18/12/2009

By Shaz Memon, Director, Digimax (www.digimax.co.uk)

In today’s competitive, global marketplace an online presence is essential to a successful business. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to recognise the vital need to transfer offline marketing principles to their online business persona.

Online marketing must be taken beyond the simple concept of acquiring ‘click through’ traffic. Your website marketing must create an experience that develops the first lead and produces repeat traffic from conversion-prone visitors. Whilst a top Google ranking delivers considerable online marketing punch, especially for attracting new customers, however, this goal should be just one element of your Internet marketing strategy. The ranking pulls the customers to your web site and from that point your marketing must keep them on the site and encourage a conversion.

Seamless navigation design and intuitive placement of information are avenues for marketing development throughout your web site — any visit should be entertaining and comfortable — a rewarding experience with easy acquisition of goods and services. An integrated Internet marketing approach based on sales-led design and straightforward sales solutions offers visitors a familiar environment in which to explore your web site. Deeper functionalities, such as product databases and customer query applications, afford a user-friendly experience that support customer service and promotes repeat business.

Site statistics and understanding visitor habits are important factors in ensuring that your website acts as an efficient marketing tool and it is vital to put this knowledge to good use. Every website owner has access to a free tool, Google Analytics, which provides statistical information on your site visitors, telling you how many visitors you get, how long they stayed onsite and which pages were visited. This basic information allows you to quickly identify if certain pages are more popular and to strengthen your key marketing messages on those pages.

If your site statistics reveal strong visitor traffic, but this is not supported by sales figures, then your search engine marketing is working, but the content of your website is not. Rather than thinking that you need to attract even more visitors, your budget is best spent on the services of a good marketing agency or designer with an excellent understanding of sales led design to boost conversion rates.

Some key marketing techniques that can drive and influence visitor traffic and establish substantial sales are:

Sales-led design

Your website needs to reflects your brand, but must also have a design that is tailored to making the sale. Whether you sell online or are a service provider, a ‘pretty’ site without bespoke marketing will not generate the optimum results it could. Each visitor is unique, as are their needs, and your site must provide appropriate general and specific ‘purchase beacons’ throughout. Your beacons must be recognisable, appealing, and positioned to relate to other products and services. The visitor will follow breadcrumbs, as long as they are fresh, appetising, and lead to a satisfying solution.

A good web site design continually moves the visitor along an agreeable journey towards making a purchase or requesting a sales contact.

Integrated sales solutions

Some businesses hold the misguided belief that in pushing for online transactions through their web site, they should discourage customer contact by phone. This belief may be costing them sales, as many customers are reassured by the security of being able to speak to a business representative in person. Telephone access humanises your business, removes mistrust, and presents a confident customer service attitude your site visitor will appreciate. Ideally, your phone number should appear on every page so that no matter what stage of the website journey, the user is able to pick up the phone without have to click somewhere else.

Achieving this customer confidence is as simple as placing your business phone number in the same spot on each web page, making it a quick and easy find any time during a site visit. For websites with an online sales mechanism, PayPal is a must as a payment option. Used by millions around the globe, PayPal is accepted in 190 countries. Equally, to avoid losing impulse buyers, it is vital to set up a 1-click, or 1-3 click, checkout system. Requiring a visitor to register with your site before they can make a purchase is the quickest way to lose that sale.

Text message integration

Internet marketing is about utilising online tools to connect with your customer and deliver a first class user experience. One such tool is text messaging, which can be integrated to your site’s order database as a response system that. For mere pennies it will alert your customers with order information such as confirmations of orders, delivery, or dispatch. This inexpensive system maintains a high level of customer support that is fully automated, yet extremely personalised. It is a simple extra step that will encourage loyalty and site recommendations.

Database functionality

Many Internet users are wary of handing out personal information in our age of Internet fraud, stolen identities and information overload, but generally, if a user is willing to release information, they are prepared to listen to your pitch.

The database generated by registered site visitors represents people who are prepared to commit to your business. This database is an invaluable resource and should be used regularly and precisely to advise, inform, and reward the customers therein. The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule), referring to the theory that 80 percent of your new business will generally come from 20 per cent of your client base — take care of them!

The key to cost effective marketing is to focus on increasing the activity of this 20 percent because it is this audience that will be most receptive to your marketing activity. So send them loyalty discount codes and exclusive special offers through efficient email marketing.

Email marketing

This core group of customers can be accessed through
regular newsletters that can offer additional savings, news about upcoming products or services, and the opportunity to indicate that more information is desired. Your database will have collated information about each users’ special interests, which they should have been allowed to indicate when they first registered, along with the important choice to opt-in to receive correspondence from you. You can ensure that your emails don’t join the many others that end up being sent straight to the ‘bin’, by integrating this information and making sure that you are delivering information that is of interest to the recipient. If you don’t think you have enough to say every month then don’t email for the sake of it, restrict your correspondence to quarterly bulletins.

Newsletters also give you the opportunity to give your business a personality. Make it personal by telling the client about yourselves and giving them a window in to your world. This builds a trust factor with the customer, which can influence their buying decisions so that price is not the only factor they consider. Your customers will accept paying slightly more for your products or services if they feel that they know you and trust you. This type of customer contact is known as email broadcasting and is one of the most effective marketing tools available to any business operating online. Flexible and able to target consumer needs and desires, yet extremely cost effective — email broadcasting truly earns the phrase: costs pennies, earns pounds.

Shaz Memon is director of specialist marketing consultancy Digimax(www.digimax.co.uk).

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