The business landscape is shifting drastically and the skill set and marketing strategies that are required to be competitive in today’s market are undergoing dramatic alterations as well. Nearly all businesses these days have some sort of online presence; ranging from high-end websites to an array of social media networks, reaching their market in increasingly diverse ways. Facebook™, MySpace™, Twitter™ and services such as Angie’s List™, Craig’s List™, and eBay™, etc., have opened up access to a much broader customer base.
These developments have also resulted in an increase in attention to customer service despite the general decrease in face-to-face service. The effect that a bad or good rating on these various social network sites can have has impacted the way in which companies, large and small, handle their customer interactions.
The basic reality is that a virtual presence that is keyed into being upfront and reliable translates into real world financial benefits. In the same vein, a poor rating or reputation can be very damaging to a company and in a time when anyone can post their opinion online for their whole social network to view, in real time, attention to your online presence is paramount.
This shift in the market landscape has been underway for quite some time and to remain competitive and sensitive to the needs of their customers, many, if not all companies, have shifted their emphasis to this online reality; considering the virtual storefront more important than the building in which they are housed.
These days, a company’s customer base is not limited to those who can access the storefront, the customer is global and in order to remain in the market a company must be able to provide their product and/or service globally as well. In some instances a company may not even have a physical presence, relying entirely on their website and the now fully developed online payment infrastructures now available.
One of the significant results of these developments is the level of sophistication that the average consumer now possesses. Information online about nearly anything is available to those who seek it and as a result of this development the customer knows more about what they are looking for than ever before. To match this development in their customer base, many companies have turned to new online tools that help potential customers find them. One of these tools is the product and service locator.
You are probably very familiar to the service locator in the form offered by such sites as Angie’s List or Craig’s List; services offering a locator as well as reviews and ratings. These are “broad swath instruments” that allow consumers to search a wide range of products and services that are available in their own area and beyond.
There are other services, such as Google’s Yelp™ that are directed or developed to assist companies in general to attract local business. With all of these developments in mind we at BoatLiftandDock.com have developed an industry specific locator that allows the high volume of customer traffic through our website to translate into a conduit between the customer and the service and product providers in the marine industry.
We took this step because we noticed that out of the 250,000 visits to our site, 1.3 million page views, 65% of which were first time visitors, only 3% resulted in a purchase. The majority of the traffic through our site came from ‘browsers” or consumers researching their options. In addition to this, many of the calls we receive, either actual sales or customers with questions, include at some point the question, “are there any dealers in my area?” or “do you have a facility in my area?”
We are located in South West Michigan and in many instance we simply do not have the information to determine if there is a dealer or service provider in the caller’s area. The point of all of this is that despite the high volume of traffic and the ever increasing sales of our products, we are in reality, becoming a “go-to” site on the internet for marine related products and information. We are a very visible presence online when it comes to the marine industry and that visibility can benefit product and service providers in the industry in general.
Our service locator is set up in two parts, part one, which will be the first to go active, is directed and designed for marine service providers. The locator is very straight forward in its design. The potential customer enters their zip code and the service they are seeking into the search tab and the return will display all those providers in their area, area defined by the range selected in the search, e.g. 50 miles, 100 miles, etc. The return stemming from their search will populate in a Google maps feature, displaying the contact information of those providers in the area who have signed up for the locator. The customer will be able to click on the providers that appear and browse the services that are provided as well as a brief description of the company.
The second part of the locator is designed for product providers and works just like the service provider, combining a refined search with Google maps, accessed through a “Find Locally” button through our website. The product locator is brand specific, making the search easier for the customer and getting the right customer in touch with dealers who have what they need.
Business has always been a factor of having a product or service that is desired in the market place and making your presence known to as many potential customers as possible. The online environment represents a shift in the nature of doing business that is unlike anything that has come before it. Even when television became the standard for effective advertizing, displacing radio, the reach of an advertising or marketing campaign was limited to broadcast range of the networks and, in many cases, national borders. The internet goes nearly everywhere and today a company’s customer base is not bound by set borders; state, national, or otherwise.
In our experience many of the customers that contact us are seeking information about a product they want to buy or one they have already purchased. Very often they are seeking a local dealer or service provider that they can meet face to face, establish a relationship, and acquire the services they are seeking. Our increasing presence online places us in a unique position to make these connections happen and our product and service locator is an excellent tool to facilitate this process. If you are a dealer or service provider, and this service sounds like something you could use, contact us today and get signed up. Simply visit us at www.boatliftanddock.com.
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