|Not big shipping technical supply company wants to survive - it is a challenge|
World is changing everyday - standard information, yes?
Sometimes it is better, sometimes worse.
Sometimes you have to find new customers.
Even, if you have great money, it is always possible to reduce it hardly by paying for advertisements. However, there are rumours everywhere, saying, that it is impossible to exist without it, even the oldest communists have been always saying, that it is boost for trade, etc, etc.
There is no reason to pay to TV, because nobody looks at it during work time. Perhaps radio, but its function is to make some nice sounds, which help some people to survive until work-end if mixed with badly sounding telephones. Whatever to say, it is closely binded with a moment: said and perished. Also, who has listened to it? Almost the same is about popular newspapers and magazines, which after reading are usually not stored. Sometimes we gave up this idea in favour of shipping newspapers. Any results? I do not know...
So, what about catalogues of companies.
Perhaps general "yellow pages" telephone catalogues?
Once we have paid for few square centimeters space. There was result, of course: there came a lot of requests for support of various laudable goals from various founds. In general we agree with them, however, we are not enough rich to solve all Polish problems. Conclusion: only minimal free entrance, as our support for editor, that he has complete and actual catalogue. And that is enough. We are less than hundred such companies in Poland, so we are not in danger, that we could be lost in crowd.
What about specialized, marine industry catalogues?
After first experiments, we have decided to use only this form of printed advertisement. Publishers provide distribution to the marine industry in Poland and abroad, at price of several cm2 in any general yellow pages book, and additionaly, there are edited several language versions. An interested person is not forced to take heavy books, where adveritisement of a foundry is almost side by side with a grocery.
First effects of such policy are visible at once: new publishers of marine catalogues or occasional publications are coming to us, most often, from abroad. Some come with offer to be inserted in any marine catalogue. Often basic insertion inside their catalogue is free, or bill is not big.
However, it something happens, to get phone from somebody speaking English with speed of speeded-up machine gun, and from flood of words, I hardly find out, that he/she has for us wonderful, special chance, to be advertised in wonderful publication, planned specially to present Polish marine industry, which for sure will reach all our potential customers, because it is distributed right to hands of all the most proper persons... Then, I try to wait for his break for breath and ask to send us fax, because we have to analyse this matter. Some of them even managed to earn something from us... To some of the most active ones, I had to be very rude ;-)
Somebody would ask, so, what about customers, do they come attracted by our printed advertisements?
Yes, it seems, there were some enquiries from customers, who said, that we were found via printed publications, as source of information. So, what for all this 1500 US$ spent in 1996, when we had maximal marketing budget for such form of advertisements? I do not know...
So, what about internet and another networks?
Here majority of tasks was my job. Fashionable, modern and everybody says, that it helps to make great businesss in global market.
OK, but how does it work? We have bought modem, CD disk "Internet Exproler" (not Microsoft) and some books. Lucky, that it was time, when Polish state telephone company settled number 0,202122 for public access to internet. But at moments, when problems came, wise books always advise: "ask your internet provider", and my wise friends from universities say: "we are in network, we have no modem connections".
At this time we tried work in independent network http://www.ILSmart.com ILS - (Inventory Location Service) something like electronic billboard for messages from people searching and offering marine equipment spares. What to say, effect was only in increased fax paper consumption and larger telephone bill. However, our neighbours have said, that in trial time earned so much, that they are in this network for free. So, it is a game - it would success or not.
After many days of efforts without any effect, how to enter into this famous WWW internet pages world, in one Polish computer magazine I have found spell: "close the TCPMAN into icon". Then, it went forward, at least at my home: telephone bill reached 80 US$/month. I worked from home, because at that time from our office it was impossible to get access into the net. Design of any extension had been too old and nobody knew, when it would be better. However, after new line came, it was no problem any more.
At the begining there was some craziness, but not in Clinton or CIA home pages. Craziness was in downloading more or less useless programs and visiting places, which would be interesting for me (marine, underwater, OCR, or our rulers pages).
