Most companies have a website, but how many can say that their website is their most powerful marketing tool? Unfortunately, not many – and this is a shame because there is a clear path toward transforming your website into an online marketing success. The problem is that most business leaders don’t know the right questions to ask when creating, implementing and evaluating their online marketing strategy.
I wrote this handbook to solve this problem. In the following pages, you will be presented with four checklists containing 60 questions that will help you focus your thinking and approach toward producing measurable business results online. These essential checklists will help you:
If you put these checklists to work, you will produce huge results online! So let’s get started.
To succeed online, your website cannot be designed for you or your company. It needs to be designed for your customers. A customer-focused website puts your customers at the center of your online offering, while making it easy for them to do business with you. At the same time, a customer-focused website is aligned with your company’s overall business strategy and marketing objectives. And, most importantly, a customer-focused website produces results – leads, sales and profitable long-term customers.
The following checklist will help you create a website your customers, and your sales people, will love.
Tip: Have you seriously considered the strategic role of your website? An effective website can help you achieve a number of business goals, such as generating leads, building a marketing database, enhancing customer service and selling online. Make sure you align your website objectives with your overall marketing and business objectives to ensure you are on the path to success.
Tip: Your customers are not visiting your website to kill time. They are visiting your website to find a solution, perform research, purchase a product or request support. A customer-focused website anticipates your customers’ needs and provides the answer they are seeking. Think carefully about your customers’ motivation for visiting your website. What are they looking for? What do they hope to accomplish?
Tip: Based on your customers’ unique needs and motivations, offer content and features that speak to the needs of your customers and provide the solution they are seeking. When a prospect is considering a product or service for their needs, they have a number of key questions in their minds. Demonstrate that you understand their needs and offer a solution that addresses their key questions.
Tip: First impressions count. So, make sure your home page is as welcoming and useful as possible. It should clearly communicate your capabilities and the solutions your company provides. Moreover, it should provide a timely digest of the latest and greatest information you offer deeper within the site. Most importantly, it should focus on your prospects’ needs and serve to guide them through your website to find the information that can best help them.
Tip: Make sure you connect with each visitor by taking a friendly, conversational tone in your copy. Write as though you’re sitting with them over coffee. Avoid jargon, buzzwords and internal company-speak. Demonstrate that you understand the challenges they face and offer a clear solution.
Tip: Don’t make your customers hunt and peck through your website to find the content that is most relevant for them. Package content by business type, industry, job role or application to help your niche audiences find the information that can best serve them.
Tip: Your website should not just sell – it should also educate. Complement your product and service information with valuable educational content that helps your customers do their jobs better. Pack your site with ‘how-to’, articles, best practice guides, training videos and other educational content. This will turn your website into a resource center that customers will visit regularly because it is so helpful.
Tip: People want to do business with dynamic companies. And, to project your dynamism, you need to have a fresh and relevant website. Make it a point to take a critical look at your website at least monthly, and add information to improve its value to your customers and prospects. And, just as important, remove outdated or obsolete information. I would rather see a 25-page website with great, relevant content than a 100-page website with a mix of relevant and irrelevant information.
Tip: Don’t make the mistake of relying on your ‘Contact Us’ page as the sole method for prospects to take action. To turn your website into a lead generation machine, pepper your website with a variety of relevant calls to action inviting prospects to reach out and take the next step.
Tip: Not everyone is ready to buy from you today. Some people are kicking tires; others may have a basic early-stage question. Look for ways to compel all prospects to reach out to you by offering tailored calls to action that appeal to prospects at each stage of the buying process. Examples: Ask the Experts forms, complimentary consultations, downloadable best-practice guides, free trials, etc.
Tip: Don’t forget to prominently display your phone number on every page of your website. In our experience, people are at least as likely if not two to three times more likely to pick up the phone when they are browsing a company’s website. And there is no better time to be talking with a prospect because you can use your website as a presentation tool.
