From the April 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Exactly what are businesses using their Web sites to accomplish? A new Pricewaterhouse-Coopers LLP survey of growing companies indicates the top uses are building relationships with customers (61 percent) and inviting customer feedback (60 percent).

While it's predictable, for instance, that 94 percent of business Web sites are used to advertise the company and its products, the key finding is that smart organizations employ the Web to build "virtual communities to capture the hearts and minds of their customers," says Ellen M. Knapp of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Only 32 percent of the respondents use the Web for the direct sale of products or services. Says Knapp, "E-commerce security remains an issue."


To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey

Come Together

Want to use the Net to foster a sense of community among customers, but despair of the drudgery and expense of setting up an interactive message list? Well, you're in luck: The people at eGroups (http://www.egroups.com) will do this for you. Input a little data, and you've got a discussion group going. And you're the moderator, meaning you get to approve who can post; you can even exercise approval over individual postings. Messages can be distributed as e-mail or posted on a Web site. The groups are free to set up and run, but they show third-party ads unless you pay a monthly fee ($4.95) to kill the advertising. This is a fast way to get some communication going with your customers.

It's A Print

Web site printing made easy.

Have you ever tried to print out a Web site? The Web pages usually spill over margins, meaning large pieces of them are lost in the printing. Even worse, if you try to copy and paste the information into a word-processing program, you often get "error" messages where the links should have been. A quick and inexpensive solution is WebRecord ($30 street) from Canon Software Publishing (http://www.software.canon.com). WebRecord neatly prints any Web site and also gives you a handy list of all active hyperlinks for your later surfing.

Intro To Economics

The site's name may be forbidding, but The Dismal Scientist (http://www.dismal.com) is a remarkably lively and useful look at the economic scene, complete with charts showing current figures for Weekly Jobless Claims, Inventory/Sales ratios and Retail Sales. Also on hand are short news items and an economic profiler that lets you enter a ZIP code and get back detailed stats on the region's economy. Whenever you want a quick fix on where the economy is heading, either nationally or in your region, drop by this site--you'll find out if you should be thinking expansion or contraction.