It’s no big surprise that the majority of my design business thrives on national and international clients. Having a presence on the web will do that for you – your business is found by people from all over the world. If you run a design shop – your experience is probably much the same as mine, in that regard.
But when is the last time you turned your focus locally to build business relationships? There is probably a virtual landmine of business opportunities right in your own hometown that you are possibly overlooking when your focus is global.
I live in a small town in Wisconsin called West Bend. We have an estimated 32,000 population here and its a thriving city with many small businesses. I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that nice website design is not a concept that has touched this city very much at all – – most small business in my community have really poor websites. Take the Official website of the City of West Bend for example and you’ll see what I mean! These poor guys are in desperate need of someone, who knows what they are doing, to step in and take control of that beast!
Here’s an example from an experience I had last week:
My husband, Chris, and I like to fish. We consider it stress relief. We’re not serious fisherme…er.. fisherpeople, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I’ve been a fishing enthusiast since before I knew how to walk. My Great-Grandpa Ame taught me all about the art of fishing on the banks of the Mississippi where we would fish for bullhead and catfish. Then we’d go camping in Iowa where I’d learn how to reel in perch, sunfish and crappie. By the time I was 7 years old – I was baiting my own hook, reeling in my catch, removing the fish from the hook all by myself – – not bad for a girl! Though, I never did catch on to the art of cleaning the fish. Seriously, I would mangle those poor things into unrecognizable pieces that could only be described later, at the dinner table, as fish nuggets.
A couple times a week, Chris and I drop what we’re doing and head out to fish for a few hours. It’s quiet and peaceful and it doesn’t require a computer – which is a bonus! When we’re just fishing for fun – we’ll go down to the Milwaukee River with a fishing pole, a hook, a bobber and some nightcrawlers and pull in bullheads, carp, catfish and bluegills. Since I was a kid, the general rule of thumb for fishing in the Milwaukee River is that you don’t eat what you catch – – just don’t risk it. So we practice the whole catch-and-release method of fishing there. When we want to do some serious fishing – we’ll head out to Big Cedar Lake or Little Cedar Lake to fish for walleye, bass and northern pike.
Back to my story about local design work…. recently, we’ve decided we’d get a little more serious about chasing the big and small mouth bass in the area. We needed to learn and read a little about different techniques and equipment that other experienced bass fisherman have had with bass in the area. So I, naturally, turned to the internet. I found a great deal of information by just typing the keywords “Bass fishing for beginners” in Google and spent a few hours just reading about it.
Armed with that information – I now had the names and types of lures to use for bass fishing.. so I turned to Google again and searched for local bait and tackle shops where we could go pick up some of this stuff.
I found a great looking Bait and Tackle shop right here in town – – not 10 minutes away from our front door! Based on the information presented in their website – – they have a great selection of everything we’re looking for… including free advice on where the fish are biting and different locations that work best for area fisherman. Ready to become pros at this bass fishing thing, yesterday, Chris and I drove out to Main Street to find this place, so that we could spend an unnecessary amount of money on spinners, crainkbaits, jigs and other things we probably don’t need. (I’m sure bass will hit a worm just as easily as they’d hit a spinner, but we were getting serious now, you know).
We approached the address and pulled into the parking lot and were face-to-face with a Mexican grocery store. Confused, we looked around the area to see if maybe we had the address wrong, and couldn’t see the place. So, I picked up my cell and called the phone number that was listed on their website to see if I could get the address to their new location.
A recorded voice told me “the number you are trying to reach has been disconnected.” Damn.
So, off we went … we headed out to Little Cedar Lake and fished with minnows and nightcrawlers, figuring we’d have to wait a few more days for our professional bass fishing to begin… at least until we found another tackle shop that carried the lures we have been dreaming about.
Later that evening, I looked at the bait and tackle shops website again. I noticed an email address in the bottom left corner of the site and decided to drop them an email. Just a courtesy, mind you – – requesting that they remove their website, since they are clearly out of business and how mildly irritating it was to drive to their location only to find that they are no longer there.
To my surprise, the next day – I got a reply! “Jim” told me that they are not out of business — they’ve just moved their store location to a smaller city called Port Washington (which is about a 15 minute drive east of here). “Jim” went on to explain that they have contacted the company who hosts their site and asked to have the site updated to reflect the new information – – but it’s been out of date for several months, as they have not heard back from their hosting company…and the site cannot be updated without them.
Of course, I could not resist. Seriously – – could you resist?
I wrote him back and explained what business I am in and how I could easily set him up with a website that would enable him to have control over his own changes. I explained how, with a content management system like WordPress, he could update his website daily…HOURLY if he wanted to – – and he wouldn’t have to be dependent upon a third party company to make those updates for him. He could keep his website updated with the information that his clients, and potential clients, need to know – – little things like, oh..I don’t know…. new store locations, perhaps??
See, having an up to date website isn’t just important for the big guys. These little small town business thrive on the locals to keep them in business. If I hadn’t emailed “Jim” – I would have just walked away thinking that the bait and tackle shop had gone out of business completely, and would have taken my business elsewhere… probably to one of those big, corporate sports shops. I would not have assumed they just up and moved their store to a different location.
More and more, even locally, people turn to the web to find information on what is available in their local area. It was a thrill for us to find a nice locally owned store so close by – – and it was a let down to drive there and find that it was now a Mexican grocery. Nothing against Mexican grocers – – but I’m not sure how well tamales work for bass bait!
We’ll see if “Jim” takes my bait (ha!) — I hope he does though! I seriously wouldn’t mind trading design services for some Lake Michigan fishing charter trips! 🙂
Update: I heard back from ‘Jim’ tonight. We have a meet scheduled this week to discuss the business of hosting and redoing his entire website set up. He also referred me to a Lake Michigan Fishing Charter that he works with and they want to launch a brand new website, as well. Being a cranky website visitor pays off in the end..ha!