Local Web Firm Puts Businesses Online

Not too long ago, people would turn first to the phone book to find local services, like salons. But as the internet's grown, even small, one-store operations are saying they need to be available here to stay competitive.

EMarketSouth is a Savannah dot-com that's weathered the storm since the mid '90s, while bigger names have come and gone. These local web pros pride themselves on providing high-tech marketing solutions for local businesses.

"In the Yellow Pages, it's very stationary, it doesn't change," creative director Julianna Sukle told us. "The best thing about a website is you can always change it, it's forever moving."

Sukle spends her time helping clients, like Savannah's B Street Salon, get their message to the masses online. "We're just helping them get to where they want to be," she said. "Just like I go in to get my hair cut, I know what I want, but I don't know how to get it."

Katherine Alt, B Street's assistant manager, told us, "We really wouldn't be competitive without a website. So many people are online and it's such an easy way to get exposure."

The web is simply a new medium to express the salon's more traditional image. "You can come in and do, you can get your hair, whatever you want to do, they'll do it for you," said Sukle. "And I just wanted to be able to show people when they go to that, it's very accessible, they're very approachable."

Of course, the salon relies on customers actually coming in, not just browsing its site. To meet the stylists at B Street Salon, you have to come into the salon, and managers say an online presence is crucial to this very hands-on business. "Our industry is so much about look and presentation," said Alt. "You want to get work that the salon has done out there and the internet is a perfect way to do that. It's so much easier to just click than look through the phone book."

A virtual presence translates to very real business. B Street Salon's new site isn't there yet, of course; it's scheduled to launch in a few weeks. The salon did point out another great reason to be online. They say loyal customers who've moved out of town use the internet to continue purchase their signature products.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com