Tip: To boost your website inquiries, offer online chat as an alternative way to contact you other than online forms or the phone. People assume it will take some time to receive a response after completing an online form. And, not everyone is ready to engage in a phone discussion with a salesperson. Online chat offers your prospects an immediate response and they can still remain somewhat anonymous.
Tip: Are your online forms as daunting as a tax return? The more fields your forms include, the less likely prospects will be to fill them out. Ask only for basic contact information that your salespeople will need to make an intelligent follow-up. Program those forms to identify the page the person was on, so your salesperson can prepare for the call.
Tip: How long does it take for your salespeople to follow-up online lead inquiries? If the follow-up is not immediate, you are leaving money on the table. Assign salespeople to follow-up online leads and make sure the inquiries get to them as soon as possible. Tie your website forms into a customer relationship management (CRM) system to streamline your lead management and follow-up process. Again, you want to make sure your salespeople talk to the prospect when they are still on your website, so they can use your website as a presentation tool.
Tip: How will you know if your website is a success? Gone are the days when a marketer can rely on subjective measures, gut feel or esoteric statistics like ‘hits.’ To be successful with online marketing, you need to be able to accurately measure the bottom-line impact your website and other online marketing activities are having on your business. Put a capable Web Analytics package in place, like Google Analytics, and monitor the key performance indicators that will measure how well your website is working toward achieving your goals.
Right now, somewhere, a potential customer is searching for your products and services online. But, who will they find first – your company or your competitors? Search engine marketing is all about getting in front of prospects at the moment they are searching for your products and services on Google.
But how do you take full advantage of search engine marketing and outshine your competition? The following checklist will put you on the path to search engine marketing success.
Tip: Search engine marketing will help drive targeted traffic to your website. So why are you trying to attract more traffic? Think about the goals and objectives for your website and online marketing efforts. Your search engine marketing program should be designed to support these goals. Your goals may include selling products online, generating leads, building a marketing database or improving brand or company awareness.
Tip: Once you know why you want to attract more traffic, spend some time defining who you are trying to attract. Take a moment to brainstorm about your target audiences. Who are they? What industry or business are they in? What is their role within their company? What are they searching for? By defining your specific audience groups, you will be able to understand and address their unique needs and motivations.
Tip: Your search engine marketing program must also focus on your competition. You want to make sure you clearly identify your top competitors, so you can continually evaluate how your company’s search engine presence ranks relative to the competition. And remember, your online competitors are not just the companies you typically compete with for new business. Anyone on the first page of Google or Bing for your offerings is a competitor.
Tip: When choosing the best keywords, it is important to choose phrases that are not only relevant to your business, but also ones that are searched most often by your target customers. Begin by getting inside the heads of your customers and brainstorm about potential terms they use when thinking about your products and capabilities. Then, turn to keyword research tools like Wordtracker or Google Ads to create a list of highly searched terms that will drive targeted traffic to your Website.
Tip: Begin by creating a keyword plan for your search engine optimization campaign. Your keyword plan will map each of your keyword phrases to the most appropriate pages on your website. Review all of the pages on your Website and determine the best page for each of your keyword phrases. If an ideal page does not exist, it needs to be created.
Tip: Copy is critical to search engine optimization success. Your keyword phrases need to be used throughout the entire page. Ideally, every page should have about 250 to 300 words of copy and your keyword phrase should be used approximately 5% of the time – or 5 times for every 100 words of copy.
Tip: Search engines consider page titles very important when evaluating page content. In addition, the page title is used for the blue clickable link people will see in the search results. Title tags must be written to include the most important phrases for the page, while appearing compelling to the searcher so they will want to click them. Keep them below 60 characters, including spaces. Each page of your Website should have a unique title tag.
Tip: To search engines, an XML sitemap is like a roadmap for your entire Website. With Google Search Console, you will be able to share your Sitemap.XML file, as well as tell Google how you would like the URLs it indexes to appear. In addition, it provides detailed reports about your site’s search engine visibility on its search engines. You will be able to see how Google crawls your site and learn about specific problems it may be having accessing it.
