“If you build it, they will come…” Isn’t that true?

Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to online marketing, than the assumption, if you build something people are bound to use it, see it, share it, or do anything but ignore it. Web design and online marketing have grown in leaps and bounds in the past fifteen or so years.

Vinci Digital Marketing (at the time this was written in 2011) focuses mainly on small businesses looking to reposition or revitalize their brand and image, then launch marketing campaigns around their newly developed look, website, product(s) etc. However, the small business community is in the midst of a shift in thinking and we are doing everything we can to help the transition.

Website & Online Marketing 101

Many small businesses do not keep up with trends or are simply too busy to know what is available to them, especially when it comes to online marketing and websites in particular. And on one hand that isn’t a surprise as they are busy being business owners, not marketing professionals.

However, many businesses have built a website simply because a colleague, peer, or friend told them that’s what they needed to do, to build more revenue.

But what does that mean?

Why would just building a website help with increasing sales and revenue?

So back between 2000 – 2010 they built a website and have literally had a “set it and forget it” attitude… No revision of content, No search engine optimization, No advanced marketing techniques to help generate targeted traffic to the site, etc. Most of these companies simply thought, “I built a website and now EVERYONE can find my business no matter where they are… how cool!”

Even now, in 2011 most businesses we work with have NO online presence at all and are just now developing a website, primarily because they realize a lot of customers will only work with a company who has a professional online presence or their shopping habits have shifted and they look to the internet to find products and services they need.

I like to think of this as forced compliance rather than a willingness and understanding of the opportunities they are able to take hold of, now that they have taken the step into the online world.

Lets dig deeper into this mentality a little further, because quite possibly you are one of these business owners or know someone who fits the mold. Its important you understand how to avoid online marketing failure by considering 5 critical planning and strategy questions to building a successful online presence.

From my perspective, if one of these clients says to me, “I want to build a website so everyone can find my business no matter where they are,” I’m asking myself and them the following:

  1. Is simply building a website going to be enough to increase your client base? What else are you doing to generate sales?
  2. Do you want to increase your revenue through leads and sales generated from the website?
  3. Do you want to target a specific demographic type, geographic area, or type of customer?
  4. What is the end goal of the website? Making a purchase? Informational? Virtual Experience of Actual Store or Product? Sign Up? Educational, Motivational, or Instructional Tool for training, knowledge, certifications, etc?
  5. How does your budget compare to the goals you hope to achieve with your website?

What good are questions without some logical answers and reasoning to back them up? I invite you to continue reading my answers and reasoning to avoid online marketing failure. Perhaps this will help you better understand what your goals should be with your website as well as your online marketing.

Is simply building a website going to be enough to increase your client base?

The simple answer is NO.

Building a website is only good enough to maintain your current client-base.

As discussed above, most small-businesses develop their website to keep their clients happy or to just “prove their legitimacy” by having a website tied to their business. That is simply not enough anymore when you are competing with thousands, sometimes millions, of others competitors.

Since virtually no product or business type is monopolized in our country, there will always be competition. Customers will always be thinking or asking “why should I work with your business as opposed to someone else.” How do you gain the upper hand and generate business? By staying relevant. Not only with your products and services but also in how you market the business online.

Going hand-in-hand with this is ranking as best you can within the search engines so customers can even find your business to be able to ask the simple question of “why work with you versus another.” By continually marketing your business (and your website), you keep the business name and products/services offered relevant and fresh in the public’s mind. Without visibility even the best websites will fail. 

Do you want to increase your revenue through leads and sales generated from the website?

Websites rely heavily on updating content, sending out monthly promotions or offers, writing blogs or articles, and linking to as many other relevant sites as possible to continue to keep the site relevant to not only current customers, but to search engines, and the search users looking for the types of products and services you offer.

Generating leads requires that a website is receiving traffic (visitors coming to your site from a variety of sources such as search engines, direct access, other websites referring to yours, social media etc). Primarily, traffic is broken up into the four categories listed above, Search Engines, Direct Access (typing in the website address and visiting the site), Social Media, or Referring links from other websites. All four of these areas take work to build and to continue to generate more traffic for you over time. As more competitors come into the market or as the web evolves it becomes increasingly more challenging to “keep your spot” among your competitors. Therefore, its important to stay vigilant and aware of how to best generate traffic from all online sources.

Do you want to target a specific demographic type, geographic area, or type of customer?

