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Building A Modern Website

How a MHEDA member enhanced its Web presence.

Modern Group (Bristol, PA) has always prided itself on being a technologically advanced company. It was one of the first companies in the industry to fully embrace LinkedIn and has always made a conscious effort to stay on top of technological trends. However, last year the company identified an area where it risked falling back to the pack—its website. Modern decided to move quickly to correct the problem and in June 2010, the new Modern Group website was launched.

Information Is King
Modern’s website was by no means outdated,but the company knew there were certain aspects of the site that could be dramatically improved. Heading up the operation were Senior Vice President of Sales Don Sherow (who was vice president of marketing at the time) and Marketing Manager/Webmaster Rob Carcione. Their first mission was to identify which aspects of the site could be improved.

“We needed to have a more complete library of information regarding our line of products,” says Sherow. This was especially important for Modern since last year it combined its four divisions, Forklifts, Construction Equipment, Warehouse Products and Standby Power Generation, which had previously been marketed independently, under one umbrella. “It was the perfect time to launch a new website,” says Carcione. “We wanted to show people that we’re Modern Group and we’re one organization that can provide solutions for several different categories.”

With the help of its web development partner Norfolk, Virginia-based Equipment Web Services (EWS), Carcione and Sherow got down to business. To solve the product information problem, they developed a virtual showroom section for the site. “The showrooms are very manufacturer-centric,” says Sherow. There is a “showroom” for each of Modern’s major manufacturers featuring detailed descriptions of each product. “It’s an enormous amount of content,” says Sherow. “You can drill down into the specific dimensions, specs and capabilities of almost every product we carry.” Also, alongside each showroom entry is a button that enables customers to request a quote.

Getting Used
The website also features an extensive catalog of Modern’s used equipment inventory. It currently boasts about 100 entries, a number that is expected to hit between 400 and 500 by year’s end. “Right now in our industry, used equipment sales are far exceeding new equipment sales,” says Carcione. “We wanted to make sure we had the absolute best used equipment feature possible on the new site.” The used equipment section is dynamic, meaning that it can be changed almost instantly. As soon as a piece of equipment comes into one of Modern’s 13 locations, it can be photographed and indexed for the world to see. This kind of flexibility makes the catalog a great selling tool for Modern’s salespeople who can quickly pull up photographs and information on any piece of indexed equipment.

What It Means For The Sales Staff
Ultimately, Modern redesigned its website for its customers, but significant considerations were also taken to make life easier for the Modern sales staff. Of course, having a great looking site with detailed information on the company’s entire used and rental equipment inventory was a big help, but it went beyond that. For instance, each Modern salesperson has access to a hidden area of the site. This personalized page includes up-to-date information about his or her customers. If a customer in a salesperson’s territory puts in a request for a quote, it goes directly to that salesperson’s portal so they can respond.

“Previously, when a quote came in, there wasn’t an efficient way to follow up on them,” says Sherow. “If the lead wasn’t followed-up on right away, it could get lost in the shuffle. This system prevents that situation from happening.”

You Built A Great Website, Now What?
It’s no use throwing a party if nobody shows up, and having the best looking website in the business doesn’t count for much if nobody is visiting. To make sure this wasn’t the case with Modern’s new site, Carcione and Sherow, with the help of marketing consultant Lonny Strum, put several marketing initiatives into play. The plan included a blast e-mail that was sent to a database of more than 16,000 people. “The day we sent out that e-mail blast, we shattered the record for most single-day traffic on any Modern Group website,” says Carcione. “And the numbers have stayed up ever since.” The email blast also provided another benefit for the company. Thanks to a piece of software that EWS provided, Modern was able to get detailed metrics regarding where recipients were going on the site and what they were doing.

“We could see which recipients visited the site, which pages they looked at and how long they spent looking at them,” says Sherow. “It was incredible, we actually found some people who went through 16 or 17 pages on the site. In our industry,that’s pretty unusual.” This user traffic data will be used to make improvements to the site in the future. “If we notice that 55 percent of visitors are going to the ‘service’ section of the site, we would obviously try to expand those pages or possibly add some sort of coupon or incentive to do business with us.”

To further bolster its marketing efforts, the company is turning to social media. Almost all of Modern’s employees are on LinkedIn and they’re making good use of the site. Also, the company is making a dedicated effort to improve its presence on other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “It’s hard to measure social media because you can’t necessarily trace it back to a sale,” says Carcione. “Our goal with the platform is to lead the way in the industry as far as putting out good, quality information. The whole idea is to make sure that people remember our name and brand so when a need arises, they will think of us.”

Furthering that cause is “Modern Ideas,” another social media venture that the company is launching. It will begin as a monthly newsletter that will discuss issues that are important to Modern’s customers. It will have an authoritative tone and explain solutions to problems that many end-users face. After a few months, the newsletter will change formats and become a blog that will be hosted on the company’s homepage.

A Foundation For Growth
Now that the site is up and active for the world to see, Modern plans to keep making improvements. Next up is a step that has the potential to revolutionize the way the company does business. “We’re working on building a customer portal,” says Sherow. With a program called Microsoft NAV, Modern is integrating a portal where its customers, through a unique login, can visit a customized page and get detailed information about their fleet
including purchase history, service history, maintenance history and hour meter readings. “It’s something that typically only large national chains offer,” says Sherow. “We think this is going to be a huge differentiator for the company.”

In the end, that’s what a company’s Web presence is all about, setting the organization apart from the competition. As Modern is finding out, if a company is willing to commit to providing the best possible online resource for its customers, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished. “This is allowing us to drive revenue through the Internet much more effectively,” says Sherow. “We have some pretty ambitious goals for growth generated through the website. What you see now is just the beginning.”

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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