Are You Online?

Over the past year, a handful of online rental locators have been launched in an effort to promote the concept of renting over buying and connect end-users with rental companies that can serve their needs. This movement has a lot of potential for rental businesses that might otherwise not have the budget capability to invest heavily in advertising or promotion.

RentalHawk takes off

RentalHawk.com was launched in 2009 by Robert Gray and Mark Richter, both formerly of United Rentals, because they believed consumers needed a website to facilitate equipment rental.

The site, which caters mostly to small contractors and do-it-yourselfers, encourages customer reviews. "Google studies show that 89 percent of a customer's buying decision online is influenced by what other buyers are saying about the supplier," Gray says. "Customer reviews are invaluable."

One of the unique aspects of RentalHawk is that visitors can search by equipment type or by the task they need to complete, which is key for novice equipment users who might not know the name of the tool they need. Visitors can choose the piece of equipment they're interested in and then RentalHawk will find it within the location specified. The resulting list of rental companies includes daily, weekly and monthly rates as well as any customer reviews. When a visitor makes a choice, he or she can call or email the rental company, or reserve the equipment directly online.

Gray says RentalHawk can expose rental businesses to an untapped customer base for a fee of $300 per month, a cost he says can pay for itself quickly.

It's Fundamental

MAD Marketing LLC has helped launch a new website focused exclusively on the rental industry. "FundamentalRental.com is an online resource that connects equipment manufacturers, rental companies and rental equipment users," says Michael Disser, a 13-year industry veteran and owner/president of MAD Marketing LLC. "It was specifically designed for companies associated with the rental industry to tap into and benefit from the steadily increasing volume of rental-related Internet traffic while helping to build their online brand and revenues."

The website features several unique applications including Map Your Biz, where rental companies can have their locations plotted on a map, list key equipment offerings and receive rental quote requests from visiting equipment users.

The website is free to all visitors, users and rental industry suppliers.

Reduce, Reuse... Rentcyle

Rentcycle.com, based in San Francisco, is an online rental locator with a mission to raise awareness for renting as an alternative to buying. It aims to bring the entire rental category online, giving rental stores a marketplace where their goods can get discovered, compared and booked online.

"Today's consumer expects to do everything on the Internet. So why is renting any different?" asks Rentcycle founder, Tim Hyer. He notes that, outside the automotive space, very few rental businesses facilitate reservations online.

According to Hyer, rental businesses need a promotional vehicle to raise consumer awareness about their rental options and he hopes Rentcycle can be that conduit.

Rentcycle's brand is built around the sustainable benefits of renting, according to the company. The Rentcycle name plays off the idea of "recycling" the things we own which is further strengthened by its tagline - reduce, reuse, rent.

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