Fargo, Give Me A Call

September 2nd 2014

Fargo is a town of phone calls. That’s one of the first lessons I learned about my new home, when I moved here just a few weeks ago.

As I began to meet people and network, I was often told, “just give this person a call, they will gladly help you.” While those instructions gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling of welcome, I also found it puzzling. Everywhere I’ve lived and worked, most recently Iowa City, the first step when reaching out and networking was always an email. That way, the person on the other end won’t be interrupted by a phone call from a stranger, and can quickly read through my message to decide whether to connect.

The more I explore Fargo, the more I surf the Internet – searching for everything from people to apartments to restaurants – the more I am stunned to discover how few Fargo companies have websites.

Calling every company I’m interested in would be logistically impossible. But at night, when my work for the day is done (and I want to find a great Chinese takeout restaurant, for example), I’m searching for local companies on the web. I see fun advertisements in local newspapers and magazines that leave me wanting to know more about those companies. Then, when I Google those businesses, a surprising number of them in the Fargo-Moorhead area do not have a web presence.

Closed for business

When I discover a local business doesn’t have a website, the first thing I assume is the company has gone out of business. If I am assured that the business does still operate, my next assumption is that the company is unreliable in some way.

Think back 20 or 30 years ago. If you needed a plumber, you turned to the Yellow Pages. If a plumbing company wasn’t listed in the Yellow Pages, it was considered a red flag, and you most likely called a company that was listed in the Yellow Pages. That’s how I feel about companies without a website; it’s a red flag.

When I do a Google search, I’m looking for clues on whether I should conduct business with that company. I want a website that will answer my questions and tell the story of that business. What is the company? What, specifically, does it sell? What does it specialize in? How long has it been open? What hours is it open? What’s on the menu? Does the apartment have off-street parking?

Next, a modern website design tells me the company pays attention to and values its customers. A good design means the company is professional and likely an expert in its field.

Typically, the information on and design of a website are my first impressions of a business. When those are absent, I tend to move on to a different company. Nine new people move to Fargo each day. I was one of them just a few weeks ago. What story are you telling to all your new potential customers?