Where is the Phone Book when we need it?

Not too long ago, the most effective way to advertise locally was the Phone Book, or “Yellow Pages,” as we used to call it. It was simple and you only had to worry about local advertising once a year. As a business owner, you would select the size of your business add, sign a yearly contract and that was it. The phone would ring and customers would walk in.

The size and position of your ad in your category determined how much business you would have that year. Businesses with long standing relationships with the book, and page or two-page long ads had preference over other ads in their category, but even with a small budget, any business could get in.

However, there were many disadvantages. First, you had to deal with the arrogance of the sales person. These people were not really sales people, they were order-takers with a lot of power. I remember vividly one year in the early 90’s when the owner of the business that I managed got into an argument with the Phone Book sales person. For “some reason” our add did not make the book that year. It was a painful 12-month period with very little business.  Secondly, if your advertising was placed on the wrong side of the page or on the inner lower corners, your customer traffic would be reduced.  Thirdly, there was very little you could say about your business even in the whole-page ads.

Today, Phone Books are either non-existent or irrelevant. At my home, they go from the front porch to the recycling bin in about 30 seconds flat.

Businesses today are stuck with the Internet, fliers, door-hangers, coupon books and a few local newspapers. Perhaps the Internet is the most effective way to advertise locally but definitely not the easiest or the cheapest. People type keywords in Google and if your business does not show in the first page of the search results, you basically don’t exist. So, you need to bid for the precious 10 ads appearing on the first page. As attractive as “pay per click” may sound, it is expensive and time consuming to set up a campaign. For some businesses, setting up a successful AdWords campaign and monitoring and analyzing traffic, conversions and leads can be a full time job.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, your business needs a professional website, preferably one that works well with mobile phones, a Facebook page, and pages and profiles with frequent updates in Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and updated listings in all of the online directories.

You also have to take care of what your customers, disgruntled ex-employees and competitors will post about your business on review sites like Yelp. As unbiased as Yelp and Angie’s List claim to be, one can assume that the businesses that pay them for advertising look better than the ones that don’t. Not necessarily because they will help you erase bad reviews, but because any business, regardless of their “rating,” can buy a prime position on the page.

In the social media era, we strongly believe that the power of communities dominates the Internet. For the rental industry, we are aggregating the inventories of the best rental companies into one convenient website, Rntus.com. At Rntus.com rental companies and anyone with equipment, tools, cameras, sporting equipment and party equipment can list their items for rent for free. Rntus.com also allows its users to create their own webpage and a highly sophisticated communications platform in which owners and renters can communicate with each other privately.

Rntus.com also serves as a very effective and easy inventory and reservation system. It manages security deposits, payments, extra charges, credit card fees and the entire transaction. Both owners and renters are verified and matched to each other based on their particular needs.

People searching for items to rent will find listings at Rntus.com in the first page of their Google search. For rental companies, this is a blessing as they not only get leads, but they also get confirmed and paid customers on their email. Rental companies not included in Rntus.com will have to continue managing their advertising on their own.

Just like uBer transformed the antiquated taxi industry and created thousands of income generating opportunities for individuals, Rntus.com is helping rental companies conquer the Internet and prompting individuals to make money by renting stuff they already own. Users are able to rate each other, and a community of doers, movers and shakers is growing.

Local advertising will continue to be a challenging endeavor for Rental Companies, but Rntus.com provides an effective solution that allows companies to concentrate on what they do best, provide excellent service to their renters. Rntus.com manages the advertising.

 

by: Elias Chavando

 

Online marketplaces must get in the middle of the transaction to survive.

For years classified marketplaces have survived and grown by offering simple listings of products and services. Some free, some paid. This model will not survive very long.

Yes, some marketplaces have very sophisticated methods of tracking “leads” and traffic to their advertisers’ websites, emails and phone calls. Technology, new mobile applications and new marketplaces will change the landscape. Simple listings and matchmakings based on product, price and location are now being forced to evolve.

This presents a great threat to traditional marketplaces and at the same time a huge opportunity for innovative marketplaces to get in the middle of the transaction and monetize each and every listing on their website.

Here are some ways marketplaces can get involved in the transaction beyond the listing:

  1. Verification of users. Trust is a key factor in every transaction. When I was managing the West Region of Autotrader.com, I validated the fact that people in general would rather lose 30% to 40% of their car’s value by trading it in to a car dealer than taking the risk of selling it to a complete stranger. Marketplaces can now easily verify the identity, existence and ecommerce ratings of their users with the use of technology. They can also allow each member to rate each other. Airbnb and Rntus do a good job at verifying users and keeping ratings. Of course, Airbnb is a more matured system in part because they have been around 8 years longer than Rntus, but mostly because their transactions involve a higher degree of risk by having the renter entering, sharing and sleeping in the host’s home.
  1. Offering and selling ancillary products and services.com offers trip cancellation insurance, eBay offers sellers and buyers protection coverage and Rntus is offering damage waivers and liability protection in selected products. These are great additional trust incentives for the users, but most importantly, they are great moneymakers for the marketplaces.
  1. Acting as escrow agents. Now, this is a great moneymaker for marketplaces. Imagine taking a percentage of every transaction that happens in the marketplace. This can be achieved by implementing technology and a “vault” or escrow system. The marketplace takes the money for the transaction and releases it to the seller once the transaction is completed and verified by both parties. The buyer can use Paypal or a credit card. The marketplace keeps a nice percentage. Rntus has found a way to do this. They collect the rental fees when the rental is booked and at the same time place a temporary hold on the renter’s credit card to cover the security deposits. Once the rented item is returned to its owner, Rntus releases the payment to the owner (minus a commission).
  1. Providing a higher level of matching. The simple database query that matches a keyword with the item description will not be enough very soon. It does not matter how many different and sophisticated sorting ways marketplaces offer its users. At the end of the transaction, two people will meet to exchange money and goods. Are those two people compatible?

I recently saw a television ad from my old company Autotrader.com showing the many ways that people can search, sort and store their queries to find the perfect car. I really liked the ad, and it was very well done, but could not help to acknowledge that at one point a person will walk into a car dealership and deal with a salesman who’s personality may or may not be a match for the buyer. It will not bring the car dealer better, more fitted buyers and buyers will not walk into a car dealer that best fits their personality. So the cool sorting is just that, cool sorting after an insufficient and ineffective database query result.

These are some of the ways that marketplaces can get in the middle of the transaction. The shift in direction for many marketplaces will start at the top and in many cases, owners and executives will need to step out of their comfort zone and make tough decisions. Some decisions may involve reinforcing their technology development teams with fresh blood. Not acting fast could end their market dominance or existence.

Successful marketplaces are those that allow their users to make money. The supply side, specially those people we usually refer to as “P-1” (the frequent and most active) users, are our bread and butter; they pay the bills. So, the more money our users can make, the more money we will make, especially if we get in the middle of the transaction.

Drop us a line!