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This week we start our series reviewing all of the major, and most effective, marketing strategies available to businesses…

We start this special series with websites, because not only does every business need a website, but also most people misunderstand the purpose of a website and thus end up with a website that simply doesn’t work.

Effective Website Overview

A website can be used for two broad purposes: as an online brochure and for online lead generation/ sales. Of course, the two are very different, but many websites need to do both. Because even if you provide a product or service that will never be sold online, you should still pay attention to lead generation. If visitors to the website are only intending to research a business, it makes no sense to not try and generate an enquiry from this visitor anyway.

The first and most obvious requirement is to create a compelling and professional core design that befits your brand. Too many businesses have a website that looks either dated or unprofessional; and of course this makes your brand look dated or unprofessional. Because the internet advances so quickly, a good website even a year ago can look dated today. You must stay ahead of the curve with a website that appears fresh, easy to use and modern; just like your business. You wouldn’t accept a brochure that looked like it was from another age; don’t let the same be true with your website.

More importantly, good design can be used to draw the visitor’s attention to a particular area of interest. Every website should have a select few target links: actions they wish the visitor to take. For instance, this may be to find out more about the company, view the portfolio or claim some free information. The website design should make it easy for the visitor to see these key links and encourages the visitor to engage further by clicking on the links. This is the first challenge of any website: to get the visitor to take action and start absorbing the content. For many websites, over 50% of the traffic will leave the website within a few seconds (known as the bounce rate).

To assist with this, the website must be built with the target market in mind and have design and functionality most suited to this audience. For example, a teenage girl will generally use a website in a totally different way to that of a pensioner. This is where the less is more principle applies; while you may need to compromise to some extent, you should focus on making the website perform best with the primary target market in mind.

While a few visitors may bounce off a website because it’s not what they are looking for, the chief reason for the aforesaid high bounce rate is because the visitor cannot determine one way or the other. In this case, the website visitor is impatient and will sooner try another website. If it is not obvious what you do and how to use and navigate a website, design and functionality need to be developed.

In addition to strong design and imagery, content is just as important for online marketing as it is for a traditional advert or letter. While many people will try and convince you that people do not read website content, this is simply untrue; most people are willing and able to read a website page! As is the case with a traditional sales letter, too little information can lead to the loss of a potential enquiry or sale.

This is especially true of e-commerce businesses; far too many of these businesses provide short, dull and uninspiring product descriptions. This turns the product being sold into a commodity. Create interesting, engaging, informative and inspiring content and see your engagement and conversion rates increase.

For those who don’t want to read content, a simple way to reach them is the use of video. Indeed, video marketing is one of the most effective practices in internet marketing and in most cases will increase conversion rates. As with all marketing messages, it must be targeted properly to ensure that the message resonates with the audience. When it does, video can be a very effective enquiry generation tactic.

The key to an effective video is to take the time to create a video that is engaging and imaginative and therefore captures the attention of the viewer. This way, videos add an extra dimension to the page. Many website visitors will watch a video and read written content – sometimes at the same time – proving that when presented with useful information, website visitors can be engaged for a reasonable duration.

It is possible to use a number of different styles when it comes to online video. In fact, it is fast becoming common practice to have not just a single video but a range of different videos used for different purposes. For instance, a video summarising the services of the business has its uses, whereas a meet the team video adds a different element. Informational videos can help to demonstrate the expertise of the business leader and video testimonials from happy customers are some of the most powerful sales messages you could ever create.

Good written content and videos are both ways to engage the website visitor. Yet no matter how persuasive this engagement is, the vast majority of website visitors (generally 95% or more) will not take action to either make an enquiry or buy. This could be because it is too early in the relationship and the visitor wants to find out more or be given some more time to consider their purchase.

However, the vast majority of websites don’t facilitate the development of relationships, as they only offer two options: submit an enquiry/ place an order or leave the website. This is fine for the few percent who want to take action today but it leaves the vast majority wanting more with no option to do so.

