NE1 Ready for a Tech Trek? By Kim Phelan
Article Date: 10-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
YSK (you should know), online customer interaction is the wave of the future.
I have joined the texting revolution, along with many other 40-and-much-older-than-me-year-olds – and not necessarily with the purest business motives at heart, although my first texting attempt did occur (and fail) in a business context some 18 months ago. After that brief baptism into a communication world where, literally, we are all thumbs, I began observing a metamorphosis within my own family dynamics: My teenagers, texting professionals, were no longer answering phone calls I placed to their cell phones – but if I send them a text, bam, instant reply!Thus was I drawn in to the next plane of hyper-connectivity. And let’s not even go into the complex dialect of acronyms and abbreviations one must master as a texter. I bring up the subject of technology – albeit one small dimension – in order to share some thoughts that distribution consultant Adam Fein presented during AED’s Executive Forum last month. Fein is clearly a big advocate of technology and using tech tools to maximize business efficiencies – and all the more so during a slowdown. In fact, he emphasizes that distributors’ aim in strategic use of technology now should be to position their companies for the next boom.Your customers, says Fein, are well connected individuals and companies, and we’re not talking about rich uncles or influential politicians here. Fein has conducted research showing that 21 percent of contractor customers use their equipment distributor’s Web site to acquire product information; 37 percent use e-mail with their distribution reps, and 12 percent obtain online tech support from their distributor’s Web site. I grant you that these figures are not overwhelming, but Fein insists that they will increase steadily.In his Executive Forum message, he strongly urged dealers to become a part of another tech revolution: Online communities. I checked one out that he mentioned called HeavyEquipmentForums.com where end users post questions, jobsite and machine-operation challenges, as well as – and here’s where you come in – ideas and solutions. What benefits could you reap by showing up as a registered participant in this kind of virtual information depot and positioning yourself as a solution-provider? (Without becoming a sales pitch.)According to Fein, more and more equipment end users will continue to gravitate toward these sites for answers and information. They will also continue to use the Internet as a means for finding new equipment to purchase and rent, as well as for locating used equipment bargains. Therefore, it is more important than ever for your company’s Web site to be ‘findable’ and useable for every conceivable need a customer may have.Fein gave dealer executives a homework assignment, challenging them to (A) Google their own companies to make sure they’re actually popping up and not their competitors; (B) determine that when equipment users find them, they can figure out what to do next; and (C) become aware of other online customer resources. I couldn’t resist part of this challenge: I Googled 55 dealer companies that had registered early for Executive Forum and found that with only a few exceptions AED-member dealers consistently pop up as the No. 1 search result when their company name only is entered. Interestingly, in three instances AED’s strong Google positioning caused companies to pop up when their own Web sites did not – one company showed up at the top of the second Google results page as a registered attendee of AED’s Executive Forum! Others that did not materialize on their own appeared on Google because of the AEDAuthorized.com Web site and AED’s MachineMart.com used equipment site. Now, what customers are able to do on your site once they get there is up to you.Drop me an e-mail if you are blazing new trails in online customer encounters – or better yet, text me! Thanks for reading.
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