Location, Location, Location

Tom Snyder photo by Tom Snyder on May 23, 2003

There's an old adage that the three most important things that contribute to the success of a business are location, location, location. While that is not totally accurate, it is true enough that it should be a major consideration when determining the location of a new business.

A perfect example of this is unfolding in my suburban Milwaukee hometown where there are a lot of businesses popping up on the main drag right off the freeway. All the usual suspects are already there...Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's, Stein's, McDonald's, Burger King, and Appleby's. But with all the prime spots having been taken, the growth is now being forced to happen at the "fringes." Part of this growth consists of a small strip mall located on a dead end street a few blocks off the beaten path. Unfortunately, this mall is just far enough away from the main traffic patterns that its history has been a recurring cycle of grand openings and store closing sales.

In a few months, there will be yet another new business trying to make a go of it. And this one won't even be in the strip mall, but rather a free standing store, several blocks even further off the main highway. Of course there's no doubt about the future of that business.

I can guarantee that this store will flourish. Surprised? Don't be. This store is a new Home Depot. And not only will it do fine, but its success will actually help the strip center because the dead end road will now be opened up as an additional entrance to The Home Depot.

So what does this have to do with Web sites?

Several of our customers are struggling with the dilemma of how to drive traffic to their site. The answer to their question is found in the above scenario.

Many businesses mistakenly regard their Web site as merely a promotional tool or marketing piece. While that's partially correct, smart companies realize that their Web site is actually a bona fide business location...an actual place where business transactions take place and relationships are built. And because it's a business location, the three most important things to contribute to its success are location, location, location.

Some would argue that point with the contention that EVERY Web site in on a "main drag." Haven't we always called it the information superhighway?

Unfortunately, many Web sites are difficult to find. And so quite to the contrary, they actually find themselves on the Internet equivalent of a strip mall on a dead end, several blocks off the Information Superhighway.

So how do you make sure your Web site has an Internet location that's the equivalent of a high traffic, prime piece of Real Estate?

According to a recent survey, over 65% of all Web site visitors get to Web sites by simply typing in its URL. That means that if you've done the hard work and made the significant investment to make your brand top of mind, your job is easier. You already have a great location.

When people know your brand, they don't need to do a search for your keywords. People know you, your name and what you do/sell/provide. Findability isn't an issue…if your Web site IS your name you're easy to get to… It's just like seeing your sign off in the distance when they're looking for you. They'll find their way to you because your brand actually creates the location. People just type in target.com, homedepot.com, sears.com, etc. thus putting you right on the main drag. Even if they get close, they'll still find you, because they're looking for you (like the Home Depot just off the main drag)… walmart.com and wal-mart.com BOTH will get you to the Walmart Web site. The same is true of both kmart.com and k-mart.com.

But what if you don't have a strong brand? Or what if your Web address isn't exactly your name? Unfortunately, that puts you in the Internet equivalent of a small business in a dead end strip mall. But that doesn't mean you can't be successful. If you just make sure that whatever IS your Web site address is on anything and everything that comes from your company, promotional, administrative or peripheral, you increase your chances of having someone coming directly to your online location. URL's on E-mail and print newsletters, Radio, TV ads, counter cards, online product registration that send people to your site directly help build your site and your traffic by building your brand.

Of course some businesses will try to use search engines to compensate for low brand awareness. That same survey shows that only 13% of the people on the Web find their way to a Web site through search engines. While not the majority, it still represents a significant number. People don't use search engines to find you, they use search engines to find a specific product or service. If you've done the hard work and made the significant investment to make your product show up near the top of the list that comes up when they search for your product or service, they'll become aware of your existence.

Clicking on the link accomplishes the equivalent of actually getting them to come to your location. And if the first thing they see when they click on the link is a page on your site that confirms that you offer what they're looking for, with a way of doing business that meets their needs, you may have a customer.

Of course, a click is easier than a drive across town. So, if you fall short of their expectations, don't have what they're looking for, or fail to provide the customer service necessary to consummate the goal of the business relationship, it's easier for them to leave and go to your competitor…and if you're relying on your placement in the search engines, you're just one of several (or several thousand) possible vendors all displayed on the Internet in big list. It's almost as if all your competitors were in the same strip mall, and you're giving your customers an opportunity to go door to door to find the best price/selection/quality, etc. But top position in the list makes you the first one they visit, and thus gives you the prime location.

There's one last way that people find their way to your Web location. It's the equivalent of people driving down the newly opened road to Home Depot, and seeing your business. It's a link to your site on someone else's Web site. 21% of Web site visitors come via those links. Of course, the more logical the association, the more likely people will be to go to your site. For instance, if you're a small local rental car company, a link to your site on your friend's tool and die Web site (which may be free) will not be as effective as a link on a local hotel or convention and visitor's bureau site (which may cost you money).

It's location, location, location. And just like in the brick and mortar world, the quality of your location is determined by how much you're willing to invest. There are no shortcuts, no free rides. When jockeying for a great location either based on geography or top of mind awareness, the best location always requires a greater investment.

However, if you're willing to do the work and make the investment, your location will produce three results: success, success and success!

- Tom Snyder
President and Founder of Trivera Interactive

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