Tip: Search engines consider heading tags, <h1>, more important than normal text. You should make use of heading tags on every page to highlight the most important keywords and the heading for the page.
Tip: Search engines cannot read text included in images. However, every image can have an <alt> tag that includes a brief description that can be read and indexed by search engines. Only include relevant keywords that are important for the page and relevant for the image.
Tip: The ‘description’ meta tag is very important, since Google uses this information below the clickable link in the search results. Craft your ‘meta’ descriptions for each page like a compelling call to action, include your most important keywords for the page, and keep them below 150 characters, including spaces. The ‘keywords’ meta tag has been exploited over the years, so it is largely ignored by Google and other search engines. Still, it may have some impact, so use it to list your most important keywords for each page.
Tip: Search engines will also look at directory names and file names when reviewing the content of a web page. Where it makes sense, try to use your most important keyword phrases in these names.
Tip: Link building involves gaining links to your website from other popular websites in your industry or space. The more quality inbound links you have, the more popular your website is in the eyes of Google. Good content attracts links, so fill your website with interesting and informative content. Next, get your website listed in online directories and portals. Finally, you should leverage online public relations and distribute press releases and articles online.
Tip: Unlike traditional advertising, where you ‘pay for exposure’ regardless of the results, with paid search you only pay if someone clicks on your ad and visits your website, providing a compelling ‘pay for performance’ mode of advertising. To manage an ROI-driven paid search campaign, tie your bidding strategy to business results (e.g., sales, leads, etc.).
Tip: Since search engine marketing is all about attracting targeted traffic, begin by leveraging web analytics to monitor traffic increases from search, as well as what search engines and phrases people are using to visit your website. To make sure the volume of targeted visitors continues to increase, you should also monitor your position or ranking in the search results. Finally, to measure the success of your paid search advertising efforts, harness the measurable nature of the web to track the cost-per-visit, cost-per-lead, and cost-per-sale for all of your paid search ads.
Social media marketing involves leveraging social networking websites to share relevant and interesting content, or social media, with your network of fans, followers and connections. Social media marketing campaigns typically focus on creating compelling content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks.
So, how do you take advantage of this emerging marketing tool? The following checklist will put you on the right path.
Tip: Social media marketing can help you achieve a number of strategic marketing goals. Think about the goals and objectives for your social media marketing efforts. Some common social media marketing goals include increasing brand awareness, becoming a thought-leader, attracting direct traffic to your website, gaining inbound links for SEO, educating customers and enhancing customer service.
Tip: To succeed in social media marketing, you need to become a content marketer. Content marketing involves creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage clearly defined target audiences with the goal of driving action. Content marketing needs to serve as the cornerstone of your social media marketing strategy – creating educational items that are considered interesting, educational and useful by your target audience.
Tip: Articles are a fantastic content marketing tool to help your social media marketing. By creating 500- to 750-word educational articles that demonstrate best practices, you can showcase your expertise and demonstrate to your customers that you understand their needs
Tip: Blog posts are insightful and timely web content highlighting important insights, industry news, observations and other useful content. Readers of your blog posts are encouraged to share their comments, allowing for a two way dialogue. Your blog should be updated regularly with at least one new post per week or month.
Tip: PowerPoint or similar software can be used to create educational presentations that are oriented toward a particular industry challenge, opportunity or best practice. These presentations can be 5 to 50 pages in length – whatever it takes to make your point.
Tip: Whitepapers are topical, educational reports or guides that are oriented toward a particular industry challenge, opportunity or best practice. Generally, whitepapers are 8 to 15 pages in length and can really help you demonstrate thought leadership on issues that are important to your customers.
Tip: E-Books are like whitepapers on steroids. They are lengthier than whitepapers, generally ranging from 15 to 50 pages in length, and present complex information in a compelling and entertaining way.
