By Joe Klink
A few weeks ago Hallie Busta, Assistant Editor for Custom Home, ProSales and Residential Architect magazines wrote something that created an “ah-ha moment” for us. She said:
If you're thinking that a 360-degree panoramic view of your showroom or design center—accessible from potential customers' desktops—could spur them to make the trek to your location, then you're in luck. A relatively new feature from Google's Google Maps platform lets users do exactly that, opening up a new interface for small business owners to virtually interact with clients and drum up foot traffic, Fast Company reports.
The system has been up and running for a while, Google says, but it recently made the platform easier to use by labeling businesses on its maps that have panoramic interior views with an orange dot. Want to hire a Google-vetted photographer to put your space on the map? Here's how.
- ProSales, September 2012
Putting Ah-Ha Into Action
We immediately recognized the potential opportunities that this marketing tool would create for our dealers. Many of our dealers’ showrooms are beautiful and effectively demonstrate ProVia products. Once dealers are able to get prospects into their showroom, the sales staff is highly capable of converting them into sales. But the trick is getting them into your showroom, isn’t it?
I think of all the times I’ve used a 360-degree virtual tour: checking out hotels for vacations or corporate events, looking inside a home that’s for sale. For me as “Joe-Consumer”, they really work and I’ve made buying decisions based upon what I saw in virtual tours.
Before we decided to pitch this idea to you, we wanted to first try it out for ourselves. Although we don’t have a showroom per se, visitors to our corporate office constantly comment about how beautiful the foyer and fountain area are. So we decided to use those areas as a test.
The process was quite simple and fun. I searched for a Google-vetted photographer as indicated in Hallie’s article, found Lee Harris who came the next day with his custom camera. We tidied up the area and within a half-hour Lee was done. We paid him, and then he went back to his office to upload the tour onto Google Places. He also sent us a link for us to embed the tour into our website. It’s now on our Contact Us page – check it out!
Now when someone is on Google Maps or Google Places, they’ll have the opportunity to see inside our facility.
Dealer Alert: Try This!
For dealers, imagine the possibilities! If you do print advertising, generate a QR code that links to your virtual tour, and invite people to check out your showroom. Online ads can link directly to the tour. Also, consider designing signs with messages that you place in the showroom before filming. Perhaps something like, “call me for a free consultation”, and have one of your sales staff holding the sign. One thing you should know is that per Google licensing rules, any faces in the tour need to be blurred out. This happened to me when I held the front door open in the ProVia tour. Knowing this would happen, I simply gestured with my arms signifying “come on in!”
If you’d like to get started and you’re in Ohio or the surrounding states, I highly recommend you contact Lee Harris. He’s a true gentleman who will treat you fairly as he guides you through the process.
Feel free to post comments of other ideas you have for using this tool.