Feb 282012
 

You’ve heard it from me before: if you want your marketing to be successful, you need to get clear on your messaging. And that starts with a strong understanding who your ideal customer is, as well as what motivates and influences them not only to buy the product (or service) you offer, but to buy from you specifically.

If the first step is getting clear about who your ideal client is (the person you most want to work with and what it is about them that makes this the case), the second is in identifying the pain/problem(s) they have for which you or your product/service is a solution. These two steps are a critical. Ignore at your peril.  🙂

Jeff Sexton has written a good article that sums up the problem identification well, which will help you with your messaging anywhere you choose to promote.

Btw, should you be exhibiting in an upcoming Home Show (or even if you’re not), Jeff  uses a highly relevant example of a landscaping services company.

Here’s the article published via WilsonWeb.com:  Sales Tip: Understand What Your Customers Hope to Buy – by Jeff Sexton.

To your success!

Lara

A searching customer is fair game.

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Apr 212011
 

While conducting some research for one of our clients, I came across a fascinating study published by GroupM Search that outlines the relationship between consumers’ search engine activities, social media activities and purchasing power. While the study concentrates on consumer electronics and consumer package goods, there are some insights applicable to virtually any line of business. “The Virtuous Circle:  The Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway” is posted on their blog and while it is a long read the implications are very thought-provoking. Essentially the study found that

“…the research clearly indicates that search plays a dominant role at the beginning of the purchase process to establish a consumer’s consideration set. Furthermore, category blogs and earned social media in the form of user reviews are very influential and sought out by consumers to solidify purchasing decisions.”

As alternative forms of advertising – especially free (or relatively low-cost) online mediums like blogs and Facebook – become more mainstream we are beginning to see that they have a measurable impact on the buying behaviours of consumers. This study talks about the purchasing journey of a consumer and the impact that search and social media have on that particular consumer. Some highlights of the study include:

1. “In nearly 60%of all consumer journeys that end in purchase, the starting point is a search.”
The clear implication here is that search engine optimizing the content on your website is absolutely vital to reaching your potential consumers.

2.”76% of consumers who are starting with either search or social media are signifying intent to explore and potentially buy without commitment to a brand at the outset.”
How encouraging is that?!?! Whether you are an established brand or a start-up, three-quarters of the time you stand an equal chance to attract your potential customer at the onset of their purchasing journey. Your brand isn’t necessarily what is going to pull them in – but what will keep them there is up to you.

3. “A consistent finding throughout the study is that consumers are having brand perceptions shaped and altered through social engagement.”
Companies and entrepreneurs need to realize that their branding has become a 24 hour, 7 days a week process that is happening at work, at home and anywhere in between. This affects business and marketing strategy immensely in that “as brands think about how and from where to best provide content, search continues to make a compelling case as a valid recipient for initial investment of ad dollars and ongoing optimization efforts.”

This report is full of practical insights applicable to virtually every business and is definitely worth a read.

Ah yes…still building your web team

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Mar 152011
 

Did you think that I forgot about writing part 2 of building your web team? Don’t worry…I didn’t. Here are a few other things to consider when endeavoring to build a presence on the internet…

4. Review your favourite sites
What are the characteristics of websites that you find yourself visiting often? What is it that you like about them? Take note of what draws you to a particular site – is it easy to navigate? Is it interactive? Is there sound? Why do you like how it looks?
Jotting down the addresses of your favourite sites and some of their characteristics will make articulating your vision to the web designer and web developer much more productive. It certainly doesn’t mean that they will copy a beloved site, they just will be able to understand a little more about you and your vision for your website.
 In terms of looks, here is a “No-nonsense guide to choosing the right colour“. Honestly, I’m not sure that there are right and wrong colours, but it is food for thought.

