To stay competitive your ‘offline’ business needs to go ‘online’

Websites

8 min read

Gavin Cooper

I’ve seen traditionally offline businesses struggle to grow without an online presence. They are fixed using the same old marketing techniques and wonder why they see dwindling returns on their investment. All businesses today need a website, it’s expected, but a bad website can do more harm than good. In this article we look at why you should invest in a good online presence.

The internet accounts for 75% of sales and it is growing at 17.9% (SmartInsights). By 2025 online sales are expected to hit £423 billion (Statista) . If you don’t have a website that is working as hard as you are, your competitors will steal your sales.

So, what do you do? Build it yourself? (where to start?!) Get your nephew or niece to build it? (they know about ‘websites’, right?) hire someone? (too expensive?).

In this article we’ll look at why it’s IMPERATIVE to the future success of your business to invest in a decent website, right now.

4 reasons why you should invest in a good website

To know why you need a good website you need to understand one crucial thing – how people buy products and services today.

If you think about it, when you want to buy something what’s the first thing you do? Most likely ‘Google it’. In the old days you’d probably look in the Yellow Pages. Today we use the internet to find out information on products and services and the types of companies selling them, it’s the first thing we do.

Below I’ve included just some of the top reasons why you should invest at least 1% of your turnover in a good online presence, after all, it’s the first thing your potential new customers will see.

Reason #1 – Awareness of your products and services

On average each potential customer spends x time researching and creating a shortlist of suppliers before choosing who to go with. And x% people look online to find out more information about a company before purchasing so having a website means you are visible to x% of potential customers looking for you online.

The first stage in the customer purchase journey is called Awareness – it’s when your customer’s identify a need based on a problem, need or pain point.

Once they have identified a need the next thing they do is research possible solutions. This is called the ‘Consideration’ stage and it’s where they are shortlisting different suppliers and products available – this is especially the case for expensive stuff.

Finally the ‘Purchase’ stage is where they finally take action and buy.

If your business doesn’t make it easy for your customers to find your products or services online (Consideration stage) or doesn’t make it easy to buy from you (Purchase stage), then you’re already losing sales.

<insert graphic showing Consideration and Purchase stages>

Reason #2 – Credibility

Over 70% of buying decisions are based on Bob Burg’s ‘Know, Like, Trust’ principle. Let’s take a look at each one in turn to see how it applies to your website.

Know

This is about the promotion of your business and your products and services to your target market. How are you customers going to ‘know’ about your business if they can’t ‘find’ you? Your website’s ‘sales’ pages are important here – they want to be showcasing your products with copy and images (and videos if possible), giving prices and answering the most common questions about your products and services. You also need good on-page SEO to ensure Google can read your pages correctly.

Like

Your customers have to like you to want to do business with you. Your About page is the place to build rapport by showing some authenticity. Your About page is clicked by people who want to find out more, they are looking for reasons to ‘trust’ you. So what do you write? They don’t necessarily want your life story or your mission statement, they just want to know how you can help them (and also a bit of your personality). It’s also a good idea to include a bit about ‘Why’ you do what you do, as this will help to connect emotionally with your customers. Whatever you write, you need to remember one thing: make it about how your business actually helps your customers.

Questions to consider:

Where are you located?
How big is your company?
How long have you been in business?
Who’s running the business?
What makes your company special?
What do you stand for, what are your values?
Why should people buy from you instead of your competitors?

Content types to consider:

Videos
Real photographs
Unique Selling Proposition
A real life story
A timeline with images
Customer reviews
Testimonials
Social proof

Trust

The important factor is trust, without trust there is no relationship. Trust is hard won and easily lost so it’s important you show your customers you are trustworthy at every opportunity.

The most common way to show you are trustworthy is by showing social proof on your website. These come in many forms including case studies, testimonials or social media comments. Google Reviews is a favourite review platforms as it’s nicely integrated into Google Maps, but there are also many examples of reviews sites including the market leader TrustPilot.

Reason #3 – Data collection

Marketing in today’s world has moved on. Long gone are the days when we sat in front of the TV (which only had 4 channels by the way!) and watched adverts for washing powder. This kind of advertising was called 1-to-many because brands could reach millions of potential customers in a single advert. This kind of ‘prescriptive’ advertising dictated what we should buy, wear, consume but was terribly ‘generic’ in order to appeal to as many people as possible and therefore return the highest ROI.

It’s very different today, the internet has moved power away from the large corporations and handed it back to the consumer. We now have a plethora of choices just a click away and aren’t reliant on just those that can reach us through mainstream ‘mass marketing’ such as TV and radio.

