Marketing Your Website
It’s up to YOU to help make your website it work!
Posting your site and submitting it to the search engines does not automatically and magically result in business. You have to make sure that people know where your website is and why they should visit.
Many small-medium sized companies make little or no effort to actually use and maintain their websites once they've been built. In fact, the majority of small business websites that I come across in the course of my work do far more harm than good for that very reason. However, with a little effort, your website can become a valuable asset.
This article is intended to give you a checklist for the smooth launch and integration of your website into your 'brick and mortar' business. It does not cover search engines -- that’s another whole subject.
STEP 1: ANNOUNCE YOUR WEBSITE
Hopefully you're very proud of your new site and presumably that means you'd like to tell people about it. There are several rather obvious ways that anyone can do this:
- Word of mouth
- Snail mail
It's always helpful to start with the basics, and telling all your customers and friends about your new site is a good way to begin. Let's look at each of these points in a little more detail:
E-mail everybody in your address book, and if possible and appropriate, ensure that everyone in your company does the same thing. But be careful! This kind of e-mail can easily be considered spam. Bear these two important points in mind:
- Set up a ConstantContact or iContact account so that your message isn’t considered spam.
- Keep your announcement short and simple.
Of course, your friends will be delighted to hear from you and excited by your new site, so calling them to tell them won't be a big deal. However, for everyone else, there are two rules to promote your site by phone without causing annoyance:
- Call to inform your customers of a genuine benefit to them regarding your new website.
- Tell them about it when you next speak to them in the course of business -- don't call them solely to tell them about your site.
For example, you may wish to tell all of your customers where they can now find important information, or perhaps take advantage of a special 'website only' offer. And remember to tell whoever answers the phones in your business to mention the new site in each incoming call.
Word of Mouth
When you tell someone about your new site, your recommendation will have a greater impact if you can hand them a business card that shows the web address (or at least write it down for them). Your efforts here will again have far greater results if the people that you talk to perceive some benefit in visiting you site, such as special offers and relevant information on products and services.
The rules here are pretty much the same as for e-mail. The best way is to either write a short announcement that details a specific benefit to be found on your site, or include a small note/paragraph in your regular correspondence to clients. Postcards are a good idea. You can't fail to miss the web address, as the message isn't hidden inside an envelope, and there's only room for small message -- keeping everybody happy!
STEP 2: PROMOTE YOUR NEW WEBSITE
Okay, now you've told everyone about your new site. What can you do in order to reinforce your message and further promote your online presence? The processes detailed here also fall into some fairly simple categories. Although none of them would have a huge effect individually, used together they can make a sizable impact on the effectiveness of your site.
The basic areas are:
E-Mail: The True Killer App
You've already mailed everyone in your company's collective address book -- what more can you do? Loads of stuff actually. E-mail is the original 'killer app' and provides an ideal way to both promote your site and add value to your customer service. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Staff E-Mail Accounts
Ensure that everyone has an @yourcompany.com e-mail address and, more importantly, make sure they use it. Make these e-mail addresses available on your site, and encourage your customers to make business inquiries this way. If MouseWorks provides your hosting, we will set these up for you free of charge.
And remember the golden rule of e-mail: you must ensure that the e-mail addresses are checked regularly -- at least once a day for most small businesses. Not having their e-mail answered will make your customers feel unloved, and will inevitably result in lost business.
Create a Standard Company Signature
Make sure that every e-mail sent from your company address has a proper signature. This should be no more than four lines long and contain useful information such as the Name, Position, Telephone and Fax numbers of the sender, and of course the company web address. Don’t know how to set it up in your e-mail program? Just give MouseWorks a call and we’ll walk you through it over the phone.
Create Generic E-Mail Addresses
Most companies will have need for addresses such as info, sales, help, or email@example.com Again, make them easily accessible via your site, and ensure that they're checked regularly and responded to appropriately.
Promote Your Site in Print
This is a broad category and covers everything from business cards to product packaging, shopfronts and advertising. Here are some ideas that should help most small businesses.
Include your web address as well as relevant e-mail addresses in:
- Business cards
- Promotional items such as pens, t-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers
... in fact, almost everything!
If your company advertises in print media, then it's essential that you get that web address incorporated into your artwork. Remember:
- The good old yellow pages (expensive, but effective)
- Leaflets, mailshots, and postcards
- Posters and billboards
- Newspapers and magazines
- Press releases
Your site can act as the perfect extension to your existing advertising efforts and open an immediate window into your business. If someone is interested in your ad, chances are that a professional website with plenty of good quality content will tip the balance over your competition, who list only their physical address.
