Forget E-Commerce, Think Pre-Commerce.

Chances are you have heard quite a lot about the term "e-commerce," but you are not quite sure what it means, exactly. Well, take a number.

Chances are you have heard quite a lot about the term "e-commerce," but you are not quite sure what it means, exactly.

Well, take a number.

Generally speaking, e-commerce is the entire transaction process—browsing, learning, payment, service—taking place online or through a Web site.

Specifically, e-commerce means different things to different businesses. More specifically, line up five metalworking shop owners, ask them for a definition of e-commerce, and you'll get five completely different answers (Believe it. I've done this, and it is completely true).

Now, none of this would matter at all if we weren't hearing—ad nauseum— how an e-commerce strategy is absolutely necessary for success on the Web.

The problem with finding a definitive definition for e-commerce within the machine shop environment isn't that simple. Shopping for and selling a manufacturing shop's services is, by nature, an awfully complicated process. The whole transaction requires a body of knowledge and experiences that go way beyond anything required outside of metalworking. And the features on retail and wholesale Web sites—secure transactions and credit card accounts—will not, by themselves, help a machine shop's service- and manufacturing-oriented audience.

So, how do you deal with all this effectively on your shop's Web site?

Instead of e-commerce, concentrate on "PRE-commerce."

"Pre-commerce" educates your Web site visitors about what you do. That makes them better buyers prior to a transaction or inquiry for your shop's services.

"Pre-commerce" presents your shop's strengths, which define the differences between you and your competition. Cut to the chase, and define those strengths in detail and in language that speaks directly to your audience—current and potential.

Focus your Web site visitors on how and with what you perform superior services. Brief, detailed examples of specific, successful jobs that span your shop's core strengths work well.

Finally, don't forget your current customers. Detailed, contract-specific data, provided accurately and regularly, can result in continued business.

Successful "pre-commerce" is, in short, preparing your customers for buying your shop's services. MMS

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