Email marketing has allowed corporations to have 1-to-1 conversations with customers and for the first time in our history we are able to tailor content specific to their needs which makes it much more relevant. Understanding our customers’ needs and making them our own needs is at the heart of level 3 relationships or human to human (more on that later) and great marketing…

…But how do we start a 1-to-1 conversation to begin with? It all starts with data collection…

Offer value in exchange for contact details
97% of people at any given moment are not in the market to buy, which means 97 out of 100 people who visit your website are also not ready to buy. You need a way to continue talking to the people who are potentially interested but aren’t yet ready to buy. We do this via data capture and it comes in many different forms.

Important note: there is a fine line between forcing customers to give you their details (not recommended) and offering something they value in exchange for their contact details.

Some ways to collect data in a fair exchange could be:

Product catalogue
Quote
Free guide
Cheat sheet
Template
Free trial
Money-off code

Segment your lists (of suffer the consequences)
Once you have their contact details I cannot stress how important it is not to place them in one bucket and email everyone the same message (we’re back to the old days of marketing). Part of your data capture strategy should focus on segmentation – a way to differentiate your potential customers from each other.

Some basic customer segmentation criteria:

Interest – What product or service have they shown an interest in? Talking to someone about something they don’t care about is a quick way for them to get bored.

Lifecycle – What stage are they in the customer purchase journey? See below for more information on that.

Customer Type – How are you categorising your different customers. I have a client in laminating film. They segment their customer types by High-Street Print Shop, Commercial Printer, Home User, School or University, etc.. this allows them to speak to each differently.

Here’s an example to illustrate my point. You’re at a networking event and you meet the owner of a large commercial printer which you’re interested in selling commercial printing equipment to. You wouldn’t dream of talking to them like they’re interested in ink for their DeskJet printer, so why do it in your marketing?

Once you have your customers segmented by product interest, lifecycle and type you can now start to talk to them about (guess what?) the stuff they are actually interested in! This will increase open rates, build rapport, demonstrate your skills…the list goes on. If you don’t segment, be warned, your content will be irrelevant and your list will slowly become disengaged (I’ve seen it happen too many times to count). Once your list becomes disengaged there is nothing you can do and all your hard work attracting customers and collecting their details is wasted.

Reason #4 – Sales opportunities

Unlike your sales teams, your website is running 24/7 365 days a year. If you build an e-commerce site, you have the potential to make sales literally while you sleep. If your website isn’t working as hard as you do, it’s time to change it.

Great websites not only provide all the product or service information your customers are looking for, they also make it super easy to buy from you or at least get a quote if your business cannot sell online.

Prioritising Sales Leads

Your sales teams are busy, right? But sales teams can be pretty ineffective if they don’t have the right leads to chase. Spending 30 mins trying to convert someone who simply isn’t ready to buy is a waste of time. That’s where your website can help your sales team ‘pre-qualify’ leads so that they only spend time on those who are most likely to convert.

For example, customers who request a quote can instantly be ranked as a better lead than someone who has signed up to your blog, or even worse, a cold marketing list you bought or created yourself.

Ranking your potential customers on the actions they take is one very important objective of your website.

Be More Relevant Through Segmentation

Prioritising your customers based on their stage in the purchase journey is called ‘Customer Lifecycle’. Remember just like the segmentation criteria for product interest, we should talk to each of these customers differently. After all, if you were a loyal customer and someone spoke to you like you’d just signed up to their blog, you wouldn’t be very happy and certainly wouldn’t feel special.

Subscriber – this is someone who has signed up to your blog. It is the lowest tier and is reserved for someone who has the least interaction with your company right at the start of their purchase journey.

Lead – this is someone who has engaged with your company and shown interest in buying from you but hasn’t yet requested your company literature or a requested a quote, they could have signed up for a specific content offer like a free guide or template.

MQL – this stands for Marketing Qualified Lead and is someone who has actively downloaded product literature specifically relating to the products and services you sell.

SQL – this stands for Sales Qualified Lead and is someone who has requested a quote or detailed spec from you. These people are more likely to buy than someone who just has your product catalogue, for example.

Customer – this is someone who has actually bought from you

Opportunity – this is someone who is a lapsed customer, they once transacted with you but have stopped. This period of time will be different for every business as it is based on your products and services.

Evangelist – this is someone who loves you and keeps buying from you.

Ranking your customers in this way will help your sales teams to be more relevant in how they speak to and deal with each customer. More relevance equals better conversion rates so it’s worthwhile segmenting your customers.

In summary your website needs to work as hard as you do to help create sales. It shouldn’t just be a ‘placeholder’, it sit firmly at the center of any marketing effort and actively play a part in collecting new leads and converting customers to purchase.

I hope you find this article useful. If you would like to send a message, view current work or join the discussion, please visit the contact us page.

Alternatively if you would like to discuss how we can create your marketing plan with you, you can register for a free consultation.

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