Last week one of our sales guys posed an interesting question. A potential client who sold high end tools and equipment had approached him and after some discussion had basically given him an interesting assignment.
In a nut shell, it was along the lines of the following: “If I give you guys $100K, what can you do with it and what do I get from it in terms of sales?”
Now don’t get fixated on the $100K, this company has a growing $5M business and know they are leaving money on the table, and not executing on the internet marketing front. Your businesses size and dynamics may well be different, but I liked the question because it was focused on a key “thought process” one that I find many of our clients and potential clients sometimes lose track of and sometimes we are even guilty of losing track ourselves.
That thought process goes like this: Know what you want to do with your business, then figure out what it’s going to take to do it (be realistic), and see what the best way to deploy your resources is. By be realistic I mean don’t just have a plan in your head that says I am going to sell $1M in year one but my marketing spend is $5000. Even drug pushers invest more in marketing per million than that….NO, I don’t know from experience, but its fair to assume that glitzy cars, bling, free samples and so forth have a cost!
This potential client knows that he should be able to get both a bigger chunk of the pie he currently shares with competitors, and has a large opportunity based on activating new market segments, but he has to have the right online marketing tools. One option the company was considering was to put all the money into PPC (Pay Per Click) type advertising. Fortunately they are smart enough to know that this will not be the most cost effective thing they can do as it is very short term and tactical unless its part of an overall balanced strategy.
The current site is not overly attractive and does not have very much content. What content there is, it is poorly optimized, does not have a good overall structure and the layout makes it hard to navigate and maintain. Also, it’s written in a CMS that is more difficult than most to manage and does a generally poor job supporting SEO. The result of all this means that they have some marketing challenges, a few of which are:
So first things first, they need a website overhaul, preferably in a CMS like WordPress which is very SEO friendly. Their new site ideally also has a new design that will prove effective with his target market. By effective I mean both in terms of accurately representing his company and its offers as well as moving visitors through the sales funnel from curious visitor to enthusiastic client. A new site would also facilitate good onsite SEO so it’s not only more effective at converting visitors to customers, but also supports the clients investment in getting found in the first place. In most cases a properly designed new site will also outperform the old site in terms of converting visitors to clients and will raise the average transaction amount.
As you probably know, keywords and content go hand in hand. You want to be showing up in searches for the keywords that potential buyers are using to try and find your services. If you are not showing up in the first 2 -3 pages, the odds are that your nice new site is not getting much traffic. Sometimes your main keywords are easy to figure out because you have “brand” name product so you know what people are searching for you under – say “Best Western” for those looking for a hotel. In this case your problem is figuring out which variations of keywords and long tail keywords you can realistically hope to rank for.
By way of quick example, think of the term “hotel”. Suppose you are a hotel based in Victoria, British Columbia. There are an awful lot of hotels, chains, and travel companies that have a lot of website pages and content with “hotel” in it, do you really want to compete against them all? Can you? You probably want something more specific, such as “Downtown Victoria Hotel”. Now there should be less competition and a better match between people entering that search term and what you have to offer. We covered this in a fair bit of detail in our blog for keyword research.
In any case, good quality professional research will tell you what keywords and phrases potential customers are looking for your services under and will give you a good idea which keywords you can reasonably expect to rank highly for. Keep in mind that spending your marketing bucks without this kind of research is a bit like throwing darts blind folded. It’s cool when you hit the dart board, but you won’t do it often!
Once armed with a new website that is attractive, has clear calls to action, is easy for visitors to find what they want (information, the buy now button, a phone number or whatever), and keywords; it’s now time to develop the content. In the case of the client I mentioned at the beginning, we estimated that the client needs about 150 pages of content to start with. It will grow of course, but that would be sufficient to start in terms of both having enough product information and also being able to support a reasonably wide range of keywords. This means that over 100 pages of quality content will need to be written and that is not a small task.
Given that the client in question is busy running his business full time, a professional copywriter or two will be needed. That means some serious keyword research and a lot of content development – adding more pages, but also setting up a blog, and adding some multimedia content such as video. Going forward, more content will be added as new products are added and services are better described. Also, we would recommend an active blogging program to provide additional content going forward. Blog posts are great because not only do they support SEO and your content strategy, but they are also easily shared via social media which significantly increases your potential reach while sending positive social signals back to the search engines.
Social media often seems to be one of those things that you love or you hate, but whichever side of the line you find yourself, social media is undeniably becoming more important as part of the online marketing mix. It’s a great place to educate potential customers, build your brand’s authority & trust, and even interact with existing clients. It gives a chance for people who like your products or message or expertise, to share it with people not even in your direct network and thus you effectively get a “push” that adds to the “pull” you are trying to create. Recently there has been plenty of evidence that Google, in particular, is using social media as a signal that indicates relevance & trustworthiness and therefore is highly correlated with a pages ability to rank highly. Ignore social media if you want, just not if you’re our customer, because that is just making life harder for us to get you found at the top of the search engines and grow your traffic.
Setting up PPC can be quick and easy. Turn it on and traffic should shortly follow. The problem is that most people/companies don’t really know how to set it up properly, don’t use it optimally, and forget that over the long term top Organic SEO listings outperform PPC by a wide margin both in terms of traffic generated and cost per click. In fact PPC is just plain ordinary expensive in the long run, great if you own Google shares, maybe not so good for your bottom line.
To be truly effective, PPC needs to be built on & with a solid website, good content strategy, clear calls to action and landing pages, excellent analytics, and the skills to use them. You also need discipline to make sure that you stick to your budget and measure objectives. For example: if people are clicking but the phone is not ringing, don’t spend $1000 before you look into why.
A few years ago we were asked to help a company that was spending $4000 per month, getting lots of clicks but no sales. 15 minutes of digging enabled us to find out that one KW they had spent $750 a month on, had generated lots of traffic from Spanish speaking visitors (who were its intended audience) who were then directed to an all English page. The result was a near 100% bounce rate and time on page of mere seconds. Not surprising, but a complete waste of money, and far from the only problem they had with their PPC campaign. Keep in mind if you are generating hits from people who are not interested in your product or services then it is simply noise. Some false hits are inevitable, but if its largely that way then either you are targeting the wrong people, or providing the right people with a bad impression when they come knocking.
All that to say, PPC turns on fast, converts cash to clicks very effectively, and gives you a chance to burn your budget out with little to show for it if you do not set it up right , have it connected to good landing pages with clear and effective Calls to Action.
Getting back to the original question the gentlemen asked; after taking a look at what the current state of affair is, our ducks lined up something like this. First, we did a needs assessment and review of his online resources and the online marketing tools that we felt would give him the biggest bang for his duck (sorry could not resist :-)). If you want a detailed look at those elements please take a look at our recent post titled – How to harvest more from your online marketing.
Basically from a very high level, in this case, the ducks would end up lining up something like this, first get the website sorted out and designed to effectively be capable of acting as the sales and marketing platform the need. Then do SEO and content development (both of which will be ongoing but the bulk of which is needed to launch the site). After that, maintain and enhance the site by blogging, social media, link building, and PPC. Throughout all this we would be using Google Analytics, Webmaster tools, Adwords tools and be fine-tuning things as needed.
The ratio of what gets spent on which activity will probably change over time as needs and opportunities change, but the overall approach of using a wide range of tools and techniques working in concert with each other will not. The ducks get better mileage when traveling in a flock!