Ace Payroll promotes its product via its Web site, and uses it as a vehicle for advice and support. "We let people view demos online, and we have FAQs [answers to frequently asked questions] and plenty of information," says director Phil Eriksen.
But Ace has avoided the direct download option. Everything online concentrates on helping prospects make the decision to buy, Eriksen says. Suppose you log on to two Web sites, he says; one has a dozen pages of swept-up buying facilities, but doesn't explain what the product is about or help you decide whether it's right for you; the other has 500 pages of support information.
"Which are you going to buy from?"
FAQ documents are a handy tool for ongoing support - so someone doing wages over the weekend can refer to the Web site for help. The site also includes advice on administrative matters and legal questions connected with payroll - as well as details of the product and pricing.
Ace Payroll makes it clear it is not a legal expert itself and not allowed to offer actual legal advice. "We can tell you how to pay your staff double-time, but not whether to," Ace says on the site.
Nevertheless a lawyer has assembled useful points of case law to guide payroll administrators. Direct downloads are limited to a fully functional demonstration version that expires after eight days. An upgrade from the penultimate to the latest version is also available online.
"We don't believe we've lost a sale by not providing an online purchase facility," Eriksen says. "I don't know whether you can say we're involved in e-commerce or not but electronics is certainly involved in the buying process.
"This emphasis on being able to buy by credit card misses the point," he says. "Buying isn't the hard part" and online buying isn't the part that will add to the bottom line for Ace Payroll. Not having to give frequent advice to customers over the telephone, on the other hand, is a large potential saving. One vital thing about a Web site is to update it frequently, Eriksen says. If it always looks the same, or contains out-of-date references - then it won't present a good image for the company.