Generating Interest and Business with Your Website.

Businessman pulling old technology with chain, studio shot

Even if you aren’t in the website biz, or haven’t been paying much attention to modern website design, the benefits of a GREAT website will boggle your mind. Even small to medium sized businesses in Louisiana can, and should, have a website that “pulls its own weight.” The right site, integrated with the right tools, combined with the right marketing strategy will pay for itself hundreds of times over in lead generation and sales. Really…? Really! You have to stop thinking of your website as a brochure. We have helped businesses develop web-based integrated marketing that sells even on the weekends or while their employees are asleep. Let’s take it a step further: Web marketing tools like a professionally built site integrated with social media marketing is a powerful way to reach into new markets, or cross-market products to engaged customers.

So how do you get all of this to happen? It isn’t an over-night process, AND it isn’t something you pay for once and your done. People don’t like to hear the truth about what is required investment wise to make online marketing magic – but think about this: Many companies that have an ongoing integrated website with engagement-tools, social or trade media, and a guiding strategy to manage their “online image” benefit from increased sales without hiring more sales people. Instead, they build better relationships through improved communication with their current clients – who in turn, buy more and more often, and share their experience with others like themselves.

So here is your cheat sheet on how to make it all happen:

1. Set Goals! Goals for your company should already exist, so start with those, then branch out and set goals for your website. Ask yourself: Do we need new customers? Do we want to increase sales to our existing clients? What kind and how many NEW clients do we want the site to generate? Can we do something on the website that will help our clients and save us time?

2. Identify your target market. If you haven’t done it already, this is the time to identify the characteristics of your preferred customer profile. Ask yourself: What does our target client/company look like? Then, identify the kinds of companies that can buy from you, and detail all of their attributes. Think of the people who you normally have to reach at these companies: What are their titles (CEO, CFO, Purchasing Manager, etc.)? Are they men or women? What is the age range of these people? What is their preferred method of communication? Don’t just say “we know what we are looking for!” Take the time and write it out. If you are having trouble doing this I’d suggest thinking of your top 2-3 clients, and describe the companies and the people you work with there. You’ll want to share all of this with your web design team so they know what needs to be built into your website.

3. Identify what you want people to do, or be able to do, on your website. For this, it is helpful to have an internal person, or a reliable resource, who can help you determine what functionality you’ll want built into your site. Take advantage of the vast amount of programming and web resources that are now available for integration into the modern website. Here are some ideas to kick off your thinking – some common strategies we use:

     a. We want people to download white papers about our successes and experience.

     b. We might want people to buy products directly from the website.

     c. We want people to be able to easily share pages or product with others.

     d. We want people to see that we do more than one thing.

     e. We might want a prospect to call a sales 800 number, or fill in a form.

     f. We might want to get prospects to sign up for an email, or connect on specific social media.

     g. Remember your existing clients? What do we want them to do on our website?

     h. We may need a special area that only specific visitors can access.

4. Include as much of your team as you can in the planning process. This is important if you have several layers to your company. I’m not suggesting that you have a 20 person website planning committee, but if you can get a lot of input on the front-end from a variety of disciplines on the development of a website from every level of your company, then you can have a 2 person website committee after that make responsible decisions through the rest of the design process.

5. Select the best website platform for your biz. There are several popular website CMS platforms to choose from, and the best choice for your site will depend on the size, or amount of functionality and custom design/coding your site needs. Here are some to consider:

WordPress:

Most small to medium Business-to-Business companies in southern Louisiana can use WordPress for their website. It will allow you, if done correctly, to have someone on your internal team edit the site content as needed. The WordPress platform offers a variety of plug-ins and some really useful modules that facilitate all kinds of functionality. Need an epic photo gallery or shopping cart? WordPress has them. Need a password protected download area? It has those too.

Drupal:

Drupal is another viable option for website construction, but it’s nature benefits larger companies that have a lot of moving parts or need more custom site design. Normally we reserve Drupal for Enterprise size companies.

Built-to-order:

Otherwise known as Custom Website Programming, I don’t recommend this unless you just need to build something from scratch. Consider custom website programming more when you have something proprietary that needs to be owned 100% by the company. Or, if you will build it for your company and then license it to another company.

6. Integrate Web-Marketing Automation. Depending on how sales-forward you are as an organization, you may also want to integrate a powerhouse tool known as Marketing Automation. There are a few good systems that are out there, but the one we prefer is SharpSpring. The price is reasonable,  and it includes all of these base features and more: a) Website visitor tracking b) Email response tracking c) a CRM specifically for the sales team d) ROI Tracking (your CFO will love this); and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are even thinking, “well who cares about this stuff!” Let me share a few examples that may convince you how important it is to get this before your competitors do:

  • What would it be worth if every time an active prospect went to your website, the sales person who is in touch with that contact received an email or a text message that the client was “back on the site”? And not only that, the sales person can see what pages the person is visiting. They now know what is important to them. And, if your sales person called the prospect while they are on the site they will look like mind readers (Oh… it must have just been a coincidence… right?).
  • Would it be beneficial for your team to be able to add people to their Sales Pipeline CRM, and then be able to add them to campaigns or schedule emails to automatically go out the to those prospects? I don’t know about you, but most of my clients like their sales team out selling, and not sitting around writing and sending emails. This is also effective if you have a list that is more of a “contact list” rather than a “true prospect.” This saves time, makes them more effective and efficient and often eliminates the need to hire additional sales pros.
  • What about past clients that you know could buy more? Is your sales team too busy focused on getting “NEW” business? These systems can send emails that inform and educate, AND maybe cross-market!

Here’s the bottom line: if you are commissioning a new modern website, I strongly recommend integrating automated marketing into it to get the best ROI! Why pay for an expensive online brochure (i.e. a site without integrated auto-marketing) that you’ll have to pay to promote, when you can hire a robo-emarketer (i.e. a site with integrated auto-marketing) instead?

7. Design. I know, it’s easy for me to say this, but I really believe in it: You should NOT set a budget for website development! At least, not before your design team immerses themselves in your branding. Instead, you should engage a company you can trust, then, sit down with them and have an honest conversation about what your company’s goals and challenges are, and what your site needs to accomplish. Have the website company come up with an exhaustive plan for developing a site that will help you achieve your goals while overcoming the challenges. Once this is done, then see how much of the website you can afford. Maybe the “Ferrari” site is a little out of your price range in year one. Okay… well then, make it into a two year plan. You may want to even pay a company to scope out a website that integrates into your whole marketing plan. You can usually get a qualified firm to do this for as little as $500 to $1,000. I bet you’re still wondering when we’re going to discuss design. Well… design is relative. To get to “good” design, you’ll need to cover all the tasks mentioned above, first. To get to “GREAT” design, you’ll need to first, find a firm that’s capable of that; second, have the budget for it; and third, actually know the difference between good and GREAT design. It’s obvious most companies don’t know the difference, so be careful if you need GREAT. Don’t believe me? Just look around the web, and count the number of WordPress sites that look so similar they appear to built by the same firm. Not sure what to look for? They’re easy to spot: Navigation across the top; large-attention-getting image under the nav; a little bit of content under the image; just scroll down to see it. These are not bad looking sites. The design is good, if not generic. But, they are certainly not GREAT. Make sure your design is capable of supporting your site’s functionality while setting you apart from your competition. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and websites are your prospects’ first stop. Now… go get that new modern site built!