Of course, there is reasonable explanation of craziness, it means understanding Web and search engines and what conclusions important for us should be drawn and applied.
Thers is nothing worse, than "attractive", "cool" page, slowly coming to screen,
byte-after-byte, full of errors and rich graphics, finaly displaying: "general
protection fault", or something similar to blocking whole system at all.
OK, I like experiments with exotic web browsers, but if any page blocks my
browser, it would aso probably block more, and perhaps among the blocked
ones would be TheMostImportant
FutureCustomer's too, so what then in this case?.
Somebody would say: there are internet browser "standards": MS Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, phone lines are better, computers faster, etc.
However, faithfull followers of the "standards" ofte forget about older versions of programs, which are usually safer and simpler and about the fact, that page should be readable in every system. TheMostImportant FutureCustomer may be UNIX user for example.
Conclusion: page has to be clear text at first, then could be decorated by any simple graphic, but at any case is not allowed to load slowly, even if transmission is poor. Why? Because browsers have STOP button and bored visitor may use it before he could read about us.
About hosting of pages
At the beginning we have decided at once, not to do anything with own server connected to the electricity and internet 24 hours a day. Best is to find any owner of such computer, who would care its security and secutity of our files on it, and would do it better, then we would ever do. Even if something would happen to his server, our company computers would be still safe, and recovery of files would be easy.
Now, how to choose owner of such computer owner - internet service provider. Lucky, there were some variants of prices and services range in our area.
We have chosen "Sprint" in Gdansk as our host, because it was the cheapest alternative at that moment, under condition of our own service in installed pages, and the server was only 500m from our office. Also, later it has turn out to be realy good choice: fast browser LYNX installed in their server reduced costs of surfing and increased its effecivity very much.
Choice of internet provider was done, it means, at the next step it was necessary:
My wise friends from universities just write pure codes HTML, but I am shipbuilding engineer, not programing theory specialist. GNNPress, now AOLPress fulfilled my initial needs in my level of programming development.
So, something was written, installed, many times improved and faired... First month files are in server, second has gone, and there is nothing in our mail box. Even usually the best in Polish matters search engine Altavista has not discovered our existence yet.
Conclusion: if our files are not found, it means, that we will have to submit our files to many search engines. In fact it is easy to understand: search enginess will index only pages, which are known to them, and their spiders are crawling along links. It means, that if our files are in a new domain in a new server, and nobody has made any link to them, so how these poor spiders, crawlers, robots could know about us?
So, again several evenings with computers and surfing between various search engines, catalogues, etc. Lucky, there are such sites, which help to submit own site to many search engines very fast: Add-it, Submit-it etc. However, it has fast turned out, many of the submitted sites are in fact source of Nigerian money, pornography, free cassinos and all other internet wastes polluting our mailbox now.
Best is not to try to save time and use it to visit the most popular search engines, see their submission and ranking rules, to avoid discovery, that for example Infoseek did not list us for more, than year. I am not sure, if paid submission work better, than normal submitting. Perhaps only kind request for links to our site from any other, already listed one is reasonable way to invite search engines robots.
What then? It would be good to start submiting site to marine services, but here is not so easy, as many of them wants nice money for it and many of them have horroristically professional home pages with frames, coming slowly to my screen for 5 minutes each, or longer. (Who got this idea of writing web pages, could demand intrests from profits of Polish telephone company.)
To save page on disk, it is possible to be surprised: to get navigation bar saved perfectly, but without wished content. Somebody would say, just to care, which frame is active before saving. Of course, everything is true, but you have to learn everything alone, no mercy for beginners.
Nowadays, disaster could be more severe: not every web page based on database
or applet is so kind to preserve its shape on my hard disk, after using
"save" command, no matter, which frame is active or not.
What then? Mark - Copy - Paste into any Notepad. Yes, it is not modern, but allows to save information.
Then, later I typed "marine engines" in Altavista search engine - list of displayed first hundred pages did not contain our adress. No illusions - only extremely desperated customer would visit more, than first 100 hits, probably would stop after third ten. So our site has to be inside this first three tens of hits.
