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
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.