I think one impact of the internet that most everyone is aware of is the fact that you can now sell to a customer located anywhere in the world. Unlike commerce at any other time in history, we are no longer bound by the constraints of geography. Any of us who have bought a book or a birthday gift online certainly understand this.

But what many people are not aware of is just how many products and services are searched for on the internet. I am still surprised the number of people who think no one is searching for their product or service on the internet. They must assume only customers shopping for retail products or high tech goods are using the internet to research and buy. But nothing could be further from the truth!

In fact, I can safely say to you, the reader, that people are searching for whatever you provide on the internet. And yes, I realize that we have not met, and you’re probably wondering how I can be so sure about your industry when I don’t even know what your industry is. But the point is that people are using the internet to search for EVERY product and EVERY service, including yours.

In fact, referring to the results of a 2006 GlobalSpec survey, ClickZ trend reporter Enid Burns writes that, traditional means of sourcing new suppliers, trade shows, sales calls and catalogs, are being replaced by Web searches. When it comes to industrial equipment buyers (a group most wouldn’t assume would be searching for new vendors through search engines), 73 percent look for new sources on search engines and online directories.

The potential opportunity here can be shocking. We recently met with a prospect whose company provides industrial components to large manufacturing facilities. Their sales effort had always consisted of a sales force that “chased smokestacks.” They were sure that no one was searching for their products online since their business was low tech and completely “relationship based.” But initial research showed that hundreds of thousands of searches were taking place every month for their products. When we presented these findings to the prospect, they said turning just 1/100 of 1% of all the searches currently being done for their products into a client, it could potentially double their sales volume.

Chances are the company you currently identify as your main competition isn’t your main competitor at all. Your main competitor is probably a company you’ve never heard of, located in a town many miles from you. And if you aren’t offering your products and services online, they are. This means potential clients you haven’t even identified yet are finding them there. And soon, if they aren’t already, that company will use their technology advantage to lure your existing customers away as well.

As today’s younger, more tech savvy generation matures and moves into positions of responsibility, more and more potential clients are going to be looking for you online. The good news is that you can use interactive marketing, search engine optimization, and custom web design more effectively as well. But most likely, you will need to think of your business differently than you ever have in the past.

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