Sales and Marketing

Introduction



The aim of this post is to discuss the sales and marketing aspects of today’s modern business websites that you will need to address if you are to make a success of your business online.


Address Your Audience – Think about their perceptions of the content you create!Before we get into the guts of what sales and marketing content should be on your website, let’s take a moment to ask ‘who is this website for?’  If your website provides content for potential customers or content for new and old customers, then it is not for you.  If your website is providing any kind of sales support, marketing material, products for purchase, services to sign up for or book, then your website is not for you! I think you are getting the point here, your website is not for you! Do not forget your audience; every piece of content on your website is there for one reason only, to be read and consumed by your audience to promote and grow your business.  Your business website is a marketing tool and nothing else! Well now, that’s not strictly true;  if you have a transactional site, or the site itself actually delivers the service you provide, then there is an argument that says it’s a point of sale and your fulfilment house as well. [Tip – Make a list of all the types of visitors you expect to attract to your site, segment the list into groups relating to customers, suppliers, government, and stakeholders.  When you are writing content for your site make sure that it addresses each of these groups’ likely perceptions and needs.]What you sell and how you provide it – Service and Product DescriptionsHow do you write a service description to be placed on a website? In a nut shell – be short and to the point, highlighting key benefits of the service early in the copy.You need to answer all of the following questions in each of your Service Descriptions:Purpose – What is the purpose of the service or product?
Who? – Who is this service for? Who is eligible for this service?
Why? – Why would a customer need to purchase this service?
What? – What are the benefits of the service?
How? – How is the service delivered?
When? – What time frame is the service delivered over, when can it start and end?You might also want to give the following information about the service:Contact – How do I contact someone about this service?
Price – Not always appropriate if you have tiered pricing
Related Services – What other services could be of value?
Up sell of service – Can you up sell the service?
Down sell of service – Can you down sell the service?
Testimonials and reviews of the serviceYou are writing these Service Descriptions for the website audience, not for some internal audit.  Keep it clear, short and detailed enough to engage interest with the potential client/customer.How many websites have you visited and then could not figure out what the company sells, or the exact service offering, without having to trudge through loads of pages and wordy content?  Many websites fail to convey in a timely manner the content that they were created to market and serve.  You need to focus your Product and Service Descriptions to be clear and to the point.  You need to make them instantly accessible to your audience, either by having them on your home page, or one click away with a very prominent link to click on (the link can be part of the website’s main navigation, as long as it is not hidden in a drop down.) Use a clear word for the link itself like ‘Services’ or ‘Products’ [Tip – if your main focus is selling products, you should have links to each main product category on the home page and feature some of your products on there too.]About Us – A perfect opportunity to market your business!Would you buy a 20 pence (25 cents USD) newspaper from a newsagent you don’t know? – Yes.  Why?  Because it is inconsequential to your perception of the purchase process whether you trust the person or not, because the item is unlikely to be fake, faulty or you will lose your money on it. On the other hand, its quality is down to your choice of newspaper.  Would you spend £200 ($300 USD) online from a website you don’t know? The answer is maybe, but they will need to build your trust before you part with your hard earned cash. The same is true of purchasing a service; you do your research before committing to buy and that includes knowing who the company is.  I have another blog article on the subject of building trust, but the About Us section of your website is a key part of the answer.It’s not just your potential consumers that you need to cater for with the ‘about us’ element, you will also need to think about your second audience – the supplier.  Suppliers to your business might include banks, utilities, manufacturers, retailers. The list is endless, but you can bet at some point that one, or all of your suppliers will be looking at your website to understand your business, and may make the wrong judgements about you if you do not address their needs in your content.

How do you write an ‘about us’ section?

You need to keep it short, punchy and above all, engaging. The ‘about us’ section is an excellent place to build buy-in from your audience, whether supplier or consumer.  The more you express and connect emotionally with the reader at this point, the less work you have to do to convert the audience to your cause – selling goods and supplying services!

Include a section on the business’s history, This helps your readers establish that you have been around a while, and also helps readers see what you have done in the past that has given you the expertise to deliver today.  Get personal. Show the reader who works for the company.  You don’t need to give out any real personal information, but the more you open up and engage, the more the reader will associate with you. The business’s values (part of the brand identity) are always of interest to a consumer, whether they realise it or not. Talk about these values and why the business is passionate about them; this will help your readers identify with what you do. Try to think of the business as an individual, one that is trying to impress and build a relationship with someone they just met on a first date.  You need to emotionally connect to get to the next base!

Oh, and do not forget the ‘about us’ page provides you with an opportunity to engage your audience with a ‘call to action!’


Contact Us – A great place to engage with your customers!

