I’ve worked with businesses of all sorts of sizes and one thing I’ve noticed is that as companies grow, many of them don’t fully understand just how big an opportunity there is to grow their business online.
Your company might have grown well without a really strong digital presence, so you might not think it offers a great deal of opportunity. However, as the saying goes, “what got you here won’t get you there” – you may need to think differently for the next stage of your growth.
I’m going to explain how and why digital should get some focused attention from your business.
But Dave, people in our sector don’t buy online…
When your website stays the same for years and doesn’t generate significant leads, it’s easy to tell people that “people in our market just don’t buy online – we have a website and we never get leads”.
Whatever market you’re in, there’s a good chance that buyers carry out some of their buying process – even if it’s only their initial research – online. You might not get many of your current customers online, but with a basic, outdated website is that really so surprising?
You may think that because your product or service is bespoke, complex or ultimately fulfilled offline, digital marketing won’t work for you. You may have built a website years ago with some basic information on and just left it at that.
You’re certainly not alone – the more complex a product or the buying process is, the more companies retreat into creating as little marketing content as possible. This is a huge missed opportunity. Of course, no two clients’ needs are the same and of course, they will need to speak to a real person before making their final decision.
However, if your product is complex your prospective clients probably find them complex and daunting too. They might be afraid to ask a seemingly stupid question in person, so there’s a great opportunity for informative, educational content. Provide that and you have a much greater chance of being one of the ones they contact when they’re ready to buy.
If you provide the right content, in the right sequence to match their buying process and give them a simple, trackable way to get in touch, your prospects will effectively self-qualify and land in your inbox well-researched and positively disposed towards you and your products. What might it cost to achieve that through a sales rep?
I’ve seen manufacturers of oil and gas valves, laboratory equipment, bespoke injection-molding, and industrial sensing equipment generate leads and sales online through good use of content. If they can do it, then it’s hard to believe that there is any industry where the internet can’t be used to good effect.
The days of “brochureware” sites are gone for most businesses. If your website doesn’t generate leads, messages or calls at the very least, you need to hold it to account just like you would a sales rep.
Where is your digital presence falling short?
It might be that you’re not getting found. It might be that you’re not connecting with customers when they do find you. It could even be that you’re not clear on what you want them to do. More than likely, it’s a combination of all those areas and more.
Wherever it is that you’re falling down, as your business grows it is time to take your website and digital marketing much more seriously. This may entail new content, possibly even a new website and definitely some KPIs and measures to help you manage the website and measure its effectiveness.
Before we get to that I want to share with you three shifts in the way your customers and prospects behave. After that, I’m going to tell you what each of those shifts means for your business.
How customers now behave differently:
- The buyer is now firmly in control.
The “good old days” aren’t coming back. Customers will look for suppliers online because they can do so anonymously and on their own terms, without being pitched at. If your competitors make it easier for them and educate them along the way with compelling content, you’re behind them before you even try your next cold call or email.
- The buyer has more options than ever before.
If you don’t give them what they want, they have a back button and they’re not afraid to use it! They say that many buyers work on the ‘rule of threes’ and will benchmark up to three potential suppliers. With potentially ten businesses on page one of Google for a product or service, it won’t take them long to find three.
- The buyer will arrive at your door more knowledgeable than ever.
For a while, I worked with clients in the motor trade. Since the arrival of the internet, car sales in the UK have remained relatively static, but what has changed is the number of people visiting showrooms – this is down to roughly a third of what it used to be. What’s happening is that buyers are no longer going round three or four dealerships to do their research. They do most of it online, and the average customer visits just one dealership. You can be sure that stats like these will apply to plenty of other markets.
So what does all of this mean for your business?
You can’t ignore any of the trends above. All you can do is align your business and your website more closely with them and make sure that your website offers customers the information they need in a way that suits them and their buying process.
- Give them what they want.
I’ve heard many different definitions of marketing over the years, with varying degrees of sleaziness. Nowadays though, I would define marketing as simply giving your prospect what they need, in order to make an informed decision. If your product or service is complex or bespoke, there are many ways you can make the buying process easier – free guides and resources, videos, blog posts and more.
- Be clear about what you offer to customers.
If you’re a growing business, then let’s keep it simple and treat it as a given that you have a good enough product. Do the next wave of potential customers know what you stand for though? You might have the best customer service, the widest range of products or an ethical approach to business. Make sure it’s clear what you stand for before they hit that back button and find someone else.
- Get ready to deal with well-informed customers.
By now, you’ve hopefully addressed point 1 above and started to create the content your customers want and deserve. If so you’ll soon be attracting more of them – but it doesn’t end there. This is just the start of a valuable dialogue with your customers. You need to be ready to listen to their needs and their questions – this will give you more content ideas and ways to make the buying process even smoother for them in the future.
So if you can understand those three key shifts and be ready to address them, that’s already a big step forward. You next need to start planning how you will achieve this. However, before you start drafting up content ideas or planning a new website, it’s important to start with the end in mind….
How will you measure the success of your website?
If you’ve stayed with me this far, you must be open to the fact that digital marketing offers a genuine opportunity. You need to take the lead in measuring how successful your marketing is and it’s far less painful to agree what you need to measure at the outset, well before you create any new content.
This approach is much easier than trying to retrofit measurement when the leads start coming in. Plus you’ll also get some data on your old website to give you a thorough comparison with the new ways of working.
Here are some of the ways you can measure the success of your website and digital marketing activity:
- Phone calls generated
If phone calls from prospective clients are coming from your website, you need to know. If it has to start with you asking each client and then keeping a manual list, so be it – all companies have to start somewhere. In time you can incorporate some marketing tracking into your CRM system or sign up for a call tracking service to automatically track calls and tell you which marketing channels they used to find you.
- Website messages and emails generated
Some prospects – having researched you online – prefer to keep things online for now and aren’t yet ready to speak to a salesperson. By providing simple, prominent inquiry forms on all key product and service pages on your website, (and not just expecting them to go to the contact page) you will get a lot more inquiries. Believe me – the internet has made many people so lazy, that just making it simple for them will bring much better results.
- Website visits
Not all customers will feel confident to contact you straight away. It’s important to track how many people actually visit your website, as this is a good low-level indicator that you’re doing things right. You can also look at the growth of visitors over time, see which content is popular with them and see how many of them repeatedly visit your site.
Measuring simple things like this month in, month out will put you ahead of many other businesses.
You then need to look at what you can improve about your marketing to help achieve better numbers. Here are just some of the things you will need to consider and refine over time.
- Calls to Action
Are you making it clear what you want them to do and making it easy for them (such as providing inquiry forms on all main pages, clear contact details, etc)?
- Well-designed website
Does your marketing resonate with your target market and feel like it was made for them?
- Targeted content
Have you clearly identified your target markets and created content and offers for them? Do you provide content for buyers at different stages in the buying process?
- Reaching clients
If you want to bring the right people to your site, you need to be seen in the places where they hang out online.
- A diverse range of content
Not all customers consume information in the same way. Some people read detailed free guides whereas others prefer short videos.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of just how much there is to think about. Online success isn’t easy and won’t come overnight but is worth it in the long run. If nothing else, I hope that after reading this article, you see digital marketing as a genuine opportunity for growth for your business.