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Control Your Future

Web site strategies to create a positive customer experience

The Internet has caused a seismic shift from “outbound” to “inbound” marketing. Rather than businesses going out to find customers, customers and prospects now find things where, when and how they want. This means that if you have a Web site, the goal is to force prospects to find your site.

Statistics show that 70 percent to 90 percent of buyers go online first, regardless of the relationship you have with them. So you’d better be found! With patience, investment and a solid plan, you can be found. Consider one of the following two approaches: pay-per-click or building traffic organically.

Buying Your Way to the Top
The most common pay-per-click service is Google’s Adwords. When people perform a Google search using one of your selected keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results, the idea being that you are advertising to an audience that is already interested in your offerings. By investing only a few hours, Adwords is a good way to access the huge universe of Internet users who perform Google searches.

Persuasive ad copy is your secret weapon to convert visitors into buyers. If you understand your industry and your customers’ and prospects’ needs, you can write an ad yourself. All it takes is some basic research using Google’s free keyword tools and some good copywriting that gets in your prospects’ heads. By adding in some “geotargeting” for your area and products and eliminating the use of the wrong words using “negative keywords,” you can improve the quality of your clicks and dramatically improve the ROI for each dime you spend. You can control how much you spend per day, week or month. Three questions to ask are:

  • How many people are looking for your products or services? Yahoo! has a great free tool at freekeywords.wordtracker.info that tells you how many people are searching for what you sell or service.
  • How much will your clicks cost? When you set up your own Adwords campaign, there is a keyword estimator that tells you approximately how much it costs to bid on certain keywords.
  • Who are your competitors? Google displays ads on the right side of the page. You can see who is competing for the same terms and determine if you have the patience and resources to knock them off.

Organic Search Rankings
Organic results require you to do the legwork yourself. So it is a bit more of a time investment, but organic rankings are clicked on at a rate of between two to four times per sponsored listing, depending on which survey you believe. The psychology is simple: those searching feel like you have worked hard to get to the top, so they’ll reward your hard work, strategy, patience and investment. So the goal is to get a plan and work toward the top, plain and simple.

The secret to building a high-ranking Web site can be boiled down to three key components. The first is building a site that’s easy for search engines to find and index. Second is the use of effective keywords. Keywords tell search engines what your page is about. Third, locate the so-called “important” Web sites that are similar in topic to your own and get them to link to you. Inbound links tell search engines that your page is important.

Once your company understands the importance of these elements, you can focus on the other powerful ways to harness the Internet.

Pay-Per-Click vs. Organic Search Rankings
Pay-per-Click Organic
Immediate results Takes more time
More costly over time Costs less
Easy to measure results More difficult to measure results
Lower click-through rates Higher click-through rates

They Found You. Now What?
The main goal is to be found, but then what? What are the specific strategies you can use to maximize the customer experience? Companies like Amazon and Expedia are pioneers at making customers experience something that keeps them coming back for more—and converting the extra visits into additional profitable sales.

Have you ever sent an inquiry through a Web site, only to have it end up lost in cyberspace somewhere? Unfortunately, it happens often. Most Web sites are not set up to capture information and respond immediately. But there are several strategies you can implement to be a top responder.

Immediately, through your Web site, send the inquiring party a message with additional links (think Expedia.com). Create a Web site “redirect page” which thanks them for visiting, and informs them about other products and services (think Amazon.com).

Ask for their phone number and call them, no excuses. Capture additional prospect information and ask them if they’d like to receive information designed to help them become more efficient in what they do.

Send them something of value that educates them about how your company solves problems and can make their life easier. Do it within 24 hours, no excuses.

Creating a meaningful first impression will leave customers with the feeling that, if you’re this good now, they can certainly trust you with their business in the future.

Engaging the Customer
For a material handling distributor, there are several ways to engage the customer once they’ve found your site. The short list of things to track includes:

  • E-Mail: Be personal, respond immediately, match your message to your market, up-sell other products you have, and be educational, relevant and entertaining.
  • Your USP: Your unique selling proposition makes a great Google ad. Use it often. Say it in one sentence. Create unique landing pages for your products and services. Have calls to action on every page.
  • Special Claims & Offers: Test frequently, track the results, write good copy, use good headlines, and convert the visitors into buyers at every opportunity.
  • Auto-Responders: Set up a prescheduled campaign of response mechanisms that works on autopilot, stays in customers’ buying cycle, educates, adds value and cross-sells your other products whenever possible.
  • Know Your Visitors: Use the free Google tools to track where your visitors come from, how much time they spend, where they jump out, and what browsers and platforms they are using. Make sure your sales strategy and architecture match the majority of visitors.

It may sound cliché‚ but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Invest the time and money up front, understand what a comprehensive plan can look like, balanced with your company goals, and you can absolutely control traffic, conversions and sales. You can know a true return on investment that will drive future investment, sales success and profitability.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Associtation
Steve Smith Meet the Author

Steve Smith is principal at Equipment FX, a marketing firm located in Houston, Texas, and on the Web at www.equipmentmarketingservices.com.

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