Why have a ‘contact us’ page, other than to just give your address, phone numbers and email addresses?  Well, the contact us page is a well-recognised element of nearly every website that means business these days.  Consumers recognise the words ‘contact us’ and have expectations of what should be there.  Failing to meet these expectations could lead to your consumers going elsewhere.  The contact us page also gives you an opportunity to engage with customers, get additional marketing messages across and get your customers to buy into your social media content.

What do you want users to do when viewing your contact us page?  Do you want to empower them to ask questions about the products and services you provide? Do you want to give them a soapbox for their opinions and reviews? Think about the different reasons a customer might want to contact you for. Is the contact us page the best and most effective channel for this communication, should you be redirecting them to a phone call, Email or a face to face meeting?

There are certain items that must be on your contact us page from a legal point of view if you are selling goods and services in the UK (this applies to a number of countries and is also considered good practice.) You must include a physical address and telephone number, even if you are a business with just one member of staff.

It is useful to think about how you will manage the communications initiated from your contact us page.  One useful technique is to have different email addresses for each type of communication received though your contact us page.  A review could be processed through reviews@yourcompany.com, a sales enquiry could be processed via sales@yourcompany.com. Think about the different business processes that your business performs; accounts, customer service, returns, shipping, and supplier relationships.

Ok, so your customers can contact you via email, great. But, if they have to leave your site to send the message they may not bother, or if they do, then go off and do something else instead.  As the customer is currently engaging with you, now is a good time to market to them.  In order to do this, you need to keep the initial interaction on site. A form is a good way to do this; the customer types in their message and chooses the type of communication they wish to send and then clicks on a ‘submit’ button.  Your website can then capture the customer communication and route it to the appropriate email address.  Now the opportunity – you will be telling the customer that you have received their message and how it will be dealt with, as well as thanking them. You can use this onscreen space to introduce product and service offers, inform the customer about any awards you may have received, any events you have coming up, or for that matter any marketing message you think is appropriate at this point in the customer interaction. [Tip – You will want to capture the customer’s email address, name and phone number as part of the form so that you can email the customer with a response to their communication.  You can use this opportunity to email the customer to confirm that you have received their message, and you can include marketing messages in the email as well.]  What you are doing here is taking advantage of a customer touch point.  A touch point is effectively any point at which in the course of conducting business you and the customer interact.  This could be a phone call, email, web page, instore visit, an invoice, a delivery note. Think about how many touch points you have with your customers, and think about how at each touch point you can market your services and products to the customer.

Add a map to your contact us page, detailing your locations and service areas. This will help customers find your business and help you be clear and open; this builds trust as the audience connect to a physical presence behind your online presence.

Build trust with your audience to remove barriers to purchase.

An essential element and purpose of any business website is to build trust with the consumer. For a small business, this is even more important as they will not have a well-recognised brand name to trade behind. Key items to include in order to build trust are past clients, testimonials, awards and reviews, payment symbols, and SSL seals.  Check out my post on Building Trust for a detailed ‘how to’ guide.

Marketing Support – Your website is a key link in the sales and marketing funnel!

Your web page is a large part of your sales and marketing efforts. From a sales point of view all websites act as a sales support tool, and in some cases are where sales transactions take place. From a marketing point of view, think about how your website supports your marketing efforts.

Your website also acts as an important anchor of your strategy to build your data warehouse (data warehouse in this sense is a marketing term to describe the information you collect about customers in order to effectively market your goods and services to them. Contact details, contact preferences and information about the consumer such as gender and age are the main focus here.) Information can flow into the data warehouse from other sources too: telephone calls, business card collections, and sign up forms at exhibitions. You should always be thinking about how you can capture information for your data warehouse at every touch point.  Your home page is an excellent touch point! Add an ’email sign up’ here, and make sure you are clear to the consumer about what they are signing up for e.g. newsletter, promotions and how they can unsubscribe.  You can put some or all of this in a confirmation email that you send to say thank you for signing up; this is another touch point and another opportunity to market your business.

Your website may be the first place your customers arrive at after seeing and consuming your marketing efforts.  You need to think about the different needs of consumers arriving at your website after they have received marketing communication from you.  Each communication or group of communications should have their own landing page. In the normal course of events it is quite likely that consumers will arrive at your website on the home page. This is good when you may not know exactly why the consumer has reached your page and you need to cover all bases, but in doing so you are not talking to the consumer directly about the reason they came to your site. With a landing page tied into your marketing messages, you can respond to the conversation that started when you communicated to the consumer, and the consumer engaged with the marketing message.  If you have sent an email and you are talking about a promotion, build a landing page on your website to support that marketing message and welcome the customer to the site by confirming to them that you are listening and say thank you for expressing an interest in your promotions to then.  Give them more information about the promotion, and make sure that you put in a call to action to capture their interest, whether it be a sign-up form for a service, request a call back from you, or purchase a product by placing it a shopping basket.

