In Part 1 of our Guide to Online Marketing we outlined how to set up the right foundations before actively engaging in online marketing activities. Those good foundations will really pay off in the long run. Now, in Part 2, we explain how to engage with your target audience. This is the real key to online marketing success, both directly as it encourages prospects to become customers and indirectly because of the positive knock-on benefits to search engine rankings.
Engage Customers on Your Website
Rather than assuming that the building of your core website is a one-time activity which is finished after you’ve added content about your company, products and services, go a step further and think of it from a potential customer’s point of view. What else would they like to see when they arrive at your site? As well as showing decent product/service photographs and detailed text content and specifications etc., one of the best things you can add to your site is ‘Social Proof’ which, as the name suggests, is visible proof that you offer a good service and that your products or services are liked by people who have bought from you before.
Social Proof Improves Trust
Many online purchasing decisions come down to one word — trust. So — on your website add some genuine testimonials, recommendations, reviews and quotations from happy customers who have tried, and liked, your product or service in the past. Testimonials will naturally come to you if you offer a good product or service and communicate well with those who have ordered or enquired. However, if you’re just starting out, you may not have any testimonials or reviews yet. So, be proactive and simply ask a few early customers for their thoughts on your offering and, of course, for their permission for you to publish them and then you can get the ‘trust’ ball rolling. Publishing testimonials, reviews and displaying genuine ‘star ratings’ on your website can be the difference between whether someone orders from you – and whether they go elsewhere. This is known as ‘social proof’ and is like gold dust when it comes to online marketing. Indeed the likes of Amazon and eBay have whole Social Proof systems built into their sites so that visitors can check out the vendor and their feedback history, as well as a star rating for many of the products, although you do not need to go this far when you’re starting out — more sophisticated social proof systems can come later.
Fast, Responsive Feedback
Live Chat is another feature which can be seamlessly and easily added to your website, particularly if Firstpoint Print has built your website for you. This feature allows customers to interact with you via a live messaging system, right there on your website. The system allows site visitors to tap out a query which you can instantly respond to. Again, a quick response of the right nature can be the difference between the prospect ordering from you and becoming a customer, or going elsewhere. Many prospects actually prefer live chat on a website to calling by phone, however it should only be used if you have someone at the ready at all times when the system is live because there is nothing more infuriating than being ignored, particularly when you’re a customer who is virtually ready to buy. So if you add Live Chat to your site, make sure it is used well and, for example, deactivated when nobody is around to deal with the incoming enquiries. Another tip for Live Chat is *not* to bug site visitors by forcing a pop-up message onto their screens asking them if they would like to chat. If they want to message a query, they will click the appropriate live chat button on your site and do not need to be prompted. Moreover prompting them the moment they arrive may well scare them off — people do not like the feeling that they are being watched.
Feedback forms & contact telephone numbers and other means of communication are, of course, an absolute necessity on websites and they should be easy to find. At all times you simply must give your potential customers the chance to ask questions, after all they’re likely to spend good money and therefore need to be sure they’re making the right decision by buying from you. You should also make your physical address easily found on your site. If you don’t, you will immediately lose trust from your visitor, who should be able to find out where you or your organisation are based. Many in the UK, including myself, will be looking to buy from a UK-based business so don’t fail this simple test of trust. Tell them where you are on a contact page or perhaps in a ‘footer’ area on every page.
Customer Satisfaction is Paramount
Customer satisfaction usually comes down to:
- Trust in your brand, product or service;
- Easy contact;
- Quick response;
- Fast dispatch of products or fulfilment of services;
- Professional communication levels at all times.
Moreover, getting those things right and turning a prospect into a customer will often result in further purchases from the same customer in the future, without any of the original ‘friction’.
Build a List
Include an easy way for site and blog visitors to sign up for e-news, or even posted newsletters, from your company or organisation. Harvesting visitors’ contact details will be simple and quick to set up (perhaps an hour at the very most) but can run on auto-pilot thereafter, collecting email addresses and postal addresses of interested prospects continuously into the future. We recommend two types of website sign-up:
- A ‘follow’ button on your site (available for the particular site architecture we, and 25% or more of the rest of the world, use for our websites). Those prospects that choose to follow you (which can be done by simply entering their email address and clicking ‘follow’) will hence forth be sent an email every time you post something new to your blog, without you having to lift a finger because the website does the work for you, automatically. So for the prospect and you it’s easy and quick. They can, of course, unsubscribe at any time at the click of a link.
- A ‘sign up for our newsletter’ mini-form. Again, the visitor enters their email address and, if they like, their postal address, then clicks a button and they are then signed up to your e-newsletter or physical newsletter if you send one (see below). If set up correctly you don’t even need to do much more, if anything … the visitor’s contact details will automatically add themselves to your newsletter database. This is easy to set up and is another reason to ask Firstpoint Print to help next time you want to rebuild your website.
