Rush to the Web

A year ago, when the Fortune 500 discovered e-commerce, Web ad agencies were bought specifically to capture their people for work on large accounts. Small accounts were left in the cold.

That hasn’t changed, but suddenly there are a host of companies offering to let you create a quick storefront, and offering help in hosting and drawing customers. Such solutions were all over the show floor at the Spring Internet World show in Los Angeles, and these announcements filled the press release gallery.

Mindspring has been offering low-cost Web store consulting in conjunction with its hosting for two years, and Yahoo bought ViaWeb to create Yahoo Store, which now hosts thousands of merchants. Intel and Excite have teamed their iCat and Matchlogic technologies into a small business offering. ISPs like Verio, Earthlink, and Concentric are targeting small businesses, as are hosting companies like GeoCities and iMall.

The question is, do these “solutions” make sense for your business? They can help you implement something, but only if you first understand what it is you want to implement.

So let me offer some free advice you can’t buy at the show. Rather than building your whole store online, find your passion, build a business model around it, and only then look for help in turning that into a Web storefront.

This is the same advice offered Billy Crystal by Jack Palance in the movie “City Slickers.” Crystal asked Palance’ character, an old cowboy called Curly, for the secret of life. Palance held up a finger. “One thing,” he snarled. “Figure out what that is and everything else is simple.”

You won’t find that answer in a box, or a service, or in software. You’ll find it in your own heart.

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