Before your company chases down its portion of the GartnerGroup-predicted, $7 trillion B2B e-commerce pie, experts suggest building content and community in order to manage customers and suppliers. Here’s what to consider when outlining your strategy.

Build community, and they will come
E-business is more than selling your products or services over the Web; it’s about establishing a central contact point for customers and suppliers. According to Prashanth Narasimha, director of corporate marketing for SAP AG , there are four key components to e-business. They are:

  1. Content
  2. Community
  3. Commerce
  4. Collaboration

And they intend to be very strong players in all of these.

“When we look at marketplaces,” Narasimha said, “we look at marketplaces in four dimensions. Marketplaces dedicated to horizontal activity, like MRO [Maintenance, Repair Operating] procurement, marketplaces dedicated to vertical activity, geographical marketplaces, and finally marketplaces of product by which a company comes and says, ‘I want to buy the marketplace as you have built it to install it internally.’”

Manage community content
Heather Ashton, a senior analyst for electronic business strategies for the Hurwitz Group, advises companies to create a comprehensive, individualized Web presence. “Look for solutions that enhance communication among partners, suppliers, and customers. This entails managing content and what different partners and suppliers see within a certain value chain,” Ashton said.

However, this strategy demands that CIOs and senior managers broaden the scope of their enterprise application strategy and be aggressive in understanding customer needs.

Know thy customer
Drilling down on your customers will give you the edge in the Web-based economy. Technologies that enable you to optimize customer data are worth the investment. “Being able to capture and store customer information about customer behavior that the portal, Web site, or extranet generates is mission-critical market intelligence for the e-business model,” said Ashton.

“We are coaching CIOs and senior managers who, up until now, have been providing support to the internal organization, that they have a whole series of external audiences, namely their customer base. So, CRM [Customer Relationship Management] and collaborative planning and forecasting applications become crucial to success,” said David Boulanger, research director of enterprise applications for AMR Research.

CRM works for me

Is CRM part of your enterprise application strategy? Drop us a note or post a comment below.