Take Customers on a Guided Web Tour

We have all suffered through it: an announcement of a new and unique product or service arrives via e-mail. After reading an enticing blurb, we see a URL to the company's Website. But once we get there, then what? Where do we go next?

SpotOn (www.spoton.com) of Burlingame, California, promises a solution that will turn vanilla e-mail and anonymous URLs into customer-friendly messages. SpotOn's software leads users on guided, rich-media e-tours by bringing Web content to any browser. The company's WebTours proactively lead users through pages of preselected content relevant to a company's message. The content--which can be based anywhere on the Web--can be accompanied by a text and audio narrative.

Links to tours can be sent to consumers or colleagues in the form of a URL in an e-mail message, embedded in a document or posted on a Website.

SpotOn develops and sells two business-side products. SpotOn Publisher is designed for e-commerce sales and marketing campaigns and Web portals; the browser window appears in an interface frame that includes advertising real estate, an area for branding and a pulldown list for the order of sites in the tour.

SpotOn Professional, geared toward educators, customer service and marketing staffs, offers most of same features and is priced at a lower rate ($24.95 per user per month).

One company making use of both products is Cobalt Group, a Seattle provider of Internet-based products and services to U.S. automotive dealers. Cobalt, which has received endorsements from 16 major auto manufacturers and the National Association of Auto Dealers, needed a solution for e-training as its customer base approaced 8,000 dealers.

Cobalt provided one service called the eDealership Academy, designed to train brick-and-mortar dealers to sell online. Cobalt incorporated SpotOn Professional into the training program as an online evidence manual.

"Traditionally, people would walk on the showroom floor and say, 'I like that car, but I'm not sure of its performance,'" said Brian Toole, product manager of Cobalt. A savvy dealer on the showroom floor would then present articles to demonstrate how well the car performed. "He would continually be looking for evidence to back up what he was selling," explained Toole.

But providing evidence online proved more difficult. Cobalt first tried e-mail, then Web sites with links; but the ideal solution was to use SpotOn with its leveraged content, since it could link between the manufacturer's site and any number of magazine articles. Cobalt began including the solution in its training program as a best practice last April.

Cobalt also employs SpotOn Publishing as a two-stage advertising vehicle, which the company uses for passing information to large-scale dealership chains (such as Chrysler's Five star Dealers). In the second stage, Cobalt customizes SpotOn in a branded format for the dealerships, providing appropriate content that it will update as an ongoing service. A pilot project is currently under way.

"That's where we think we can really make money with SpotOn--the added value that we can provide," said Toole.

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