By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR
BIG SKY – Visit Big Sky is footing the bill for local businesses to try out a new software that will help them build their online presence.
Beginning July 1, local businesses were able to sign up for the software from an Oregon-based company Locl to take control of their online business profile, improve their presence in mobile web searches and help them connect with customers. VBS paid for the $15,000 contract with Locl, making it free for local businesses to use for a year. So far, 45 Big Sky businesses are using Locl.
Building on Google Business Profile, a free service that allows businesses to manage how they appear in a Google search, Locl’s software allows businesses to manage multiple locations, see all customer reviews and view analytics data. Locl also provides businesses insights to help them better understand customers.
“The reason we’re going this route with this product is [we are] trying to fulfill a need that is really a challenge,” said Brad Niva, CEO of VBS. “The majority of our visitors find out where to dine, where to rent a bike, where to rent skis, all that kind of stuff, via their phone.”
As a destination marketing and management organization, Niva said VBS is trying to ensure that local businesses are putting up-to-date and consistent information in front of visitors and locals alike.
“Using Locl we’ve been able to really elevate everybody’s mobile presence online for all of our businesses,” Niva said. “Locl is the first step to improve how our community looks and feels on mobile devices.”
Niva said this will benefit locals as well, especially during shoulder season when many businesses close or alter their hours.
Joel Siedenburg, founder and CEO of Locl, started the company three and a half years ago to address the challenge he saw facing businesses which struggled to effectively promote themselves online.
“We’re making something that is difficult for businesses easy and removing the mystery and helping them get smarter on just how to do this on their own,” he said. “When businesses are doing that on an individual basis, together it elevates the entire destination.”