Tip: Use online video to demonstrate a product, illustrate a best practice, allow customers to see your company behind the scenes, etc. Online videos do not have to be professionally produced – a basic digital video camera will work well. The key is to film content your customers will find useful and actionable.
Tip: A webinar is a seminar that is conducted over the web that participants can easily view from their office or home – either live or on-demand. Most Webinars include a visual slide presentation, as well as an audio broadcast that is accessed either over the computer or phone. Generally, Webinars are 60 to 90 minutes in length and can include a Q&A portion to respond to attendee questions.
Tip: Since it’s largely focused on business-to-business connections, LinkedIn should be a big part of your social media marketing strategy. At its most basic level, LinkedIn allows you to setup a personal profile and connect with other professionals you know or want to know. Then, your “connections” will receive status updates on a regular basis as you update your profile. LinkedIn is a great content marketing tool. In addition to information about your work experience and education, your LinkedIn profile can be enhanced to showcase your social media content, including status updates with links to your Website, blog posts, presentations, events, videos and other content. In addition, by participating in LinkedIn Groups, you can share your social media with your target audiences even if they are not one of your direct connections.
Tip: Facebook is by far the largest social networking website with more than 1 billion registered users. For the most part, Facebook is a place for friends — providing a platform for friends to connect (or reconnect) and share ideas, happenings, photos, videos, and other information. It also offers a number of widgets and apps that you can integrate into your Facebook page to make it more engaging. While it’s not primarily designed as a business tool, you can use Facebook as a content marketing tool. As a business, you can create a Facebook “Page” for your company, which is a public-facing Facebook destination that all of your customers can easily access. Your Facebook Business Page can serve as a valuable outpost allowing you to bring your great social media content directly to your customers. Just remember to always direct them back to your website for more.
Tip: Twitter is the fastest growing social network with over 500 million registered users since its launch in 2006. Twitter is a place for broadcasting ideas, providing a fast-paced platform for you to broadcast 140 character messages, called “Tweets” to your “Followers.” People can choose to follow others and receive updates on all their tweets. A major difference between Twitter and other social networking websites is you don’t need other people’s permission before you can follow them. While it’s not as targeted as the other social networking sites, Twitter can still serve as a content marketing tool. Build a following and start tweeting compelling messages to tout your social media content. Provide links back to the content on your website, using services like Bit.ly to shorten the links. Finally, include appropriate “Hashtags” (e.g., #construction and #contractor) in your messages so your tweets can be found by other people interested in the hashtag topics.
Tip: In addition to the major social networking sites, there are other social media sites you should take advantage of that focus on content sharing. These sites allow you to publish a specific type of social media (i.e., whitepapers, online videos, etc.) allowing viewers to comment and share with their networks. YouTube is the most popular video sharing social media site. SlidesShare is a social media site for sharing presentations. Scribd is a social media site for sharing documents.
Tip: Is your social media campaign making an impact? Are you successful? To answer these questions and determine the return on investment from your social media marketing efforts, establish quantifiable success measures and put in place systems to measure your progress. Success measures include Website traffic, content consumption, content contribution, content sharing, chatter, network growth, profile engagement and business building metrics like leads and sales.
Email marketing is an important component of an integrated online marketing strategy that leverages permission-based electronic communications to nurture relationships with customers and prospects, generate leads and sales and enhance customer retention. But how can you take full advantage of the power of email marketing to produce results for your company? This section will provide you with a checklist to put you on the path toward email marketing success.
Tip: Email marketing can help you achieve a number of strategic marketing goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Think about the goals and objectives for your email marketing efforts. Some examples may include building trust and credibility in your company, changing your customers’ perception of your business, establishing yourself or your company as a thought leader in your industry, presenting offers that generate leads and sales and increasing repeat business from existing customers.
Tip: To be effective, your email marketing campaign needs to be customer-focused. So spend some time to thinking about the recipients of your messages. Who are they? What industry or business are they in? What is their role within their company? What are they searching for? By understanding your specific audience groups, you will be able to identify information will they find useful and want to receive.