Content Is King – Use Your Blog!
Your website will need regular updates. This includes continually updating content, prices, services offered etc. however, if Firstpoint Print has built your website, chances are your site already includes an integral, search-engine-friendly blog. Use this to publish regular articles which should be useful and interesting to your target audience, rather than being ‘salesy’. Your aim is to engage with your customers and audience rather than ‘hard selling’ to them. The latter is one sure way of putting them off reading your content and, in our view, buying your product or service. You need to become a ‘trusted source’ of industry news, tips and useful information. Write enough information so as to be very useful, but of course not so much that you make yourself totally redundant as a potential supplier. You will build trust and authority within your niche if you approach your site, blog and social media content in this way.
Also don’t forget to link relevant key words and phrases within your blog posts to the appropriate (relevant) pages and content from your main site – so that people can find out more if they want to (this, by the way, also helps with ‘SEO’ which we will cover in Part 3).
Engage Your Customers Elsewhere
As well as making sure you engage your customers well on your actual website, you will usually need to spend a more significant amount of time engaging customers and prospects elsewhere online. Which brings us to …
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
As well as blogging, you need to be ‘micro blogging’ via social media. Exactly how to set up and use each social media profile is beyond the scope of this blog post but it’s fair to say that you should usually have a business page or profile on each of the following as a bare minimum**:
- Facebook (you need a business ‘page’);
- Google Plus;
- Ideally Pinterest too if you have access to enough photographs, illustrations and/or videos relating to your product or service.
Within each, use the same approach to content as you do above in the blogging section but bear in mind that, on social media platforms, your ‘posts’ are likely to be shorter in length, significantly so in Twitter, of course. Remember to use ‘hash tags’ in Twitter (we also use a few at the foot of Facebook and Google Plus posts) and remember to directly ‘pin’ photographs, illustrations and any videos directly from your website and blog into your Pinterest profile, ‘pinning’ to the appropriate ‘board’ of course. That way you get a direct link from Pinterest to your site which helps to funnel traffic to your site/blog as well as helping to improve your rankings on the search engines.
Indeed you should cross-link relevant content from each of your different profiles so as to funnel traffic from social media pages and profiles through to relevant posts in your blog or better still through to relevant pages in your website – where hopefully people can either order your product or service or contact you to discuss potentially doing so.
Also monitor and participate in online forums which are linked closely to your particular niche. This can help to funnel more traffic to your site, increase in-bound links and help you to become known as an ‘authority’ within your niche.
** Perhaps consider a Tumblr profile if your business gives you access to lots of interesting photos (e.g. product shots, lifestyle shots etc) and perhaps consider LinkedIn too so long as you can ‘connect’ with enough suitable LinkedIn connections (people/prospects).
Send Prospects & Customers News & Offers via Newsletter
Once you have your newsletter database set up (see ‘Build A List’ section above) and people have started to sign up to receive your news and offers, you can use easy and inexpensive online tools, e.g. Mail Chimp and similar, to send out nicely formatted e-newsletters. These should contain *useful* information (not just sales messages – that’s one sure way to put people off reading them), occasional special offers, perhaps discount codes if your site has e-commerce, links to videos, images and so on. Here you are again engaging with your customers which is what much of online marketing is all about. You can of course do exactly the same thing off-line using traditional printed newsletters which you dispatch by post to your harvested mailing list. Firstpoint Print would be delighted to help you with design, artwork and printing of your newsletters and even mailing out if you simply supply your database.
Don’t Miss A Single Marketing Opportunity: Re-Sell!
If you send out packing slips or invoices (shameless plug – we print those too!) make sure you send out a brochure, special offer, flyer or other marketing literature at the same time, otherwise it’s a missed opportunity — after all you’re sending out anyway so including something extra is a no-brainer. Bear in mind that existing customers are usually the most likely to order from you in the future, so this approach makes absolute sense and won’t even cost much extra, if anything. Let us know at Firstpoint Print if you need our help with design, artwork and printing for these – we’d be delighted to help. Our digital printing service means that you can order small quantities of sales and marketing literature only when needed (known as ‘on demand’ printing), so you don’t have to store huge quantities. Our digital printing prices are very affordable, particularly when applied to small and medium quantities. Alternatively, with our litho printing service we can supply large print quantities which bring the unit cost of each marketing piece down to a low, low level due to the economies of scale.
Contact us at your nearest branch for further details:
- Clerkenwell Branch (EC1) – Telephone 020 7490 7588 – or contact us here.
- London Bridge Branch (SE1) – Telephone 020 7378 6754 – or contact us here.
- Victoria Branch (SW1) – Telephone 020 7828 0515 – or contact us here.
In Part 3 we’ll look at advanced online marketing tips and tricks including Search Engine Optimisation (‘SEO’) and Pay-Per-Click advertising (‘PPC’) — so please do come back soon …