Services too, as well as products, can be sold via the Internet.

Here are the three examples of this kind of business model:

Each of these Web-based selling methods is described below, including a discussion of the benefits of each method, the responsibilities you'll be required to assume, the costs of building your site, and how you'll make your profits.

Publishing Online Brochures

If your primary business is delivering an offline service, you may want to publish an online brochure. This sort of Web site can deliver practical information about your service and enable you to develop your image and build trust and customer loyalty. Turtle Island Web Design is an example of a brochure site that profiles the services that the company offers. Another example of a brochure site is Greenfly Design, which features a link for an opt-in e-mail newsletter.

Responsibilities. To have a site that serves as an online brochure, you'll need to develop your own content or acquire it elsewhere.

First, create a content strategy to decide what kind of content you'll feature on your site, such as articles, news, or chat. You'll have to either create your own content or acquire content from outside sources. Then make sure to develop procedures to update your content. If you want to publish an e-mail newsletter about wool sweaters, for example, you, as the owner, may need to be the author, so anticipate the maintenance that your information delivery site will require. Creating your own content requires a significant amount of time to make sure that it remains fresh and interesting.

Costs. Building a Web store will cost you the fees for Web hosting, the fees for a payment processing service, and the price of security software to protect customer information, such as names, addresses, and credit card numbers.

If you decide to acquire content from outside sources instead of creating it yourself, that costs money too. Check out iSyndicate for an example of how buying and selling content works.

Profits. Your online brochure Web site will attract customers to your business, but it will not directly create a profit unless you syndicate your content, sell advertising space, or earn revenues from an affiliate relationship. If you have a special expertise that has broad appeal, you may be able to generate revenue from your knowledge or research by syndicating your content to other Web sites. Check out iSyndicate for an example of how this works. Your Web site itself can also be a source of income if you sell advertising space for banner ads, sell and manage e-zine advertising space, join an affiliate (or associate) program, or create your own affiliate program.

Examples: Newsbytes, workz.

Gathering Services into an Online Mall

In this model, a Web company offers a wide variety of services from many vendors, all from one site. Another term for this is "Web mall." A Web mall, like a physical mall, is a one-stop shopping place for various products and services. Shop.Net is a good example of such a site. There you can browse over or order services from many different companies.

Responsibilities. First, you'll need to decide which services you want to "gather" on your site. Contact the other merchants and agree on some kind of fee or commission model. After all, you are giving them a place to sell their products and services, and you can charge them for it. (See workz's "Create Your Own Affiliate Program" for ideas about these kinds of partnerships.)

Then, you'll have to plan which services you'll feature in your catalog and how you'll handle the online payments and process and fulfill online orders. Will you process the orders for all the merchants, or will you expect the merchants to process their own orders?

Consider that you may need to create a content strategy to extend the value of your site. You may want to include some articles about what kind of wool makes the best sweaters, for example. So decide which kinds of content you want on your site, such as articles, news, or chat. Then you'll have to either create your own content or acquire content from outside sources.

Online businesses need some customer service expertise too. As with any business, there will be confusing shipping issues, questions about products, and problems with payments or returns. Make sure that you oversee customer service processes in order to give your customers the best support possible.

Costs. Building the Web site will cost you the fees for Web hosting, the price of e-commerce software or a turnkey solution, the fees for a payment processing service, and the price of security software to protect customer information, such as names, addresses, and credit card numbers.

If you decide to acquire content from outside sources instead of creating it yourself, that costs money too. Check out iSyndicate for an example of how buying and selling content works.

Profits. If you're one of the merchants in the online mall, you can, of course, make a profit from the sale of your services.

You can also charge the other companies a fee for giving them an outlet to sell their services. It will also be wise to consider joining an affiliate (or associate) program. That way, you can also pick up commissions for the sales that you deliver for those particular companies. If you decide to do all the order processing and fulfillment yourself, you might charge the merchants a transaction or service fee for it.

And you can make money from your site if you sell advertising space for banner ads, or if you sell and manage e-zine advertising space.

Automating an Offline Service

Many things that can be done offline can be done faster and more cost-efficiently on the Web. Banks, for example, can offer the ability to check account balances online, and manufacturers may offer inventory information and detailed product specifications even though they may not sell via the Web.

Mimeo.com is an example of a site that automates printing services. Customers can send their office documents to Mimeo by way of online order forms to get bound color reports made out of them. This saves customers a trip to the copy shop.

Likewise, HomeGrocer.com automates the grocery shopping experience by allowing customers to shop over the Web and schedule delivery of groceries to their homes.

Listen.com is another good example of a Web site that offers an alternative to the offline equivalent. Rather than buying physical CDs to build their music collections, customers of Listen.com go to the site and purchase songs in a downloadable audio file form.

Responsibilities. If you decide to automate an offline service, be sure you have extensive knowledge of the offline business equivalent. For example, operating an online printing service requires all the same printing and technical know-how as running an offline printing service.

Decide what you'll feature in your service catalog and how you'll handle online payments and process online orders. Then decide how products will be distributed, shipped, and delivered. (See workz's "Set and Fulfill Expectations in the Delivery Process.")

Online businesses need some customer service expertise too. As with any business, there will be confusing shipping issues, questions about products, and problems with payments or returns. Make sure that you oversee customer service processes in order to give your customers the best support possible.

Costs. Building a Web site that automates an offline service will cost you the fees for Web hosting, the price of e-commerce software or a turnkey solution, the fees for a payment processing service, and the price of security software to protect customer information, such as names, addresses, and credit card numbers.

Distribution, shipping, and delivery mechanisms cost money too. You'll have to ask yourself: Will I rent a warehouse to store the goods? Will I use a company vehicle to deliver the goods?

Profits. Your automated-service Web site makes you money because you can charge customers for the service you provide to them. For example, Mimeo.com charges its customers for the printed documents and for the service.

Your Web site itself can also be a source of income if you sell advertising space for banner ads, sell and manage e-zine advertising space, join an affiliate (or associate) program, or create your own affiliate program.

Copyright © 1995-2000 Pinnacle WebWorkz Inc. All rights reserved. Do notduplicate or redistribute in any form.