The Internet doesn't affect my business

  I recently had a very interesting experience with a contracting company that had come to my house to give me an estimate on home improvements. On the day of the appointment the estimator, Jerry, came to my house and proceeded on his presentation of their products and services. I must tell you that Jerry was extremely polite, friendly, and knowledgeable, I liked him from the first minute he came to the door. Jerry took all of the needed measurements and discussed different product options with us. Once all had been gone over Jerry looked up the pricing and proceeded to create the estimate right then and there, again very impressive.

  Now I had been down to the local Home improvement center and had priced out the materials that they offered. I then guessed at the time that it would take to do the job. I figured that a contractor would much more expensive, so I took all my figures and doubled them and came up with about four thousand dollars.

  Jerry smiled as he handed me their estimate and announced the price, seventeen nine fifty. I was pleasantly surprised that the estimate was so close to the local home center, then I looked a little closer at the number. The number was actually seventeen THOUSAND nine hundred and fifty dollars. My eyes started watering. I wondered how I could have been so far off. I was totally unprepared for an estimate that was almost five times higher than my "safe" prediction. Jerry left and I felt that I needed to educate myself more about the project that I was contemplating.

  The first thing that I did was go to the Internet and lookup the website of Jerry's company. A page came back stating that the site was temporarily unavailable, like someone hadn't paid the bill or something. Being a Website designer I next checked the domain name registration records to see who owned the domain name, it wasn't this company nor were there any references to this company (like names or addresses). By now I'm starting to get concerned about the legitimacy of this company.

  Just then my phone rang and it was a representative from this company asking me to make an appointment for other work that I had told Jerry I wanted done. I mentioned to her the website problems and that she should pass this information on to the management. About five minutes later I got a call from the owner of the company who was upset because I had questioned their legitimacy.

  I explained to him that their website had a page stating that the site was unavailable, I didn't tell him that it looked like they hadn't paid their bill. I went on further to explain that the domain was listed as being owned by some completely unrelated company and that raised concern in my mind. By now he was outraged that I could question anything about him or his business. He owned the building he was in, he gets all his business from referrals, he owned all kinds of names (what ever that meant), their company was very customer focused. He went on to tell me how unreliable the internet is and that Websites go down all the time when things are being changed and so on. He explained to me that the Internet was just a marketing tool and that they did not sell anything off of their Website. He went on to say that they were not a "dot com" and that the internet did nothing for their business, the whole Internet could disappear tomorrow and it would not affect their business one bit. After this severe tongue lashing I quickly changed the subject and ended our conversation as soon as possible.

  This person who was obviously a successful business owner helped me to understand more about the Internet and our business. He really brought out some very good points and I must thank him for enlightening me, I don't think that he intended to teach the lesson that I learned but I'm grateful anyway.

  To begin with I WAS a potential customer of this company and the first thing that I did was investigate a place that they were advertising. There was nothing at this website (for over a week, I kept checking). As a consumer I look at this like a business advertising a disconnected phone number, I just assume that they having difficulty and I do not feel comfortable doing business with them.

  The first lesson is that you should not be promoting a website that does not work, or does not have relevant customer information, or just the one page under construction. Just having an Internet listing after your business name is not enough. Despite what you think, people actually use the Internet as an investigative tool. If you are going to advertise that you exist on the Internet you had better be there. No legitimate website designer or hosting company would ever have you down for days, much less a week.

  The second lesson is that your company should own your domain name and the records should state such. I don't care what your "computer person" tells you. If your company is not listed as the owner on the records you have no legal rights to the name. Would it be Ok with you if you purchased a car from someone and they didn't give you the title to the vehicle? Oh, but the person who I paid knows that I paid and they can just transfer it anytime, it's ok. Why is it that the business owner becomes so naïve when it comes to the Internet? I'm sure that when this contractor actually does work they do not show up in trucks with another construction firms name address and phone on it.

  The next lesson that I learned from this conversation was about people's misconception about dependence on the Internet. The comment from my "friend" the business owner was that they were not a "dot com" and that the whole internet could disappear. I thought about this and realized how true his statement was. If the entire Internet were to completely vanish his business would experience very little effect. The problem with this mindset is that the Internet is NOT disappearing. Your customers are using this medium to do things like investigate your "advertised" Website for products and services. They may not find you because of your Internet presence, but they may choose to not contact you or do business with you because of a bad impression that your advertisement gave.

  The truly savvy businessperson understands that this new medium, the Internet, is critical to their business' survival. Your competition will be using this new tool to enhance their business and get an edge on you. Business today is more competitive than ever and you need every tool available to remain on the playing field. Are you really sure that your Website does not mean much to your business? Your business environment is changing and you better adapt, imagine if the world were to become covered with water, you could only refuse to paddle for so long before you would eventually sink.


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Modified 09/14/2002