The new phone book - Businesses pack a lot of info onto the Web to boost clientele

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“The new phone book - Businesses pack a lot of info onto the Web to boost clientele”

RELEASE DATE: 01/04/2008

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AT Web Results (Tim Wickstrom) Interviewed for Register Star Article
By Thomas V. Bona - BusinessRockford.com

For Deanna Wiersma, dinner is often a click away.

A couple of times a month, the Belvidere resident uses the Web to order meals from Menu Makers (MenuMakersInc.com) in Loves Park. She picks them up, then takes them home to heat and eat.

"Her Web site is awesome because you can go on there, pick out what you want, pay ahead of time," Wiersma said. "People are busy. If you have a large family and you work a lot, you don't have time."

Luke Lefevre of Rockford uses the Web to read restaurant menus to help him decide where to go to eat.

"I work on a computer all day, so if I'm looking for a phone number, it's easier for me to hit the browser and do a Google search instead of reaching for a phone book," he said. "When I look at a Web site, most of the information they want me to have is on there. It's kind of like the new phone book."

Local retailers and service providers are increasingly going to the Web to promote their wares. They're finding it's often a cheaper way to reach more eyes, particularly in the coveted 18-to-35 age demographic. Besides, they say, it seems everybody else is doing it.

"It adds credibility to your company to have a Web site. If someone doesn't know you, they find you through a link," said Brent Meade, president of Gruno's Diamonds (Grunos.com) in Rockford, which takes orders from around the country. "If your Web site is half working and half not, does that make them think maybe your business is like that?"

Megan Wadleigh, owner of 5 Spa in Rockford, has had her site (5Spa.com) for four years. She gets frequent visitors through the corporate Web site of Aveda, the Minnesota company whose products 5Spa sells. During the Christmas rush, when husbands try to pick out gifts for their wives, Wadleigh directs them to her Web site to get the information they need.

She also uses the Web to pick restaurants, spas and other service providers when she's traveling to other states.

"I knew what services I wanted, I just didn't know what they looked like or if it was in my price range," she said. "You don't really want to always call people if you're trying to make a decision between one or more places."

Wadleigh would like to offer online reservations and purchasing of gift certificates.
Rockford-area residents also can use the Web to look at car dealer inventories or schedule dry cleaning. Even to set up boarding or grooming at the Airport Pet Lodge (AirportPetLodge.com) in Rockford.

"Every day, more and more business owners are realizing that a Web presence is 100 percent necessary in today's marketplace," said Tim Wickstrom, president of Web-design firm AT Web Results (ATWebResults.com) in Rockford, which has been in business for three years and has more than 50 clients.

"In the beginning, like any new business owner, I was worried where the next project was going to come from," he said. "It was like pulling teeth getting clients. Now it's like I have to be selective."

Professionally created sites can start at $1,000, but the price can quickly go up, depending on features and the complexity of the site.

That's why it's important for business people to think seriously about what they want a Web site to do for them, said Chris Kelley, director of internet development for KMK Media Group (KMK

Media.com) in Rockford. But even a simple site that helps people get information quickly and easily – be it on their computer or cell phone – can help a business, he said.

Some local business owners say they've not seen a big uptick in business from their Web sites but think they might in the future.

Anne Rasakit, general manager of Thai Basil (ThaiBasilOnline.com) in Belvidere, hopes the site will help drum up business when a new location opens in Machesney Park next month. Her site offers a menu form that customers can print out and fax.

Ann Murphy, co-owner of Fringe Salon in Rockford (Fringe-Salon.com) has learned one of the big lessons of having a Web site: It's key to get your name high in the search engine results. A Google search of Fringe Salon calls up ones in New York and Chicago well before the Rockford business.

But Murphy said it has drawn some local customers who might not otherwise drive past and see her store.

On the other hand, Rockford restaurant Josef-Barbados (JosefBarbados.com) finds that the Web site helps bring in customers from as far away as Chicago and Madison, Wis.

"They call when they're making reservations and will ask questions that will come from stuff they've seen on the Web site," manager Valerie Olafson said. "It's another form of advertising. ... The Web site should be a reflection of the business."

Staff writer Thomas V. Bona may be contacted at 815-987-1343 or tbona@rrstar.com.

ARTICLE COURTESY OF THE ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE ARTICLE

Posted On: 01/04/2008 | Comments [0]


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