Even more important than just traffic is targeted traffic. This is simply traffic that is relevant to your business and is sorted by certain criteria such as a particular demographic group, geographic area, household income, shopping or buyer behaviors, etc. You can even target traffic based on the type of customer or business type such as targeting construction companies, or landscapers, or customers who prefer to shop online versus those who don’t.

Targeting traffic and even further segementing traffic into logical groups is similar to how direct mail advertisers select who to send certain advertisements to. However, with the web, you can be much more specific with who you market towards and you can even change the target audience with a few simple clicks simply by changing verbiage on your website and some other simple tweaks. You can even market your website or business to several different traffic types using the same website. For example a landscaping business could drive targeted traffic looking for residential lawn care services as well as commercial lighting installations, etc.

In summary, generating Targeted Traffic is the #1 key to a successful website that does bring you leads that can convert to revenue. Without targeted traffic just think of the random people who stumble upon your website.

Do you really want to waste time trying to interest them in your products and services? I doubt it.

Direct Mail campaigns on average have an average response rate between 1% and 3.7% depending on the type of list you are sending to. However getting a response and making a sale are two very different things. Regardless that means 96.3% or more of consumers receiving the mailing did nothing but toss it away. Direct mail targets a certain demographic and geographic area but the percentage taken in is so low you would almost think it was a failure.

Your goal with your website should eventually be that the majority of your traffic is targeted and that most of the traffic generated leads and eventually sales. This can be done for a fraction of the cost of a direct mail campaign or similar marketing venture and with a much higher conversion rate! Converting targeted traffic into sales is at least 10x easier than trying to attract a random visitor.

What is the end goal of the website?

This is an important question to ask and to really contemplate. Now that you understand the importance of driving targeted traffic to the site you next have to consider, “What will the user experience be once we have them on our website?”

Many statistical website tools will accurately show you a bounce or drop rate that calculates either the percentage of visitors who simply arrive at your site and leave right away, how long they remained on the site and whether that number is good or bad, or this rate calculates both figures. This all ties into what your website is doing for the visitor.

Your site must not just serve a purpose but serve that purpose well.

Think about the type of website you want to develop and make sure that if, for example, it is an online shopping site, that you provide the customer with a well designed interface, easy to navigate, logical features and options to help them find what it is they are looking for, a secure site to process payments and store their data, and an easy and stress free purchasing experience once they are ready to finish their shopping experience.

All those factors will keep customer satisfaction at its highest, promote repeat business as well as referrals about your business to friends, family, co-workers etc. Building a site specifically geared towards your intended audience will always lead to much greater ROI than ignoring the needs of your target audience.

Give people a reason to being there! And, once they are there, give them a reason to stay…

Always remember, a website is about providing information, services, insight, or products to your client in the best way possible to accommodate their needs, not your own. Design and build for the end-user and forget about your personal tastes and preferences.

How does your budget compare to the goals you hope to achieve with your website.

Now that you’ve given thought to the importance of targeted traffic as well as the goals and purpose of your site. Ask yourself how realistic those goals are. Everyone has a budget, or a dollar amount they are willing to spend or hope to stay under. Costs are always a factor for any business owner to consider, especially a small business owner. But, in my experience most small business owners have unrealistic expectations about cost, time, or what will be delivered given the budget range. Similar to having eyes bigger than your stomach at a buffet, many customers want it all even though they can only afford a small version of what is possible.

Be realistic and think of your website as an evolutionary tool. Don’t put the cart before the horse if you don’t have to. We always encourage our clients to build websites in Phases or steps versus trying to do it all at once. Keep your immediate needs at the forefront and let the bigger goals be what you work towards in the future. Building a targeted audience takes time, effort, and experience.

Follow Up

Not every company is able to follow this formula and its definitely not the winning “one, two punch” for all business types. But overall in and most cases businesses who invest in their online presence will come out ahead because they:

  • focus on the importance of establishing a well-positioned, targeted website
  • come up with concrete goals for the website itself and the visitor’s experience
  • continue to drive relevant targeted traffic to the site generating better leads in higher quantity
  • develop solid long-lasting relationships with their client-base by delivering what they need most

If you manage to inject some of these concepts into your own marketing plan you most likely will have proven you know how to avoid online marketing failure. Take the time to understand the “why” before you ever consider the “how” when it comes to making marketing decisions for your business.

Interested in learning more about online marketing or what you could be doing better? We would love to help!

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Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is a Small Business Consultant and Strategic Branding Specialist. He calls Monterey, CA home and is a life-long musician who spends his free time writing, composing, and producing music. He has also co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”

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