5. What’s your function?

There are many goals of a website – none more important than ultimately increasing business. Check out this clever illustration of that fact:

That being said, not all websites need to be retail sites to add to the bottom line. What you really need to figure out is the functionality of your site. Do you need:

a. Online business card
Needing to build a website because you realize that the marketplace has changed and now most people expect to be able to find you online is nothing to scoff at. Many times all a company needs is a website that clients and potential clients can visit to learn a little bit about the company, where they are located, and why clients love doing business with them. This basic type of website needs to, at the minimum, provide:
Company Information
Who are you? What is your product or service? Do you have a specialty? What are you known for? These basic questions should be answered on your website.
Contact Information
A lot of people, myself included, will never again use a phone book or the yellow pages. We will instead go onto a company’s website and get the address, email address or phone number we are looking for. Don’t bury that information…
Testimonials
Especially true for the service industry, prospective clients want to know what others have experienced before they purchase. Don’t miss this opportunity to create a good first impression.

b. Retail or e-commerce Site
It may be important for your site to process sales – you need to communicate this to your web team. They need to know that you will need increased security, online catalogues and filters, and a backend that speaks to your inventory software.
Even if you are considering adding online sales but not for a while, share that information with your team. Knowing that you may add a shopping cart in the future can change the way they structure the site now and it will ultimately save you time, money and frustration when you are ready to add this functionality.

c. Interactive
Do you want your site to have a forum where clients can post questions or comments? Should clients be able to book appointments online? How interactive do you want your site to be?

Remember, there isn’t right or wrong answer to the question of function – there just needs to be an answer.

6. Create a basic site map
Finally, you’ve figured out the author of your site and who will design and develop it. You’ve registered your domain name, reviewed sites that you like and taken notes, and you know what you want your website to “do”. The last thing to complete is a basic site map.
Certainly the more information you plan to put on your site, the more complicated your site map will be. But, much like the flow chart above, sketching out the various categories and sub-categories of information will give the web team an idea of how large your site will be and how many placeholders to design for you to fill. 
In most cases, there are website templates available for purchase that are appropriate (and more cost-effective than building a site from scratch). So as long as the developer has a rough idea of the amount of menu options you are looking for he can recommend the best option.

Building a Web Team – Part 1

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Mar 082011
 

I was originally going to call this post “What you need to know before building your website”, but it quickly became apparent that the actual building of a website is way down the line in the list of things you need to do to ensure you have an effective web presence. Thus, in the words of Fräulein Maria in the Sound of  Music,  “Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start” 

If you’ve decided you need a website, or you need to re-do  your existing one, there are many components to consider. When building (or re-building) your site you need to think about the way it looks, the way it functions, the way it is found, and what it says.
Isn’t there a saying that it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it takes a team to build a website. Let’s get started.

1. Determine who will be writing the content.
Perhaps you will be writing the content yourself, or you may be considering hiring a professional writer to help you out. A couple of things to keep in mind when determining the author of your site:

Writing for the web is different from writing for print
Make sure if you are hiring a writer, that they have experience in writing specifically for the internet. As a general rule, online writing should be more concise, less descriptive and more pointed than print copy.

The copy needs to be search engine optimized.
Good writing and a great looking site mean nothing if no one can find it. Your content needs to be written with key words tagged so that search engines recognize your site as the place to send potential clients.

2. Realize that you will need a designer and a developer.
Check out this blog that clearly explains why you need both roles (web developer and web designer) filled for an effective site. Its a quick read and worth a look.
If you don’t have time to read his entire article, here is the basic point:

“Asking the “designer vs. developer” question is like asking “Do building architects need home builders anymore?” or “Do automotive designers need automotive builders anymore?” Of course they do. The evolution of any technology is always toward specialization and separation of labor not away from it. The beginning of any technology sees the inventor, designer, and builder as all the same person – as it was in the beginning of the web (i.e. the webmaster). The maturation of any technology sees specialties and specialists growing, not merging (generally speaking). This is especially true in any technology that can capitalize on concurrent production (e.g. a car engine can be built concurrent to the body). In any complex web site the back-end can be built concurrent to the front-end design and construction. This requires the separation of labor not the merging of labor.”

In short, make sure that your web team includes both a web designer and a web developer.

3. Register your domain name.
If you don’t have a web address yet, get one. It’s easy to do – a site we like to use is www.egatedomains.ca.
Remember, you can register multiple domains – a “.com” or a “.ca” or both – and link them all to the same site. Multiple domains do not mean multiple sites. 
Also, a best practice is to make your domain easy to remember. Although it’s generally better to err on the short side, don’t feel like you need to abbreviate your company name to something completely unrecognizable. For example, Watershed Marketing Group’s domain name is www.watershedmarketing.com. It could have been watershedmarketinggroup.com (a little long in our opinion), or wmg.com (short – but not a part of our branding), or a host of other combinations. But because our brand is generally known as Watershed Marketing, that domain made the most sense.