tags: E-commerce and Internet



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