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No online billboards – proactive website marketing basics

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Online billboards?

A sad business trend I’ve recently observed is that most companies are falling behind the technology curve on internet marketing and e-commerce.  As the way society uses the internet evolves, many businesses struggle to adapt to the new opportunities that are created.  The internet is no longer used as an information resource, where people merely hop from site to site gathering facts.  In those days, having a brochure or billboard style website was all you needed (we’re in the process of redesigning all of our sites).  As long as you had an “About” page with your company profile and history, and a “Contact” page with your location and contact information, you were in business.  Some websites were advanced enough to offer a simple e-commerce function where shoppers could view product/service information and either make the purchase online or by contacting the business.  These “online billboards” or brochure style websites are now quickly becoming a thing of the past.  So the question is, “where are things going?”

The social internet

The internet has become and is still evolving toward a completely social place.  Web surfers no longer want to just absorb information…they want to interact.  When it comes to e-commerce, internet consumers want to “experience” a business online and be able to get product reviews, recommendations from friends/family, and see comments from others who have done business with a company or used their product.  If your website was designed more than a year ago and hasn’t been upgraded, it probably has little to no potential to engage these consumers.  Your website should no longer be viewed as a billboard…that would be like using an iPhone as a paperweight.  Your website should be treated like a department inside your company (or as an employee for very small companies).  This department should be included in every marketing campaign your company launches, and should be actively encouraging and enabling purchases of your products/services.  It should help consumers identify the need for your products/services, demonstrate the solutions your products/services offer, advise on how to use your products/services and the benefits the consumer will experience, and then immediately proceed to the purchase function.  The relationship doesn’t stop there.  Your website should also offer existing clients a customer service portal, allow for feedback from them for research and product development, connect them to other clients, and encourage repeat purchases, upgrades, accessories, etc.

What can my company do right now?

Here are my suggestions on things your company can begin doing immediately to impact your business in 2011.  Some of these suggestions are free or very inexpensive, and some can be quite expensive depending on the complexity, but you can be certain that there will be a significant ROI associated with almost any investment you make on improving your internet marketing and e-commerce.

1.  Invest 30 mins/day on social networking – Cost:  $0 (time only).  At the very least, start a Facebook account and a page for your business and begin actively promoting it and connecting to as many people as you can.  People like doing business with people, and interacting with your community on Facebook will allow people to see past your company name and connect to you and your employees on a personal level.  Let people get to know you and your personality.  Who are you more likely to do business with…someone you hardly know or someone you know and like?  When you get the hang of it, expand your networking to LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, and other social sites.

2.  Begin a marketing list or enhance your existing one – Cost:  $0 to $50/mo (depending on database software) – How many people interact with your business that you never get a name or contact information from?  Your website should be generating contacts for your marketing list on a regular basis.  If it’s not, then you probably don’t have an appropriate web form and call-to-action to encourage signups.  Your call-to-action should have prominent placement on basically every page of your website.  You should have customer information sheets in your store or office that every person who comes in is encouraged to fill out.  You should request (as applicable) their company name, contact name, mobile number, work number, email, physical address, preferred contact method, birthday, plus other information as it relates to your business such as product interests, products owned, industry, job title, etc.  The database you build becomes a list of contacts, leads, opportunities, and accounts.  You can market to your list in multiple ways at various times.  Send an email campaign announcing your new company website, send a direct mailer promoting your special internet-only sale, send a written invitation to attend your company open-house, make phone calls to invite people to an exclusive new product “sneak peek”, the possibilities are endless!  You can accomplish this with little to no cost, but I highly recommend a quality Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  At SRC Technology we use, highly recommend, and sell Microsoft Dynamics CRM (contact me for info), but numerous possibilities exist including Excel, ACT!, Salesforce, Constant Contact, and others.

3.  Start a blog and newsletter – Cost:  $0 (unless you use paid services for email campaigns) – You should blog for 2 reasons…to entertain and to educate.  Offer information about your products/services that people can’t get anywhere else.  Tell funny stories about the things that happen around your store or office.  Develop case studies that demonstrate how your products/services benefit a specific customer base.  Be creative and make sure when you post your blogs you promote them on your social media sites and either send them out as an e-newsletter, or include links to them in your regular e-newsletters or email campaigns.

4.  Get a new website – Cost:  $2,000 to as much as you want to spend – If you really want to take your internet experience to the next level and be a leader in your industry that is prepared for the changing economy and shifts in consumer behavior, you will need a new website.  Have your website built on a content management system (CMS) that gives your company the ability to update your web content, add or remove pages, host and maintain your blog, automatically create site taxonomy and SEO, implement search functionality, post polls and surveys, create smart forms, allow for e-commerce with suggestive selling and product reviews, have a forum for people to post comments on various topics, easily post documents for view or download, and more.  At SRC Technology, we build on the Ektron CMS, which is the most powerful solution we’ve found.  Ektron is used by Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Nasdaq, and more than 8,000 other companies.  The Ektron CMS provides our clients a completely supported platform so that they’ll never have to worry about getting stuck with a website that becomes outdated or obsolete.

