Whose Mind Needs Changing?

Chances are that if you're reading this column, you know that business is happening on the web. And it's growing.

But that's nothing new. Those of us who've been thrashing around on the web for the last few years have always known that we can do business more efficiently -- not to mention more profitably -- on the web. You and I know that we can run circles around the companies we left behind. Who needs the committees? Who needs the politics? Those are outmoded, unnecessary waste products for regular nine-to-five gigs.

We run our own shops. We work in our pajamas, usually with a TV set tuned to reruns of "Petticoat Junction" or, if you're particularly discriminating, "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Our overhead is low; our profit margins are high.

Life, overall, is good. Once you adjust your mind set, it's totally clear that if you weren't born a Kennedy, this is the way to go.

Except for one thing.

You might be okay with this arrangement, but how are you supposed to get customers and clients to buy into it? After all, customers and clients expect an office with a conference room and cubicles and a carpeted lobby complete with a receptionist who grasps the phone with flawless acrylic fingernails.

How are you supposed to change their mind sets?

I can't tell you how many times I get asked that question. And just to be annoying, I usually answer it with another question: Who's mind really needs changing here -- your clients' or your own?

The fact is that most of the web-based people I know really and truly don't accept their newfound status as strongly as they should. They fret about leasing temporary office space or sharing a lobby or splitting the cost of a receptionist with flawless acrylic fingernails.

But they shouldn't. And here's why:

First, the web has now grown from infancy, past toddlerhood and is now in full-blown puberty. Its hormones are in overdrive and its growth is no longer restricted to the techno-elite. Watch TV. Listen to the radio. Everyone's posting their URL's all over the place, to the point where "dot com" is probably more commonly used than "available at Wal-Mart."

Second, the rate of acceptance of the web as a medium has now passed critical mass. Where it might not have been a short time ago, it is now perfectly fine to refer a prospect to your website for more information or to purchase your product. in fact, it's often preferred because your client can jump right to your site while he/she's still on the phone or even right after hanging up, when the thought of your sparkling wit and personality is still fresh in their minds. Acceptance may not be 100%, but it's certainly at the point where you could convert your entire business to web and still make a decent living.

Third, remember that if a client finds you via the web, they're probably comfortable doing business via the web, too. It's up to you, however, to make them comfortable with that arrangement. If you explain how you work and why it's so much more effective, they're far more likely to give it a try. I know, because I have that discussion about four zillion times a day. Clients have no problems if you offer them solutions.

The fact is that there are two kinds of customers: those who want to buy your product and those who want to ruin your life. The former are willing to do business on your terms, because they figure that's how they get your best work. The latter are usually control freaks who never are satisfied, anyway.

You don't have to lie about your staff. You don't have to fib about your office. If you need a place to meet a client, suggest meeting them at their place -- it gets you real high marks for service, I promise you. Or rent a place for the day. The important thing is what you produce at the meeting, not where you have it.

You wear pajamas to work. Your secretary is voicemail. Now, before you complain about a client's mind set, think about your own. Whose really needs changing?


Rob Frankel

Rob Frankel is co-host of the nationally-syndicated radio show LOG ON USA, a business opinion columnist for Ziff Davis' Internet magazine, speaker, consultant and president of Frankel & Anderson, America's first 100% digital advertising and marketing agency. You can reach Rob directly at rob@robfrankel.com , see/hear samples of Killer Creative at http://www.frankel-anderson.com and subscribe to his FrankelBiz newsletter and transaction/discussion list.

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