Turning away free business

One of the things I love about the iPhone is the integrated Google maps application. It’s great for local search. Although the content is pretty poor in the Netherlands compared to the Gouden Gids, it’s readily available on the phone and once you do find something, it’s easy to add the contact into your phone with name, address and telephone number all in there.

Recently, I was looking for a fridge for three months, so I thought I’d call up Boels Verhuur. These guys rent out almost anything. Although they focus on the B2B market, they do a lot of business for consumers too. So I search for Boels Verhuur and get a few hits near my house. I call up the first one and he says “Boels in Leiderdorp. Ohhhh – you’re probably looked for us in Google, right? No, this is Boels in blahblahblah, you need to call this number”. I call that number, and I get the answer “Yes, we’re Boels in Leiderdorp, but we don’t rent out fridges, you need our affiliate Party Business”. Well, to cut a long story short, it takes five different phone calls and two mistaken website searches before I find the affiliate which rents out fridges. I reckon 5% of the business leads that come in this way will get through the funnel before they even look at the products and services available.

It has become a small and medium business imperative to have a single place that lists correct uptodate contact information alongside the most important brand, product and service information. To ensure that it is really uptodate and correct, the control of the information needs to be in the hands of the only people who really know that: the business itself. The business will automatically be ranked more highly because the information is unique and fresh. Ideally, this page will also list out aggregated opinions on the business and opinions on the products and services that the business delivers (which is what people will often be searching for), and do so in a way that allows the growing volume of people searching semantically to find the reviews and contact details directly.

Perhaps this will also be the page that paid search traffic is directed to and for which the business gets regular and clear reporting. But these are secondary to having a single place for your uptodate business information that is easily found organically.

It’s a small investment to get lots of free business leads. It’s also a small investment to avoid the Boels Verhuur experience above. It was particularly frustrating that the business itself knows and recognises that it has an issue — probably from the volume of leads coming in to the wrong place — but has not taken the simple steps needed to fix it.

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