A business with a website is now expected by many consumers to have a Social Media presence, and your website needs to support this marketing channel with clear ways for your audience to follow you on these channels. Ensure that you include clear ways, and communicate your reasons for doing this.

Social Media is also a very useful way to get content from your website, your marketing, to audiences, which in turn can help you build your data warehouse and sales pipeline. Ensure that every piece of content on your website that has the potential to act as a piece of marketing can be shared by your audience with their friends and followers on Social Media.

PR, love it or hate it, can be a really effective way of getting your message out to your audience. Make sure there is a clearly defined area of your site that supports your PR efforts, or of those performing PR on your behalf. Include a press page to highlight content for marketing through this channel, and contact details for the marketing team (which could be you) in your business.

Managing the customer relationship online

Successful business websites work hard to start, build and manage relationships with customers.  The more Customer Relationship Management (CRM) your website can take care of, the more opportunities to leverage touch points you can create, and the better relationship you can build with your client base. CRM is hard work and takes energy out of your business, and most small businesses are very bad at it, especially if they have high sales volumes and margins are low. Time is an important factor here as well as admin.  You need to be recording every message, every purchase, and every expression of interest in your business from your sales leads and customers.

A tried and trusted solution to CRM online is to allow customers and potential customers to log in to your site to manage the information you hold on them, view their past purchases, and manage the information and marketing they wish to receive from you.  Your customer service team can refer to this information in their dealings with clients and can add to it when talking to and interacting with clients by updating information, and adding notes about the client’s needs requests.

Legal Compliance

There are a number of legal issues when selling and promoting goods and services online that need to be addressed. Your website needs to comply with these, and you need to be clear with your audience where they can find policies and disclaimers for your sales policy, your privacy policy, using the website, and business registration details.   Consider taking expert advice on these pages as they may end up having a large impact on your business if you get them wrong.

The Second Audience – Don’t you forget about them!

Not every visitor to your website is interested in purchasing services or goods from you.  You need to think about segmenting your audience.  Visitors looking for recruitment opportunities need to be messaged in different ways to your main audience (unless you are a recruitment firm!)  Think about a separate area or page for recruitment.  Other audiences that need special treatment may include charities, investment houses, stakeholders, shareholders and partnerships with other businesses.

Human, Search Engine, and Social Media Optimisation

What is optimisation?  Well, from a website point of view, you could say that it is the process of engineering your website, its contents and the way in which the audience consume it to get your marketing delivered in an effective and consistent way.

When optimising your website, you need to think about the different audiences that consume content from the site,  A human site visitor will consume content differently from a web search engine crawling around to find content. Third party sites that publish content from your website are another audience. They may also have an interaction with your existing audience that are sharing your website’s content through the social media these sites provide.  Humans being individuals consume your content in different ways, and have different needs in order to consume that content. Different browsers, platforms and devices are used by humans with different skills, mindsets and abilities.

Think about how these audiences interact with your site’s Navigation, Pages, Site Search and Images (humans and search engines can be blind or short sighted!) Some audiences such as search engines can see behind the content of your site, and spend time looking at the structure of your site.  Think about meta tags, the name you give to the URLs used in your site, and how long it takes your site to load.

You may need to think about serving different content to different audiences on different devices.  Many sites have mobile versions targeted at different mobile devices.

The successful website – Checklist for success – Vital Elements for Sales & Marketing

  • Remember to speak to and engage with your audience, your business website is for them!
  • Product & Service Descriptions – Be clear about the services you provide.
  • About Us – Connect emotionally, get across your values.
  • Company History, including why the business was started.
  • Contact Us – Engage with your clients.
  • Build Trust with Trust Flags – Past and current Clients, Reviews, Testimonials.
  • Support for Social Media – Follow and Share (including share by email).
  • Include a Press Page, or add a press section to contact us page.
  • Customer Relationship Management – Log in for individual content and pricing.
  • Legal Pages – Sales Policy, Privacy Policy, Website Usage Policy.
  • Address the second audience – Your Suppliers, Recruitment, Stakeholders.
  • Sell, Sell, Sell – Up Sell, Cross Sell, Differentiate products and services.
  • Human Optimisation – Navigation, Cross Browser, Cross Platform/Device, Accessibility.
  • Search Engine Optimisations – Tags (Descriptions, Keywords, Page Titles), URLs.
  • Social Media Optimisation – Follow and Share support including send via email.
  • Landing Pages for your ad campaigns to convert interest into a sale or following.
  • Work all of your touch points all of the time, with calls to action and marketing messages.