10 Low-Cost Playbook Tactics to Get More Website Traffic and Orders
This article was written by Cathy Veri of marketecture, a direct marketing consultant to industrial distribution companies such as Lawson Products, Rutland Tool and Newark Electronics. Arlette Braman, V.P. of Sales at Paper Catalogs Online, also contributed to this article. Read more about Cathy’s work at: http://cathyveri.tumblr.com. You can find Arlette at www.papercatalogsonline.com. Arlette has created digital catalogs for hundreds of industrial distributors such as Travers Tool, E&R Industrial and King Architectural Metals.
It sure is expensive to improve your website traffic and orders, and promote a bit, isn’t it?
Most industrial marketers struggle every day with finding results to defend their SEO and PPC expenses. Whether those costs are for internal employees or paid to external experts in SEO and Pay Per ClickI (PPC), it’s hard to keep going to the board room or your boss’ office to justify the cost for the (low number of) conversions-to-orders you may be getting. Consultants and expert agencies have popped up to make what you may already be doing “better” with the promise of more traffic and more orders. But do they really impact your business? Today, there is not a direct correlation between spending more dollars and getting more traffic, let alone more orders. Even if you have some budget, your PPC and SEO results may be so poor that you and your stakeholders no longer have the stomach for it.
No budget does not mean that your marketing team gets a pass on learning about SEO and PPC, nor does it mean that they have nothing to do in this arena. Over the last few years, my colleague Arlette Braman and I have picked up on 10 low-cost tactics to gain website traffic and orders. So whether you are short on budget or stomach, or both, here is our best advice to you, a website “playbook” that you can post on your cubicle wall, office (or even the back of your hand and arm.)
1. Build an interactive, digital catalog (not Flash) on your Website. And get first page placement on Google without paying PPC rates. If you use a third-party solution, all the links including page numbers and indexes, are created on launch, and you can link video, You Tube, images, product descriptions and social links, immediately. Digital catalogs greatly improve your organic results on search engines.
Papercatalogsonline.com has many examples of companies whose rankings went to the top five results on hundreds of key words, within two weeks of going live. With digital catalogs, you instantly get more real estate on Google and other search engines. Don’t use Flash since that information is slow to be spidered (if at all) by Internet search engines. Interactive catalog development expense is much less than a pay-per-click recurring-until-infinity bill. These digital catalogs are viewable on mobile as well. Websites should be built with the intention of being “found.” Digital catalogs are key to this.
2. Put keyword-rich text home at the bottom of your page. Your home page should be very long. Let people scroll down, for a long while. Seriously, a very long page works. Lots of content, links to other pages on your site, videos, contact information, etc. You would be surprised what this does for rankings in just a few weeks. This can be text that is below the fold, oftentimes in smaller point text. It is meant for spiders but can be viewed by anyone, of course. There is some key word ranking homework you can do before crafting your key word rich text. Examples: www.partstown.com and www.medinuc.com. Don’t believe us? Read a bit on: www.tastyplacement.com.
3. Make search quicker. You have about 10 seconds or less to engage a website user. Sometimes the visit is just a look-up on brand or price. A digital catalog will drive the user to a specific page quickly, instead of sifting through mountains of info. Fewer steps = faster finding. Quick to find the product, the price and possibly a promotion/offer. And make the Shopping Cart experience quick, too. You know, people are spoiled by Amazon.com. Now, you have to be as close to that one- or two-click shopping cart model as possible.
4. Go where the buyers already are: Get on directories like Thomasnet.com to drive “eyeballs” to your site. Think of it like real estate: you want to put your sign up on as many busy corners of the Internet as you can. Thomasnet.com is a good example of a ‘shopping mall’ online. They have over 30 million+ users per day looking for what you sell. Directories have tremendous pull, both in the way their data is available and in the sheer number of users of these sites. And their analytics are excellent, showing you all the details of who is clicking on your listings. (These click lists should be proactively sold to by phone follow up!) You can host a shoppable catalog on the directory website or choose to drive the links back to your website. I call Thomasnet.com the “Google of Industrial Supply.” You can get online with them starting at as little as $6K/ year. I have seen one large industrial supplier spend $90K/year with Thomasnet. Surely you can put together an effective strategy at any spend level.
5. Put on a short skirt! One-day only sale? Great. Free shipping? Yes. Buy three, get one free! Yes to all. These are “short skirts” and they drive attention, and eyeballs, and orders. In a word: PROMOTE! Put a short skirt on your Google ad for that day or week. Get the eyeballs, and give the website visitor a reason to buy. Short-term offers (24 hour, today only, this week only…) create impulse to act. A 30-day promotion online is too long; there is nothing driving impulse. Industrial marketing needs promotion. People are creatures of habit and it’s hard to break a habit. A promotion is one solid reason to break a habit and try something or someone new. Even if the recipient does not act on the offer, he/she will be more inclined to look at your website’s next offer or communication. If you have invested in technology and people for your website, don’t overlook the very important 5th P of marketing, Promotion.