Conclusion: it is necessary to learn marketing for internet, especially proper usage of meta - tags and planing of pages layout. No more attempts in avoiding learning HTML codes was allowed. Even properly constructed title of page is fundamentally important. Obvious for every reader, yes?
Content of every page should be analysed from visitor's point of view, who is using keywords search. If something was not written, even only in "keywords" or "description" meta-tags, it would be just not found. How a search engine could know about our fantastic idea, if it was not written anywhere?
Then, fundamental task:
our page HAS TO load into visitor's computer, otherwise, all these former activities are useless. Our pages have to be text based, without frames and heavy graphics.
Typical WWW horrors:
Q. What about own domain name?
A. Easy to remember web address is important mainly for those, who use traditional means of marketing as radio, TV, billboards, etc. For example virtual shops. But, we are not virtual shop, therefore for us page content was more important, than its web adress. There is no reason to pay double for own pages in virtual server, compared to simple keeping own files in somebody's computer and web domain, with name not containing word "jastra". However, prices are falling down, so, who knows, just to have domain registered... (we have registered in 2002)
If I am looking for something and I do not know, where to find it, I will use search engine, which will use keyword searching, but I will not pay any special attention to address URL or graphic form. No illusion, our every customer, coming via internet would look for our services, not for our name. This person will see first few words about us in any search engine keywords search results. Just these few words will decide, if he or she would enter our pages, or not and therefore they are the most important in internet marketing. We are neither SULZER, nor IBM brand.
Q. Do I have opinion about exchange of free advertise banners?
A. In fact, I do not use them, mainly, because of very narrow market, we work for. However, if we were sellers of MP3 files, then it would be something else.
Q. Do I have opinion about paid advertise banners?
A. I still see resources for exploation in improvement of pages keywords and content. There are many new marine directories to be listed, and search engines to be registered. However, if we were sellers of games, then it would be something else.
Q. What is better: to get professional company to make web pages, or to
A. If you have good contact with good company, able to understand your wishes and control own use of the most modern web technologies, you would save a lot of time for first errors and discoveries.
To make pages and every update - that everybody can do, there is enough various HTML editors in the world. To make good design, structure of navigation and marketing strategy, that needs time, imagination and defined own wishes. You may either use your own, or try to hire somebody's. Do not expect, that any proffesional would guess, what are for example your customers habits. YOU have to be able to describe them, no matter who would write your web pages. It means, do not think, that it is enough to pay a lot and to get good product without your cooperation.
It is exactly like booking dress from a tailor: if you save too much time and do not cooperate with the craftman, effect could be not the best.
There had been from time to time greetings from divers and Polish people living in outer world, some students came to make interview about our marketing in internet experiences, or to get materials about marine industry. Some friends told, that pages were interesting, compared to another even bigger companies, because of non-commercial pages, but it is hard to learn anything about Jastra. Hope, this story will fill part of this gap.
At the begin of June 1997 first mail with enquiry came. It was from Russia and it came after five months of existence in internet and 2 months after adaptation of basic pages more to internet searching rules. This message was something beautiful: written in cyrilic with enclosed Russian MS Word 6.0 document. If not .ru in mail adress, I would not know how to decode it. Then, mail from bigger and smaller companies with more and less general enquiries started coming almost everyday. And in result, we have got orders, which results covered costs of our internet adventures and left something for some extra, not only small expences.
Happy end, yes?
The advantage of commercial site in internet is, that it is easy to update information, it is easy to arrange them in various degree of detailed or general content. Also, this information is avaliable 24 hours a day, from every armchair connected to any computer with modem in the world.
Also, everybody has some very important messages, mainly in Polish to post to The Great World. Isn't it true?
The most incredible is, that people read and comment them. Moreover: sometimes they complain, that text is not updated. So, it has happpened to this page last time.
|Please, let me have your comment.
Barbara Glowacka jastra@ jastra.com.pl
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