Reality Check

Act Like An E-Commerce Pro

Perception:Microsoft says it will back us; we expect a deal within a week or two.

Reality: While dotcom executives often look to big potential partners-and for "Microsoft," freely substitute Amazon.com, IBM, Phone.com or any of the other affluent, active players in the dotcom world-and readily predict that a deal is impending, the reality is often starker, says Weinberg. "Although the [perception] is that everything is looking great and that life will be grand, in many cases the deal does not get closed-and then the firm dies.

"My sense is that Microsoft begins dialogues with many companies and then never does deals," adds Weinberg. Does that make Microsoft a bad dude? Not necessarily. Often, big names discover that little start-ups don't have much going for them, so conversations dribble into extinction. Microsoft probably has 100 exploratory chats for every actual deal it does.

Perception: Hot buzz words-b2b, robust, and other similar words and phrases-are the ticket for positioning a Net company.

Reality: "That's Pandora's Positioning," snorts Tom Gable, CEO of The Gable Group, a San Diego-based PR and marketing communications firm. Gable says we're hip-deep in worthless start-up buzz words. The big problem: Pandora's Positioning might not fool VCs, but the entrepreneurs themselves think they are poised for success.

But Gable offers a cure for any site suffering from Pandora's Positioning. "The flip side would be [a site] that speaks to the customer, to desired benefits and added value," he says. "Show something of value vs. empty words. And say it in human terms." Don't say your site is robust; say it offers customers a fast, engaging, personal experience.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Reality Check.

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