Arlette has seen, in the last few months, more of her client base embracing the mobile and social aspects of promotion. She monitors Google stats for all of her customers and has seen a real rise in traffic to the online catalog sites because of their efforts to do more promotion in social media venues, the web and mobile. Arlette always says, “this is not Hollywood… just because you build it, people won’t come.” You have to promote your site.
6. Believe in these two letters, PR, but don’t ignore FB. Industrial marketers should not put all their eggs in one basket – Facebook and social media. Though these social venues are becoming more important to industrial companies in getting the word out and promoting their brand and products, the jury (all of us) out there is deliberating how these venues will impact industrial sales. Google’s new version is tracking social media for traffic, so do consider this as part of your integrated marketing mix. Arlette has done extensive work in this exploding area for promotion. We believe in putting more effort in Promotions (#5) and PR, which is publicity and public relations. Press releases do gain audiences on the web and all the various (free) news media websites, both industry news sites and general news sites. If you are measured on number of orders and eyeballs, I would not be throwing a Hail Mary with Facebook likes… I would put energy and money into press releases, publicity, events, anything to get third-party mentions of your company and products. Even posting press releases (new content) to your website creates new text for spiders to find, and you can also distribute your press releases through free and paid service bureaus. Spiders love new content. Some industrial products clients I have had do not have a place on their website for archiving press releases. (Bad, bad.) Of course, if your company has a Facebook presence, get the plug-in for posting your digital catalog to your FB page.
7. Build an e-mail audience and welcome e-mail sign ups on your home page. This is key. Just as your website should be built to be found, it should also be designed to capture e-mail registrations. The e-mail sign up should be visible from the home page. As a marketer, when someone raises their hand and says, yes, take my e-mail, you better market to them fast. Arlette and I are always surprised to see industrial products websites that do not have an easy-to-get-to e-mail registration and/or it’s not on the home page. Or it’s done poorly and no reason is given to sign up! E-mail blasts, whether you do it for offers, product announcements, company news, links to videos, etc., can be an excellent tool to communicate with customers and prospects, and also sell something you might not have otherwise sold. Response rates to e-mail offers (open rates and click-through rates are two factors to watch) should be on your marketing team’s list of KPIs. Sending an e-mail blast once/month is kind of lazy. Why would you communicate only every 30 days? What can you be doing on a weekly if not a daily basis for those recipients? It is likely your customers are already buying your product somewhere else. A frequent e-mail can start to help to change those habits.
8. Pre-register all your customers to buy on your website. Many industrial companies overlook this simple thing. When your website went live, did you pre-register your existing customers? Did you send them a sign-on and temporary password, and invite their first order online? Did you call certain customers or all of them to announce that the website was available? Did you send any direct mail to drive business to the site? Oh boy, maybe you need to do these things! Solid website e-commerce systems can be loaded with customer-specific pricing so that when your customer signs on, they see their specific price. No need to “call to get my pricing.”
9. Track visitors to your website that are repeat visitors, not just unique visitors. It may take three to eight mailings of a catalog to get an order. It may take that many website visits as well to get an order. Look at your repeat visitors. Is that number going up or down? What can you do to encourage those users to come back and convert to orders? This is always a huge challenge to present to your marketing team. Your website offers and content need to keep changing and getting better to encourage repeat visits and orders. Develop a set of model offers that a high potential to get an impulse or every-day order.
10. Get referrals for other buyers, from customers on the phone and on the website. I am a huge fan of referrals and I know Arlette is, too. In my personal life, my friends are always sending me website links for all kinds of products or information. The business-to-business world is not that different. Your current customer contacts can be a resource for other buyers in their company, as well as buyers and specifiers at other companies. All you have to do is ask, either in person on the phone or on the website itself. Some salespeople are wimpy and they won’t ask their customer contacts for other contact names. I see if often! That is really silly, right, especially if you are in sales. You cannot be shy! Your website cannot be shy, either. A website link, using embedded e-mail in the site, is a great way for one buyer to send your company info to another buyer. Design your website and sales process to solicit referrals.
Get these 10 plays in your playbook. This month! No matter what your budget. These 10 tactics are common sense, cost-effective, and they will challenge your marketing department to do what it should be doing: executing smart marketing. Do all of these things first, before you start hiring SEO and PPC experts.