If you have one, you can let passersby know that you can now be found online, as well. Your local print shop can probably run off some posters for you. And, if possible, get a signwriter to add your web address to the shop sign.
Promoting Your Site by Telephone
Using the phone to promote your site can be extremely effective if you can get all your staff to sing the same song. Here are a few things to consider if you make or receive more than a few calls a day.
Keep Useful Page Links Handy
Keep a list of useful links for your 'front desk' staff. When customers ask 'can I get information on x, y or z' point them to an appropriate page. Better still, e-mail them the link.
Use an On-Hold Message
Tailor your 'on-hold' message to promote your site. Ditch ‘Greensleeves' and create a snappy ad for your website!
Write an F.A.Q.
If you get asked the same few questions over and over, write and maintain an FAQs page for your site. As with the above, offer to e-mail a link to callers that ask questions that appear on your FAQs list.
Run a Website-Only Promotion
Create weekly/monthly promotions that may be found only on your site. This gives you a great reason to tell callers the website address. And, of course, if they visit with the intention of checking out the offer, they'll also be exposed to all your other sales initiatives.
Note that not all your callers will be online and some of them may object to being redirected. They took time out to call you, so do them the courtesy of responding via the same medium and send them a link to your more detailed online information. That way, everybody's happy!
STEP 3: KEEP PROMOTING YOUR SITE
So you've spent a serious amount of time, effort and money on the integration of your new site into your small business. You've plastered the web address over everything that moves, beaten anyone not using their company e-mail address with a big stick, and you're feeling pretty pleased with the results. So what now? Sit back and take it easy? Nope!
Here's where the real work begins. Having built a website and attracted some traffic to it, your objective now is to gain repeat visits and referrals. What else can you use? The areas we'll look at are:
- Repeat traffic
- Viral marketing
- Going the extra mile
Chances are, you've gone to a lot of trouble to encourage visitors to your website, so don't let it be a one-time-only deal. Here are some ideas that anyone can use to maximize their site's hit rate.
Provide Regular, Fresh Content
People that have an interest in what you do will return if they believe they'll find more information on successive visits. If they come back a couple of times and find nothing new, they probably won't ever come back.
To a certain degree you can even control how often your visitors return by how often you publish new content. Adding a tip of the week or coupon of the month is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Create 'Website Only' Offers
This is also fresh content, of course, and if you do this regularly, you'll increase repeat visits (providing that your special offers are of genuine benefit). Try to time these offers to be just a little more frequent than your average repeat sale: that way you can close the gap between sale number one and two a little. Be careful not to overdo it, though.
Create an E-Mail List
In order to tell people when you published fresh content, especially new offers, send out a newsletter to your subscribers. Mailing lists are very easy to set up and can generate huge rewards to your business if done properly. Again, use ConstantContact or iContact to get the job done properly.
Put Technical Documentation Online
If you sell or provide anything that requires instructions or manuals, make copies of them available online. People lose manuals easily, and it's a simple thing to tell them that they can find the current instructions/documentation on your site -- which will, of course, expose them to all of your other material at the same time.
STEP 4: GO THE EXTRA MILE
What more could you possibly do? If you have read this whole article, you're now aware that there is literally no end to what you can do to promote your company's website. Just use your imagination. Here are a few ideas for further inspiration.
Write for Complementary Sites
Find sites that relate to your main focus and contribute an article or offer to write a regular 'column' in return for a link back to your site. They benefit from the content, and you benefit from the click-throughs. Try to choose well trafficked sites, of course.
Pens, t-shirts, mugs, matchbooks, etc. -- these are all great ways of getting that web address out. You might even try free postcards. Keep a bunch of nicely printed, preferably funny or interesting cards with your address at the counter, and let people take them to send to their friends.
Discussion Groups and Forums
If, due to the nature of your business, you're particularly knowledgeable on a given subject, try to find e-mail discussions and online forums that relate to your topic. Make sure you have a 4-line signature at the bottom of your posts that includes your web address, and answer as many questions and offer as much advice as you can. You'll soon see a whole bunch of new visitors to your site. A note of caution, though: no one likes a spammer. Offer your advice for free and don't dot your e-mails/messages with links to your site unless the pages you link to actually answer the poster's question.