At our offices we talk non-stop about "e-business the old-fashioned way." What we mean is that success in e-tailing depends on building solid relationships with live human beings, just like in the real world. We are fanatical about this idea (you have noticed, haven't you?), even though it’s hardly revolutionary. You see, Carnegie wrote about the same stuff 63 years ago with an understanding that will never be outdated.

So I got to musing on how Carnegie's thoughts could improve how you manage your web business.

How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. It’s been translated into a bunch of other languages (I’ve offered to do the Martian translation - expecting a callback any day now), and it’s still in print, as timeless now as it was when it first came out. Read it!

Carnegie believed financial success was due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to "the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people." That's the stuff of retail dreams and the goal of any e-business. You don't just want someone to arrive at your site. You want them to arrive, experience a sensation of "Wow! Oh boy! At last!" And you want every tiny bit of your site to reinforce their sense of delight at having discovered you. Think of seeing Disneyland or walking into a Sam's Club for the first time. Awesome, huh? That's what you want to shoot for when it comes to arousing enthusiasm.

But “Wow on arrival” is hardly enough. Everything about the shopping process, up to and including service after the sale, must continue to knock your customers out. Remember, this is a sales environment where the customer is completely in control. Talk about the need to influence!

The wise Mr. Carnegie observed, "Remember that a man's name is, to him, the sweetest and most important sound."

"Personalization" is a big deal these days. Humans are far more likely to open personalized e-mail, are more likely to open these messages first, and are more likely to read the content (presuming it has something of real value to them and is well-written). But that’s true only if the use of their names makes sense in context, and is a name the person would normally respond to. Since you can't get face-to-face with your potential customers, including their names seems a reasonable marketing compromise. But suppose a visitor fills out information that includes her name (Ms. Samantha Frances Jenkins) and then starts receiving personalized promotional stuff or newsletters that start with, "Dear Ms. Samantha Frances Jenkins." How warm and fuzzy does that sound? Not very. Especially if nobody except the guy behind the counter at Motor Vehicle ever calls her that. The end result to you (if you are the culprit here) is that unless your site is phenomenally spectacular, Ms. Samantha Frances Jenkins is going to be repelled by your phoniness, which will most likely influence her never to return.

If you subscribe to this newsletter, you might have noticed it arrives in your inbox with your name included in the subject line. Hopefully, it catches your attention because it is a name you like to be called. How does that happen? Because the clever folks who manage my mail have asked you how you like to be addressed. This may seem like small stuff, but it is one of those things Carnegie says makes a huge difference in the pursuit of Winning-and-Influencing.

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