The Internet can be a powerful marketing tool. In fact, the Web has all but replaced the Yellow Pages as a way for consumers to locate local service providers. A recent survey of 3,000 Internet users by New York-based market researcher Nielson/Net Ratings, in conjunction with Irvine, Calif.-based technology company WebVisible, found that 70% use search engines to find a local service provider. Adding to the pressure is that when searching for a local service provider online, searchers in the survey averaged less than three searches, meaning that service providers have to get their message to the forefront of the search engines in a clear and appealing manner.

For a busy contractor or electrician who spends most workdays out in the field, advertising and marketing — especially Web-based marketing — may not be a high priority. “We help individual electricians target their business to searchers in their markets,” says Carey Ransom, vice president, Corporate Development and Marketing, WebVisible. “It's a completely turnkey program.”

By signing up for WebVisible's program through any of its partners — such as local newspapers or Homestead.com — residential and commercial contractors and electricians are provided with copywriting and technology that targets only the customers in the firm's area of service. “We know what kind of ad copy — the keywords — will bring the right kind of consumers to an electrician. We try to give our customers as broad of exposure as possible but we focus that exposure on the consumers in their particular market.”

If the contractor has an existing Web site, WebVisible will review it and provide feedback. In addition, companies wanting a Web site can often purchase the design of one through a package deal with any of WebVisible's partners. Payment for the packages is a fixed fee billed monthly, but payment for the ads is strictly performance-based. The contractor pays only when there's a click-through. “They could have dozens of people actually read the ad, which adds value, but they only are actually paying for it when somebody clicks on it,” Ransom says.

When potential customers click on the ad, they're directed to a page containing the contractor's information, such as an e-mail address or phone number. “Electricians typically want a phone call because they're in the field,” Ransom says. “We provide a ‘trackable’ phone number that will redirect all calls to wherever they want it. Then at the end of the month or on a week-by-week basis we can tell them, ‘Here are all the phone calls that you received,’ and they'll have documented leads.”

For a list of WebVisible vendors, visit the company's Web site at www.webvisible.com/affiliations/customers/.