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March 2011
Add a Third Dimension to Your Marketing and Business Presence
By Marcia Merrill

New Marketing Technology Brings Customers to Your Front Door!

     No matter the type of business, service or retail, large or small, cutting edge or old school, all business owners have a lot in common. They think personnel issues, cash flow, taxes, sales—all issues that require constant attention. But what about marketing?

     Too often business owners overlook ways to promote their businesses. It may be a lack of knowledge, or a lack of time, or just not enough money. It is a shame, because it may ease so many of the other problems they are busy dealing with. It is important to growing a business and keeping up with the competition to have a solid marketing approach in place.

     “Traditional” marketing methods utilize more indirect methods to pursue both short and long range objectives.  But all that has changed.  The new media marketing tools available, and the ease with which they can be employed, provide real-time promotional advantages and directly to the consumer.

      It is hard to keep up. And yet, new marketing opportunities continue to appear. With millions of people on the Web every day, and the Internet now a trillion dollar industry, it would be foolish not to try and harness technology to your advantage, no matter the size of your business.

 

Finding Your Place

     You may not even realize that the world of marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years. Think back to the days when you had to learn about a business without looking at their website. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Now, most every company has an online presence.

     These days, the term “Google it” is synonymous with any search done online. Being “findable” online is increasingly important. Here are some interesting statistics that you may not be aware of:

     • Google is the most popular search engine globally (84.8%) followed distantly by Yahoo, Baidu, Bing, and Ask. (comScore.com);

     • 43% of all searches on Google are related to searches for local services or businesses. (comScore.com)

     • 97% of consumers use the Internet to find and research products or services in their local area. (The Kelsey Group)

     • 82% of people performing an online local search follow-up via an online inquiry, phone call or visit to an offline local business. (Local Marketing Source)

     It is clear that an increasing number of your prospective customers are searching the Internet to decide which local businesses to spend their money with. Not long ago, Google, being the largest collector of usage data, recognized this upward trend toward local searches and created Google Places. A Google Places informational listing is free and available to all business owners. When you do an online search, Google will show local results first from local businesses, including Google Places listings.

      So, right away, there’s one free avenue of promotion. Entering a description of your business, contact information, hours, brochures, videos and even coupons not only are helpful to your prospective customer, they also serve to increase your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). If you optimize your Google Places page properly, and can be found by local consumers, you’ve got the battle half-won.

     Google Places is one piece of this new marketing smorgasbord—Google Places integrates not only with all Google searches, but with Google Maps and Google Earth. Google Earth adds a third dimension to Places and Maps by supporting geospatial applications “popping” right out of a map at you. Alongside the increasing use of smartphones (estimated to reach 51% of the marketplace this year) with their Global Positioning Systems (GPS) feature, information about your business can actually “push” customers to your door!

 

Earth to Google! Come in…

     The use of Google Earth has grown tremendously, but still so many people just use it to marvel at the sight of their own home or the neighborhood where they grew up. But imagine displaying your business on Google Earth as a 3D model and/or geo website and tying it to your other marketing materials as an enhanced local marketing strategy.

     If you look at your business on Google Earth (merely input the address), you will see it looks flat, just like the satellite photo. What kind of impression does that make? Just think if you could really show your locations and what is going on inside! Wouldn’t it be great to bring your customers directly to your front door? They could get a much better sense about your business and your capacity to meet their needs. Maybe you would like to take them on a tour to learn more about your business and then invite them to visit in person.

     Google Earth is supporting the use of new development tools, from the basic 3D building depiction to entire geo websites featuring digital media. Such media can include tours of your facility, 360 spin tours of your showroom, images of your products, a video of the business owner talking about the business, product brochures, you name it—literally any of the marketing materials you have developed to date.

     Furthermore, you can add geo layers of information to the geo website to show geographically relevant information—all your area car washes, tax preparation offices, medical clinics, nearby restaurants—whatever is appropriate to your business. You could also add layers to show customer locations to refine your marketing plans or servicing routes, or show your distributors to better route transportation routes.

