Counselling the council's men

Counselling the council's men

Melbourne-based Web developer ARES Interactive is running e-commerce seminars with local councils in order to find new markets for its services.

In an industry that is rapidly becoming commoditised, ARES and many of its peers are looking at new ways of approaching the market, having to become more innovative and aggressive as salespeople. The solution for ARES Interactive is to run seminars in conjunction with the business development offices of local councils, which are charged with the mandate to grow the knowledge base of their constituents. Thus far, the councils of Burroondara, Port Phillip and the City of Bayside have held the seminars, with the councils providing rooms and advertising and ARES providing the content and the knowledge base.

Glenn Fairchild, managing director of ARES Interactive, said he expects the number of players in the Web design market to soon drop by about 75 per cent, and only innovative marketing will keep developers in business.

"It's an industry that's maturing," he said. "Our theory is that instead of wasting resources competing for a piece of the pie, we should be trying to grow the size of the pie. The first companies we targeted were medium-to-large businesses with advertising and marketing budgets, but now we need to address the 50 per cent of the market that sits on the sideline."

Fairchild said many of these smaller businesses are not going to dip their toes in the water with brochure-ware, but after an educated and informed decision process will go straight to implementing an e-commerce site.

According to Fairchild, the desired outcome of the seminars is an increased awareness of what options are available, and profit from those attendees who are likely to consider ARES for any future tenders. "It's the word-of-mouth issue," he said. "The people who come to the seminars tend to trust ARES to tell them what's new in the industry. The warm, fuzzy feeling is the desired outcome."

During the seminars, ARES staff guide the audience through the various options available to SMEs wanting an e-commerce presence. These options include the Web-based and out-of-the-box solutions, stripping many Web developers of their business. Fairchild said it would be a disservice to the community to not educate the attendees of these options, but is confident most still leave with a preference for customised Web development services. "Only Web designers can give them the look and feel the company wants to present to the world," he said.

ARES is now looking to expand the events beyond Melbourne and into regional Australia in the near future. "The resources of regional councils are very limited, but they are anxious not to get left behind," said Fairchild.

To successfully target these regional areas, ARES is looking for hardware and software resellers in regional areas who wish to offer e-commerce and Web design services as value-adds to their sales. ARES Interactive would then recommend that particular reseller when holding seminars in the region.

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