Ryan and Greg Unseth thought it was absurd that online shoppers in Colorado Springs would buy products from other cities and states when they could buy the same products here.
But then again, maybe shoppers didn’t know they could find the same products here.
That’s when the father-son duo decided to start listing locally made products on the Internet, and their new business, Wizbee.com, was born.
“The Internet has done a lot of good things, but some of the bad things that have come with it is that people are shopping online and sending their money and tax base out of this community,” said Ryan Unseth, who helps run his father’s painting business.
Wizbee lists local businesses with photos, maps, customer reviews and coupons.
Now in its third year of operation, Wizbee has expanded its services to include web page development, text message campaigns, social media, mobile applications and search engine optimization for small businesses.
Their clients range in size from mid-size companies to the mom-and-pop businesses that don’t know how to use social media to drive customers to their door.
Providing those services is driving business for Wizbee, too.
The company’s four-year annual gross sales projections exceed $4 million, Ryan said.
The Unseths stumbled into Internet marketing when traditional forms of marketing, such as direct mail, stopped providing results. As the two began their research, they discovered searches for products often lead to eBay or Amazon where products are ordered from businesses outside of Colorado Springs, and there was no way to perform a localized search.
So the two got to work.
They created a directory of 25,000 businesses in El Paso County and listed them in 22 categories from arts and entertainment to health and pets.
Basic listings on the site are free, but premium listings that include additional photos, a business description, Google maps and key word searches cost $29 a month.
Using Wizbee provides better shopping results than using Google alone because it provides more results, Ryan and Greg say. That’s because of the use of keywords, Wizbee marketing manager Lindsey Menhusen said.
She has helped to optimize the company’s search capabilities by using keywords to allow search results to include related topics as well as the specific results.
“We are trying to connect the local businesses with the consumer in ways that Google can’t yet do,” she said. “Maybe they will in the future, but right now they can’t get down to the nitty gritty of what these businesses offer.”
An estimated 82 percent of Internet searches for local business are followed by an in-store visit, and 60 percent of local searches result in a purchase, according to comScore, an international digital research and marketing firm.
Greg Unseth said he went into Internet market kicking and screaming, but he readily admits its benefits now. He said nearly 60 percent of his customers find his painting services through the Internet.
Aside from the benefits to their bottom line, Greg and Ryan say they find satisfaction from the idea that they’re doing something good for the greater community.
“Our hope is that Wizbee is tying local businesses with local consumers,” Greg said. “The dollar stops in this community.”