Hence, to overcome this, we need to start to build a relationship with the website visitor. One proven way to do this is to add a bridge step between ‘website visit’ and ‘enquire/ order’. If we know that enquiring or ordering is a step too far, we must lower the barrier to entry. To accomplish this, we make an offer lower than a formal enquiry or sale. This generally works best when we offer free, useful and valuable information that is relevant to the business and will thus be of interest to the visitor. In exchange for receiving this information, the website visitor enters their contact details (generally their name and e-mail address).

To illustrate this I will use a personal example. People visit my website because they are interested in growing their business. They may have been referred by a client, found me via Google or responded to one of my e-mails. No matter how good and persuasive my content is, after just one visit very few people are ready to make an enquiry. They think ‘this is interesting, but I need to find out more, but I don’t want to submit an enquiry as they’ll put the hard sell on me’.

Fortunately, I offer a bridge step that allows them to start the relationship. Instead of offering a formal consultation I will offer them a free copy of one of my books or a free seat at one of our seminars or webinars. Because the website visitor is interested, this is valuable but relatively risk free. This example may be for a service format, but I also offer products online. With a product, I may offer a free 30 day trial membership or a trial period for just £1. Again, this lowers the risk and makes it easier for the website visitor to build a relationship.

Because I have the visitor’s contact details, I can start to build a relationship with them. I have already engendered trust and goodwill by offering something for free. So I will then e-mail on a regular basis to nurture the relationship until the recipient is ready to buy (more details about e-mail marketing practices can be found later in this chapter). Best of all, nothing has been lost: those who felt ready to enquire or buy on their first visit still can. Thus I have only gained those who didn’t feel ready, but were prepared to engage with some free content as a trial.

In order to capture the visitor’s details, I must use a data capture form; basically a box into which the visitor enters their name and e-mail address. You can request more information, for instance a postal address, in order to send something in the post, but this almost always lowers the response rate as it is often a step too far. You can make this optional, however even this can put visitors off. People are perhaps understandably most reluctant to provide a telephone number.

However, this is not the only form of data capture that a good website needs. As explained above, you can still offer other forms of more formal contact. To this end, at the very least you must have a data capture form on the Contact Us page. Better still, use a simple ‘call back’ button on every page, making it easy for the user to enter their details and schedule a call back. On some pages it may be suitable to offer a booking form for a free consultation or product demonstration. Remember, some people will use this, other people will find it too much. Therefore it is about making options available and empowering the website visitor to decide their level of engagement on their terms.

 

Key Details

Please note that the below comments and figures are used as an example only of the ‘average business’. If you’re unsure how this will affect your business ask one of the team.

Format Certainly Brand Building but it can also be Direct Response Marketing (and probably should be)
Purpose(s) All and every (New Customers, Past Prospects, Customer Marketing, Past Customer or Niche Marketing) hopefully with different pages for each
Pros
  • Everybody has one, but do it well, and you can easily outperform and out-position your competition
  • Very easy to begin a relationship with hot prospects
  • Can be used as a stand-alone strategy (search marketing) or as part of a joined up strategy (e.g. offline to online switch)
  • Can easily promote a very wide range of items for different markets via different pages while maintaining coherence
  • One of the most cost effective strategies, that works automatically
Cons
  • Do it badly and you’ll lose traffic directly to your competition in the click of a button
  • Everybody is doing it, so the competition is tough and getting tougher
  • Easily allows price comparison and commoditization
  • It has to be regularly updated in order to maintain effectiveness
  • Technological issues can go unnoticed for a long time
Timeframe Realistically allow 6 to 12 weeks for build for a brochure website; and 3 to 6 months for an e-commerce website
Resources A clear strategy, a good web developer, strong images and copy, and a hosting account
Budget Realistically allow between £1500 to £3000 for a brochure website; and upwards of £3000 for an e-commerce website

 

More next week!

Guest Post By Damon Millar, who is a business growth expert who runs our Mastermind groups.





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