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August 12th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

COVID – as an Opportunity

By Manny Hondroulis

C OVID-19 has changed the world in ways we could not have imagined. Who would’ve thought that we would have to socially distance, wear face masks in public, and shut down businesses? While I refuse to accept this as the “new normal” and can’t wait to return to life as we know it, the past few months have enabled me to work on my company.

Reflection and Change

When the initial shutdowns occurred and our customers (dealers) were not able to install film, I had plenty of free time on my hands. This afforded me the opportunity to make some significant improvements to my business.

The first big improvement was to upgrade to a new accounting system. QuickBooks has long been the standard accounting software for small businesses and we’ve been using it since 2005. It has served us well by being accurate, reliable and inexpensive. But it is basic in functionality, not natively cloud-based (at least not the version we require), and tech support is limited. So we made the decision to upgrade to NetSuite.

Oracle’s NetSuite is a cloud-based accounting software that has been taking away market share from QuickBooks for years. It is a customizable accounting solution for businesses of all sizes. It also integrates with many third-party plugins to allow companies to reduce the number of steps necessary to process a transaction. This is particularly relevant if you’re looking to consolidate your traditional business with your online business and eliminate manual entry and duplicate processes. After we get past the learning curve, we anticipate that the time required to process a transaction will be cut in half.

New Online Look

The next initiative was to complete our website redesign. I contracted with a digital marketing company in the fall 2019 to redesign the foundation of our online presence. In the first two weeks we discussed strategy, structure, and content to give users the best experience possible. But my enthusiasm waned afterward because it was my responsibility to write the website’s content. The truth is that I have written so much of this in the past, whether for EPD or our dealers, that I’ve gotten writer’s block. After all, how many different ways can you write about sun control film? After a few months and with no content written, I looked at COVID as an opportunity to cross content generation off my list. After three straight weeks, I wrote enough content to create the most robust site we have ever had.

Our new website was launched in mid-July and after three months of analytics, I’m happy to report that our organic site traffic has significantly increased and we’re generating more leads for our dealers than ever before. And that’s just the start.

Effective Strategies

Our third initiative was to work with our digital marketing company to create a comprehensive online market strategy. As a consumer, I’m always amazed at how the Internet presents me with ads and other content for products and solutions for which I’m in the market. If I search for socks, I’ll see ads for socks everywhere I go online. And I’ll also see ads for shoes because it is assumed by advertisers that if you’re in the market for socks, you may also be interested in shoes.

That same strategy can be applied to our industry. There are already manufacturers, distributors and dealers marketing effectively online. They are using ads, retargeted ads, email campaigns, and other requisite tools to build their online presence. EPD should be no different. We’re only two months into this long-term initiative so it’s too soon to tell how it’s going.

Hopefully, there will be no more shutdowns. But if these do occur I’ll be ready, and will look at them as an opportunity to work on the business.

Manny Hondroulis is the vice president of Energy Distribution Products in Baltimore.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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