By Jim McCloskey
You’ve all been peppered by my emails in recent weeks, and I’m sorry for that. But I think that letting you know about the WaterShapes Professional Network is important enough to burden you with a few special messages – including this one.
So far, the most frequently asked questions have had to do with the rationale behind the new organization, so let’s start at the beginning: It was 2000, and I was in Morro Bay, Calif., for and early Genesis 3 school. One of the principles in the group was a bit out of sorts with me because I seemed reluctant to help Genesis 3 become a household brand. It wasn’t reluctance, I said. It was simply that WaterShapes had no consumer presence at all. Mine was a trade magazine, I said, and I couldn’t afford doing what it would take to alter the situation.
But that discussion started the wheels turning. Soon thereafter, Eric Herman and I started working on WaterShapes TV, which we saw as a means of informing consumers about what they should expect from the watershaping process. If things had worked out with the show, we figured Genesis 3 could be a sponsor and begin getting the sort of mass-scale attention we’d been discussing.
For all sorts of reasons – unlucky timing in the shadow of 9/11 looming large among them – WaterShapes TV never got off the ground in late 2001, and we put all of our focus back on making WaterShapes the best magazine it could be. By mid-2011, however, the Great Recession had thinned our advertising base to a level where the operation had to change. Going all-digital took some wind out of our sails for a time, but before long we caught the breeze again and in some ways are doing more now than we’d ever done in print alone.
The Internet is all about consumers and consumerism, but there we were with a trade-based web site that was still essentially the province of professionals. We’ve always been open to search, of course, and we know from various analytic resources that there are now lots of consumers looking over professionals’ shoulders and gathering insights and information they’re using to direct their own watershape quests. But WaterShapes.com didn’t (and couldn’t) adequately address consumers the way we’d started discussing in Morro Bay in 2000.
About 14 months ago, once our web site was up and running on following seas, I approached my web-design team with the basic idea behind what is now the WaterShapes Professional Network. I gave them a couple of existing sites to review, and they came back to me with what I wanted – and much, much more.
I’d seen the network as a sort of glorified (but specialized) Yellow Pages, maybe something that aspired to be yelp.com but on a narrower, more contained level. They came back to me with all sorts of unexpected bells and whistles – a basic laundry list of features they’d spotted on various sites – and left it to me to edit things down to a manageable torrent.
Right away, I loved the mini-portfolio, the video spotlight and a couple more sections we’ll be adding to companies’ landing pages once the site goes live. I also loved the fact that, after weeks of back and forth early in 2015, we’d settled on a streamlined member sign-up system that is remarkably intuitive and takes just a few focused minutes to complete.
I also liked the fact that we were turning our experience with WaterShapes.com to such good use in approaching search engine optimization for the network. We’ve now had more than two years’ experience with consumers stumbling onto our site: We know the terms their start searches with, where they go when they get to the site and at what point they move on. All of this has informed our approach to staging the WaterShapes Professional Network as a search-charming, eyeball-retaining machine.
If you haven’t checked out the site, please do so by clicking here now. Once you see the home page, click on a category and look at who’s participating. Then click on the “Create Your Listing” button in the upper right corner to find out what membership costs – and to see details of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to save on your listing.
A network is able to do collectively what no single company could ever dream of doing when it comes to establishing a web presence. My friends at Genesis 3 pushed me to reach this point 15 years ago, but back then I lacked the vision to see what was coming on the wind. Thanks to my web team, I’m now a more enlightened dude, and I invite you all to see what we’ve done.
Looking back, WaterShapes TV would have been nice. But as I see it, the WaterShapes Professional Network will be great – truly great – for the watershaping industry, for participating watershapers and for consumers: an amazing triple play!
So check it out. You’ll like what you see!