Research shows that small businesses that utilize technology perform better than those that don’t. Cloud services, analytics, and mobile technologies allow small businesses to cut costs, better connect to new and existing customers, and also gain market share. The Internet has shifted the competition from the business to the consumer and businesses that fail to empower the customer risk losing them to the competition. The gap between small businesses that use technology and those that don’t, will widen in 2014, making it difficult for those that don’t utilize technology to catch up to their tech savvy competitors.
As Michael Garrity noted in an article on Entrepreneur.com:
Armed with a tablet and a few key apps, today’s small businesses can tweet the day’s specials, process a customer’s credit card, run a complex loyalty program, manage payroll and much more. These new tools are ubiquitous, inexpensive, simple to use and make it easier than ever to compete…
Also, as new dive centers enter the market, the owners are coming in with eyes wide open and probably are ahead of you when it comes to technology – if you are not willing to sharpen your technology saw, you may become part of the “out of business but just don’t know it yet” group.
Here are four action steps you need to take to get on the right side of the growing digital divide in marketing your dive center:
Update Your Website
Your website should be optimized for mobile devices and the content should be interactive. A potential customer should be able to bring your website up on his smartphone or tablet and either dial the store’s phone number or sign up for a dive course by downloading PDF forms, filling them out, and sending them back to you.
Utilize Cloud Services
Affiliate with a training agency that offers on-line training via the cloud or e-Learning. Besides providing academic content, e-Learning programs offer digital e-books that complement the on-line content, interactive PDFs for all required forms, virtual record keeping for each student, and digital c-cards. While the dive shop down the street requires new students to visit the store to register for and participate in the academic portion of any course, new students can gain access to your courses via the web and cloud, 24/7. The same e-Learning system allows you to monitor their progress, evaluate their knowledge, and even process their certification once they complete in-water training.
Start a You Tube page
The growth of video as a marketing tool is unprecedented. What can convey the underwater world and the adventure associated with exploring it better than a video? Nothing. You should be using visual imagery via short-form videos to reach and attract new customers. Also, you can create videos for course orientations, dive gear demonstrations, and travel spots to actively engage potential and existing customers. Also, don’t forget about sharing photos and video from your open water dives and trips via your own mobile device to Instagram or Facebook.
Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Google Analytics is a free service (a paid premium version is available) offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about your website’s traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and sales. Also, innovative solutions specific to the dive industry, such as those offered by Visible Divers, Inc., enable dive centers to track inventory and sales and conduct business from anywhere. You need to know your numbers so you can know how your business is performing.
Remember the Internet has shifted the competition from the business to the consumer and businesses that fail to empower the customer risk losing them to the competition. As you read this, your competitor is using cloud services, analytics, and mobile technologies to cut costs, better connect to new and existing customers, and gain market share. And, the market share they are gaining, they may be taking from you.
This is Part 1 of a five-part series by Patrick Abercrombie on the challenges facing dive retailers in the coming year. See a complete list of the articles in this series or read the series introduction.