Google ended 2013 with 67% of global search engine traffic, and the Silicon Valley tech giant is quickly moving into new markets with visionary products like Google Glass. So, it’s not surprising that a self-proclaimed “web map nerd” like Tim Lewis jumped at the chance to produce Google’s Business View virtual tours in Montana.
Tim grew up in Colstrip, Montana and spent eight years gaining valuable experience in the Army before attending college at the University of Wyoming. He was one of the first graduates from UW to earn a degree from the newly created Geographic Information Science (GIS) Bachelor’s of Science in 2005, a hybrid program that integrated Geography and Computer Science. Upon graduation, he returned home to Montana to work with environmental data for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC).
Tim learned and developed real word applications using Google’s mapping technology - and became increasingly interested in how it could be applied to various business problems, taking on freelance web development work as an outlet for his entrepreneurial instincts:
“I enjoyed working at DEQ, but I wanted to get out of the office more, and to take the lead on my own business venture. I’m self-driven and really enjoy helping my clients solve their web based communication challenges.”
It wasn’t long before Tim’s entrepreneurial instincts and familiarity with Google technology serendipitously aligned. In 2012, Tim saw a Craigslist listing for a “business photographer in the Billings area”. He figured his experience with nature photography and web design would fit the job description. So, he responded with his resume - and landed the job. That’s when he found out the “business photography” gig was really to earn a certification and territory to use Google’s new technology, building interactive virtual tours of businesses that people can experience on their computers and mobile devices.
Tim earned Google’s Trusted Business Photographer certification and started InsideMT in December of 2012. Surprisingly, he found the technology to be the simple part of getting his entrepreneurial venture off the ground:
“The technology is actually pretty straightforward, convincing business owners that Google Business Views are a powerful marketing tool that creates powerful connections is the challenge. It’s a whole new way of thinking about marketing and sales. When I hand a phone with the Music Villa’s See Inside tour pulled up to a Millennial, they instantly play it like a video game, laughing and saying, ‘wow’, ‘awesome’. Show the same thing to a 50 something owner of a business and they have a hard time understanding the value. Business owners and the decision makers in companies are not generally natives to web or mobile devices in Montana.”
In less than two years, Tim estimates he’s talked to well over 1,000 business owners across Montana and completed over 120 virtual tours for businesses of all sizes, across a diverse spectrum of industries. Tim is also teaching classes for businesses on how to set up local listing platforms, manage reviews and engage with customers using today’s local search platforms. In every conversation he has with people interested in Google’s Business View tours, and other digital sales technology,
“The one thing I would really tell entrepreneurs is to learn sales. I think a lot of people get caught up in the great new technology they’re using, but if you don’t have customers you’re not really in business.”
Tim sees InsideMT reached a tipping point, with businesses now reaching out, eager to schedule their Google Business View tours for Summer 2014 while before he or his sales associates had to go door to door outside sales, showing demonstrations:
“Tech will continue to change quickly. It’s going to be a challenge for any business or organization to keep up so there will always be a need for local experts to help them learn how to work new tech into their business practices to get the most out of them with out wasting money or time.”