Tip: If not, it’s time to get sneaky and find out what your competitors are doing with email. I recommend you create an email address that doesn’t identify much about you or your company and subscribe to your competitors’ email lists. Then, as you start to receive their emails, keep track of what they are sending.
Tip: Don’t forget about your offline communications with customers and prospects. Often these interactions are a great opportunity to build your email list. Ask your customers for their email addresses and permission. Promote your email newsletter in all printed marketing materials. Tout your email newsletter on invoices and packing slips. Promote your email newsletter on product registration and warranty cards. And, make sure you collect email addresses at trade shows and other events.
Tip: If your company serves a variety of distinct industries or business types, you should consider segmenting your list into groups. This will allow you to send targeted, relevant messages to each of these distinct audience groups. You can do this manually by creating groups within your email subscriber database.
Tip: Your company should have a great writer and a great editor for your email newsletter. Your writer is responsible for creating compelling, customer-focused articles and content for your email newsletter. Your editor is responsible for reviewing and editing content, managing production and distribution, and ensuring the “voice” of your e-newsletter is maintained issue after issue.
Tip: Your email newsletter is not for you – it’s for your customers. You need to focus less on your company and more on the issues and ideas your customers are interested in. I like articles that focus on “how-to” tips, best practices, actionable strategies and industry trends.
Tip: When you write your articles, take a conversational tone in your copy. Don’t feel you are writing your articles for hundreds or thousands of subscribers. The reality is that one person will be reading your newsletter at a time. Have a conversation with each reader by writing the way you talk – in a direct and friendly manner. Your readers will find it much more appealing than if you write in a formal manner.
Tip: Even though the focus of your email newsletter is to educate prospects and customers, this is a great opportunity to present them with relevant offers to generate leads and sales or encourage repeat Website visits. I like to see email newsletters be 80% educational and 20% promotional. The majority of the email newsletter content is useful educational information, while the sidebar is presenting your readers with an attractive offer that is relevant to the article content.
Tip: When people scan messages in their inbox, they don’t look for what to read, they look for what to delete. So, make your message seem as appealing as possible. Make sure your “From” address will be recognizable to your readers. In addition, create a 20 to 25 characters subject line that will appeal to readers’ interests. Finally, most email client software allows readers to preview messages before officially opening them. Make sure your most compelling content will show up within the top 400-500 pixels of your message.
Tip: Since spam, or unsolicited and unwanted email, has become a major problem, a number of countries have passed anti-spam legislation that email marketers must comply with. I recommend you visit the Federal Trade Commission Website, to familiarize yourself with the United States laws. Elements to be aware of include: gain permission, let them unsubscribe, don’t be deceptive, provide contact information and don’t share your address list.
Tip: You should send your email newsletter on a regular basis, ideally monthly. If you send your enewsletter less frequently, it will not be often enough to establish a relationship with your readers. If you send it more frequently then monthly, you may risk bothering your readers.
Tip: An email marketing campaign management system will help you automate the entire process of building your lists, designing and delivering your messages and measuring the success of your campaign. Lower-end systems, like Constant Contact, provide great base-level capabilities at an affordable price. Higher-end systems, like ExactTarget, provide more advanced capabilities at a higher price.
Tip: When using an email marketing campaign management system, you will have access to great reports that will allow you to track the key metrics to measure the success of each email marketing issue. Some statistics to shoot for include: delivery rates of 95% or higher, open rates of 35% or higher, click-through rates of 10% or higher and unsubscribe rates of 3% or less. In addition, leverage Web analytics to track leads and sales from email marketing
By considering the checklists detailed in this guide, you have now taken the crucial first step toward achieving your online marketing goals. Now it’s time to take action to profit from these principles.
For more guided online marketing strategies, take a look at our guide resource center. We have a guide for each high-level online marketing activity.
A great next step will be to setup a free consultation with me, Bob DeStefano, to discuss your B2B online marketing strategy.
I guarantee I’ll provide you with tips and ideas you can use immediately to boost your results.