||Tired of "maintaining" your SCUBA website? If
you feel this way it means that you are working for your website
rather than making your website work for you. If you have "surfed"
around the Internet, you've probably seen the likes of Amazon.com
Two popular websites for shopping and travel. The dawn of the
information revolution is upon us already. Uninterrupted "self-service"
is the name of the game and caters to a population that is increasingly
Internet-savvy. Has this technology reached the SCUBA industry?
Barely. Do you want to cater to a diving population that is
increasingly Internet-savvy that wants to be pampered and spends
considerable amounts yearly on diving trips? If your answer
is yes, read on, here are some tips to make your website turn
from an electronic brochure into an e-commerce website.
Put your website on the map
The first order of business is to make sure that people can
find your website. To do this, you have to make your website
be "crawled" by the major search engines like Google,
MSN. This makes
sure that your website is found whenever somebody searches for
certain keywords, like "dive operator Cozumel" or "SCUBA Hawaii",
for example. All of these sites have submission pages, so that
you can add your site to their "crawl" list. Your local tourism
association, travel guides and SCUBA guides are other places
where you should consider adding a link. Some of them require
a nominal fee. If you are located at a popular dive destination,
it is most likely that your next customer will come from another
country or even another continent. That is why you should have
a presence on the Internet. On a recent survey I conducted,
when asked "how do you pick a dive operator?" 67% of respondents
said they get recommendations from buddies and 27% said they
make an Internet search and check the dive operator's website.
Even after getting a recommendation from a buddy, the first
thing they do is checking the website, which is found most probably
by ... you guest it, using a search engine.
Make your site work for you 24x7x365
Your site is up 24 hours a day, every day of the year already,
why not use it as a way to provide continuous customer service?
Posting an updated schedule of weekly or monthly excursions
or classes is one way to serve your customers. This way, they
don't have to call in to check the schedule or come in to check
your schedule on the board. As a result, you end up saving your
employees' time that otherwise might be used answering phone
calls. This will save you on phone bills too. Once you have
your schedule posted on your site, a next step is to take reservations
online. You can start by providing a simple form that allows
your customers to fill out contact information and preferences.
You can take a step further and take payments online using services
which is a popular service that allows your customers to charge
their credit cards on your website. This will give you the advantage
of keeping an accurate record of prepaid customers and will
avoid those "non-paying customers" who might have
slipped through the cracks. With Paypal you also have the ability
to "hold" a charge and do the actual funds transfer
after you provide the service.
Get the word out on the Internet
Technology has made targeted advertising affordable to even
small businesses nowadays. Google has an innovative ad syndication
program where you can register to display an ad on a relevant
website based on a set of keywords. The service is called Google
AdWords. For example, you register to show an ad of your
website based on the keyword "Scuba Cozumel", then, any content-oriented
website that displays Google ads, like a SCUBA-oriented bulletin
board, could display your ad. Let's say that on that bulletin
board somebody discusses "SCUBA" and "Cozumel" and that's how
your ad might be displayed. You really don't have control of
when and where your ad is going to show, but it will be within
relevant context. You do have; however, control of how many
times the ad is displayed and how much money you spend per month.
Since this program is increasingly popular on the Internet,
you maximize your chances that your ad will be displayed on
a relevant page somewhere on the Internet.
Start developing a computerized profile of your prospects and customers
If you have regulars, you know about your customers better than
anybody else: their training, their interests and their equipment
needs. Your chances to compete online with a major online SCUBA
retailer like leisurepro.com
are probably very slim. However, you have the advantage of being
able to add the "personal touch" to your customers. If you keep
a record of their training level and their interest, you might
have a good chance to sell them on equipment. If you have a
form on your website already, this is a good way to start a
profile of your regular customers or prospects. Keep that information
around it can be useful for promotions, and merchandising.
Use the "buddy system" to your advantage
Having a physical storefront or a virtual storefront on the
Internet is not a recipe for success anymore. In order to compete
you need to use every tool available to promote your business.
One such tool is the "buddy system", which is essential in SCUBA
diving. When we got our open water training, they told us to
never do SCUBA without a buddy, so it is very likely that any
SCUBA diver will have a circle of "buddies". So, use this for
marketing promotions. Make sure that your customers refer you
to their buddies and give them incentives to do so. You can
use a simple form on your website or use an online referal service
This is called "viral marketing".
By following these tips you will
be on your way to make your website not a just a brochure, but
an e-commerce site that works continuously for you. New divers
coming into the market are Internet-savvy, and as such, they
like practical and time-saving solutions for travel, shopping
and SCUBA diving. Join the myriad of industries that are already
on the Internet or you will be soon left behind.
Links of interest: