Web Site Survey Results Raise Questions

DETROIT - What if you threw a Web site survey party and nobody came? When a metro Detroit HVACR contractor group polled its members about their Web sites, very few took time to respond.

A total of 193 members of the Association of Service & Mechanical Contractors (ASAM) of Southeast Michigan were sent a one-page fax with four questions:

1. Does your company have a Web site?

2. If yes, how long have you had a Web site?

3. Has your Web site generated actual sales?

4. Please offer your comments about the pluses and minuses of establishing and maintaining a company Web site.

Members were also asked if they would like to hyperlink their Web site to the ASAM Web site (www.asamsem.org).

A total of eight responses came back from the questionnaire. Frank Versagi, ASAM's managing director, said it was the lowest number of replies to any survey sent out by ASAM.

"I think there is an unrealistic expectation about what a business Web site can accomplish for businesses," said Versagi. "I have conducted surveys in which contractors said they felt a difference when they stopped advertising in the Yellow Pages or discontinued direct mail or stopped exhibiting in local and regional trade shows.

"I have never heard a contractor say he feels he has lost business because he does not have a Web site."

Modern Technology?

Versagi blames a lack of interest in Web sites on the lack of desire to keep up with the technological curve. He said that up until a year-and-a-half ago, one of his most successful members was still using DOS on his computer and that, in order to serve him, Versagi had to keep a computer with a 5-1/4-inch disk drive.

"What's operating here is the real-life experiences of a lot of businesses, small and large," he said. "They too often find that upgrading results in the electronic equivalent of buying a washing machine with eight computer-controlled cycles, of which almost no one uses more than two."

Of the eight responses, seven members said they have Web sites, all of them in the range of one to five years old. Two of the seven said that their Web site generated sales, although one responded, "but not many."

Five of the seven offered comments:

  • "We've received inquiries from around the world. [We find] that the Web site is often the source used by new clients to find our products and/or our company."

  • "The pluses are that people can look and find your company just as easy as in the Yellow Pages, yet get more detailed descriptions of the company. The minuses are that [searching] can be very time consuming."

  • "I haven't found any pluses yet. The minuses are that [the Web site] becomes outdated and it costs money to make changes. We used two separate designers, and both are no longer available."

  • "Potential and existing clients can check you out at their convenience, and we encourage them to. We've had thousands of hits."

  • "[The Web site] makes no difference as far as generating work, but it sure looks nice on the trucks and business cards!"

    Versagi expanded on some of the minuses. "With a Web site, as with other software, people find the time, money, and effort of the learning curve is seldom cost-justified."

    Versagi noted that most contractors will not set up the company Web site themselves, but will pay someone to set up the site for them. However, they seldom pay that person to keep the site updated, he indicated, because the person is not involved in the daily flow of the business and doesn't know what to update and "the lack of actual business generated by the site makes the effort and cost at best questionable."

    Versagi said that a contractor's "comfort level" often dictates his or her use of the Internet. "These same guys use computerized bidding/estimating software and accounting and contact tracking - anything that doesn't require them to personally update," he said. "Still, many of them avoid or ignore e-mail; they prefer faxes. They don't bother to check their e-mail.

    "Reading a paper print, reading a book, or reading a set of specs can all be done sitting back and in a relaxed position. Doing it on a computer means leaning into your work. It is just not as comfortable."

    Maybe that's one of the main reasons why 185 out of 193 ASAM members didn't respond to the Web site survey.

    Publication date: 03/22/2004

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