     You begin to see the potential—you can bring your customers directly to your virtual doorstep for an enhanced experience learning about you and your business and use the information you developed through using it to refine your business operations at the same time.

      Best of all, all of these new tools, from the 3D building models to the layered geo websites, can be plugged into your homepage or hosted as a standalone application available by QR code that can be placed on websites, business cards, brochures, slide presentations, any type of hard media.

 

Get Down to Business on Google Earth!

     Let’s see how this works.

     The first step is to have your business location constructed as a 3D model by a Google Certified 3D Developer. This model will be a realistic 3-D presentation of your building exterior in a high- resolution high-quality image that literally pops-up in its location on Google Earth. Now, your business is ready to stand out in the marketplace!

     You can create as many 3D buildings and/or geo websites as you have offices or locations or buildings—as long as it has a distinct GPS coordinates.

      Fay Gibson, marketing director of the Hampton Inn SouthPark at Phillips Place, recently launched a 3D building and geo website for the hotel.  It shows within Google Earth and is posted as a plugin on the hotel’s homepage. She comments, “We are thrilled to have the first 3D building image in SouthPark! It turned out so nicely and shows up so many of our quality assets. It will be a great marketing tool—especially integrating it via QR code with our hard copy materials.”

     “The building is easy to navigate, showing the pool area, patio and available parking. We also added a 360 tour of the interior showcasing our amenities. On a separate layer, we were able to show the shops in Phillips Place relative to our location. On additional layers, we show Charlotte restaurants, shopping malls, destinations of interest, and sporting event venues. Essentially, it is a virtual concierge for our guests and a convincing presentation for prospective guests.”

      These new marketing technologies are particularly well-suited to hotels, malls, amusement parks, resorts, tourist attractions, and the like, where people are interested in the particulars of the destination. They are also of value to other businesses.

     Real estate companies are fascinated with the application of this technology to their business activities. It is a great way to show properties, inside and out, and exactly where they are positioned in a neighborhood. Prospective homebuyers can take their online home shopping to a much higher level.

     Tommy Lawing, of T.R. Lawing Realty, a leading local property management firm known for being very tech savvy, is very excited about the new technology. Lawing’s firm manages nearly 3,000 properties. He sees a great opportunity to show prospective clients not only the available rental properties, but the surrounding areas, including amenities and retail conveniences.

      “What a great tool, especially for people planning a move to Charlotte. It really is the best kind of armchair shopping,” Lawing observed.

     The same is true for commercial real estate. 3D building models will show the exact and relative locations of available space, and can be detailed down to the blueprint specs!

     Think about a hospital system or insurance group. 3D building models offer a way to show locations and provide information on hospitals facilities and clinics within an entire network or region as well as providing directions and showing accessible parking. In addition, it could alleviate some of the stress that accompanies a visit such as “Where do I park?” and “What entrance do I use?”

     Think about retail shops and galleries, where the ability to show exterior and interior shots may be the deciding factor to potential visitors. Think about a water distribution company who can plot customers on a geo website layer and plan better distribution routes. Think about an office machine retailer who can do the same and plan better service routes. Think about a publication which could do the same and analyze its distribution pattern.

     The business applications of this new geospatial dimension are endless for forward–thinking business owners. 3D building models and/or geo websites on Google Earth offer us new and faster ways to find local businesses and products and a new way to market our own. Personally, as both a small business owner and a consumer, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

     Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Places, and all references to Google are copyrights of Google.

     Content contributed by Marcia Merrill, marketing maven of Red Rover Communications, a strategic marketing and public relations firm helping area companies grow by providing them with customized marketing solutions. For more information, contact her at 704-364-0084 or visit www.redrovercommunications.com.

Marcia Merrill is a Charlotte based freelance writer.
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