5.  Build web traffic – Cost:  $0 (or discretionary for new campaigns) – In order for you to proactively market from your website, you have to have people who go there.  The first way you can accomplish this is to include your website on all your future advertising and marketing.  Display it prominently on your business cards, company brochures, radio/TV commercials, print ads in magazines/newspapers, email signatures, company vehicles, billboards, on your building, inside your store, and anywhere else your company name appears.  Your website is usually a better choice as a landing site for your marketing campaigns for many reasons.  It eliminates anxiety about immediately speaking to someone on the phone, it doesn’t require gas money or as much time as driving to a physical location, it is easily accessible from a smartphone, laptop, or home/business computer, and your message is consistently presented exactly how you intend it every time to every person.  You will only incur additional expense if you decide to invest or redirect advertising dollars into online marketing campaigns through pay-per-click ads, directory listings, etc. which can be very effective at driving more traffic to your website.

6.  Encourage every happy customer to review or refer your business – Cost:  $0 to a discount or small incentive – This process captures the very essence of the social internet and free grass-roots marketing, yet most businesses completely ignore it.  Ask your satisfied customers to post a comment about their experience with you on their Facebook page and tag you.  This simple step could get you the most  powerful type of advertising impression, a personal endorsement, with hundreds or thousands of people.  Ask customers to go on Yelp.com (or other industry-specific consumer review sites) and write a short review about your business.  Offer people who do these things a discount on future purchases or a small free gift.  Happy customers will often go out of their way to share their experiences and sing your praises if only asked or encouraged to do so.  A discount or gift just adds icing on the cake.

Wrap-up

The bottom line is this…internet marketing and e-commerce is already one of the major driving forces in the global economy and it’s only getting bigger.  New technology influences consumer behavior more than any other factor in society that I can think of.  Companies that adapt their business model in response to changing technology and consumer behavior will be  poised to capitalize on the failure of others to do so.  How effective will your business be at adopting new internet marketing practices?  Your bank statement will tell the results.

If you would like to meet and review your current website and web strategy with no cost or obligation, please call or email:

Josh Davis, Technology Strategist – (423) 267-0588 – joshd@srctechnology.com

SRC Technology Solutions

Adopting Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software

January 4, 2011 1 comment

     With all the buzz over web marketing, social media, smart phones, apps, etc.,  cluttering up the blog sites and news feeds, it’s extremely easy for businesses to overlook even the most basic principles and practices in sales and marketing.  If you stop and think about it, although new technology changes the way we conduct business, the core principles behind our practices rarely change.  Businesses need to generate and qualify leads, engage in communication throughout the sales cycle, convert leads to customers, and then nurture the ongoing customer relationship.  In order for this to be done successfully, businesses must be able to organize, track, store, share, and recall this data.  Here’s a newsflash folks…execution will become increasingly important.  I recently read a statistic that Business Intelligence (BI) has remained the #1 technology expenditure for top companies for the last 2 years.  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a major component of BI.  Let’s explore how CRM can benefit your business.

     There are many CRM solutions available, but Microsoft Dynamics CRM is our platform of choice for its low cost of adoption, familiarity and ease of use, and immediate integration within Outlook and other essential Microsoft products.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows companies to:

  • Capture and track leads all in one system.
  • Qualify and convert leads into Accounts.
  • Easily assign and track all Contacts associated to an Account.
  • Create and track Opportunities.
  • Launch and track Campaigns.
  • Create Workflows based on person, team, or organization.
  • Assign tasks and activities.
  • Easily track e-mail communications, documents, and histories.
  • Compile reports and review analytics.
  • Access from multiple locations and mobile devices.

     These are some of the main functions, but there are many more features included with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  The benefits that your company will experience from adopting this type of CRM platform are priceless…increased productivity, communication within the organization, better insight into marketing ROI, real sales analytics, informed conversations with leads/customers, and improved sales.  Let’s look at some very simple, yet practical applications of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in this excerpt from another one of my blog articles.

Begin a marketing list or enhance your existing one – Cost:  $0 to $50/mo per user (depending on database software) – How many people interact with your business that you never get a name or contact information from?  Your website should be generating contacts for your marketing list on a regular basis.  If it’s not, then you probably don’t have an appropriate web form and call-to-action to encourage signups.  Your call-to-action should have prominent placement on basically every page of your website.  You should have customer information sheets in your store or office that every person who comes in is encouraged to fill out.  You should request (as applicable) their company name, contact name, mobile number, work number, email, physical address, preferred contact method, birthday, plus other information as it relates to your business such as product interests, products owned, industry, job title, etc.  Any networking groups, tradeshows, or industry events you attend should also be leveraged for as many business cards and contact forms you can get your hands on.  The database you build becomes a list of contacts, leads, opportunities, and accounts.  You can market to your list in multiple ways at various times.  Send an email campaign announcing your new company website, send a direct mailer promoting your special internet-only sale, send a written invitation to attend your company open-house, make phone calls to invite people to an exclusive new product “sneak peek”, the possibilities are endless!  You can accomplish this with little to no cost, but I highly recommend a quality Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  At SRC Technology we use, highly recommend, and sell Microsoft Dynamics CRM (contact me for info), but numerous possibilities exist.

    

     If your organization is not using a customer database at all, or is relying on primitive notepads and excel spreadsheets, you are penalizing your company more in lost sales and lack of productivity than it would cost to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

     I would love the opportunity to meet and discuss your business and how you could adopt Microsoft Dynamics CRM into your Business Intelligence strategy.  This is an extremely powerful technology that will help business owners and sales/marketing managers operate more efficiently and capitalize on more opportunities for revenue.  In today’s world, who can afford to miss out?

If you would like an informational meeting to discuss your business and how Microsoft Dynamics CRM may fit into your organization, please call or email me at your earliest convenience.

 Josh Davis, Technology Strategist – SRC Technology Solutions

 joshd@srctechnology.com – (423) 267-0588

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