Driving Customers to Your Site

Ultimately as a graphic/web designer, it’s my job to create designs that, hopefully, will attract the attention of people that view the sites we design for our clients.Through a combination of strong design and stronger content, the website should be a great resource that people not only want to come back to, but want to tell other people about.Yet, no matter how good the design, alone, of any website is, it’s getting people to visit the site that is the most important thing.

While search engines are a common way to find what you need on the web there are thousands of businesses competing for top ranking in each industry.There is no sure fire equation to guarantee that you will always get, and have, top billing in the search engines.There are tricks and techniques that you can do to cheat some of the search engines, but you run the high risk of getting your site banned.

Whether you’re creating a new site or revising what you have, there are things you can do to help the search engines that won’t get you flagged.Creating keywords (any word or phrase that has particular significance to the content of your website) used consistently in your meta-tags, the content of your site and when needed in the alt tags (alternative text embedded in the HTML code for graphic files) helps the search engines track your site down. The best way to create key phrases is to define what it is your business does and find the key verbs, nouns and adjectives that repeatedly pop up when you describe your business.Another way to help search engines out is to vary your meta-tags, keywords and page titles for each page so they relate to the content on that page. You know, it seems like keywords would make a whole entry.

So, outside of search engines, how do you get people to visit your site?

How do you make people aware that you have a site?

What can you do that is cost effective?

Funny you should ask.

Placing your web address on all your marketing material from your business card and flyers to your radio and television commercials is an excellent way.It sounds like a common sense suggestion, but you’d be surprised just how many people leave off a website, phone number or mailing address. Most occasions, people won’t just stop to look at the directions or just look at the contact section.They will take time to learn about your company through the content that’s on your site and any marketing materials you have.They will get an immediate impression of the person, or company, that they are looking to do business with.They will remember to check back at later times to catch up on what your company is doing or is offering.And, lately, a website address seems easier to remember than a phone number.

With telemarketers calling at all times during the day and spam emails overloading their websites, today’s consumer doesn’t want to feel hassled or feel like they are obligated to buy something if they want to learn more about your company.By having your domain name on all of your marketing material, and even your letter head, it allows people who receive that material to visit your site freely.It costs nothing more to add the website address than to leave it off, but it brings another way for people to learn more about your business.

The best way is to get out there and hype up your website.Think of a movie you saw based on a friends recommendation.A recording artist you may never have heard of without someone suggesting it.Even a restaurant that you tried because a family member, or coworker, gave it raving reviews.Websites act in the same way.Word of mouth drives people to websites, because they know that the information is there, people have used the site and it’s been brought to their attention that a site exists. The new term for Word of Mouth these days is Viral Marketing. One person passing an idea to another and so on and so on.

So, it isn’t just having a website that will get people to visit it and potentially buy into your company.It’s the effort you put behind creating strong content that will have people wanting to visit your site, the effort in advertising your website that will increase people’s awareness of your company and potentially increase your sales.So get out there, talk up your website to anyone, and everyone, and make sure it’s on all your marketing material. Take that advice and sit back and watch the hit counter grow.

What was the last website you were directed to that kept your attention?How do you learn about most websites or businesses you visit?

Yeah it’s cheaper, but what are you really getting?

I’ve gone round and round about what to talk about this time and, after many heated battles with Nerf balls and Twinkies, a phone call gave me the solution.  I recently spoke to a gentleman who decided that, rather than create a visually appealing website; he was going to spend as little as possible on his website, marketing material and promotional items.  His reason, you might ask?

“œI don’t expect to get a lot out of them so I’m going to go somewhere cheaper”.  He also said something to the effect that if the visual aspect of the marketing materials sold the product then he felt his product wouldn’t appear that strong. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever popular reason “œI don’t want to spend too much money”.

So let’s take a few to address why sacrificing your marketing material for a lower cost to you is a bad idea.

Here’s a visual test for you.  Forget you own/work for a company and come to the visual standpoint of a consumer.  I want you to picture two companies. These two companies sell the same Whatchamacallit, they are in the same area, they target the same demographic, but there is a large difference between them.

Company A invested in creating a strong professional image. They invested a few dollars into coming up with a strong brand identity. They invested in two or three visually strong advertisements that they place in their windows and news papers. They invested a few extra dollars in paint and nice displays and they invested in a website that customers can learn about them and what it is they sell. (This word investment keeps coming up”¦must be something in that, eh?)

Company B decided they needed to spend as little money initially as possible to cut costs.  They had a friend’s kid that’s interested in drawing come up with a logo, they printed a few flyers on their home PC and reproduced them on a library copier in black and white, they brought in used displays they got here and there and they got the same kid that had an interest in drawing create a simple web page that has their contact information, a small blurb about the company and doesn’t visually display the visual message or feel the company is trying to convey.

Now if you saw a running theme with Company A, then you noticed the theme of what I’m saying here.  Your marketing material (brochures, business cards, website, advertisements and etc) are an investment in future success of your overall visual brand.  Not I said the visual brand of your company. No marketing material out weighs the value of a superior product, staff or service your company provides. They are simply tools that tend to reach your potential clients before you or your sales person do.

The minute your marketing materials go out, you are establishing a strong presence, or expectation, positive or negative, in the customers mind and the mind of businesses in your area. You are giving potential customers reasons to take your business seriously by saying without words “œI care about my own product”¦so I will take the same care with yours”.  Or you are giving potential customers reasons to say “œthis company can’t even be bothered invest in themselves”¦so how can I assume they will provide a good service for me”.

If you say “œI don’t want to spend that much money” on your own marketing material, you run the risk of getting exactly what you paid for.  Clients who want to spend very little on your product to get the biggest bang for theirs.  Very rarely, do you get something for nothing.  You also run the risk of a potential customer saying the same thing about your service or product.

There is an old adage that stands true no matter what business you are in “œyou have to spend money to make money”.  A better one, in this case, is “œyou get what you give”.  Before you break out the pitchforks and torches to come after me for suggesting you break the bank and spend everything you have on amazing materials.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  What I am suggesting is that you should look at what marketing materials you will need and budget accordingly.  Plan out what you need in the order you will need them; for example identity (logo), business cards, website, advertisements and so on.  Work closely with a professional firm, or studio, that you have talked to in great detail and compared prices to get the best value.  Or better yet, Steven Fisher is doing a great Marketing Plan Series in his little slice of Technosailor.com heaven. Take some time and follow some of his advice.  Between the two of us you may come up with some ideas you hadn’t thought about before.

Once you look at your marketing materials, from your logo to business cards to even your website, as an investment in future profit then “œI don’t want to spend too much money” will be replaced with “œwhat I’m putting out now”¦will come back to me with interest later”.  Here’s a thought I’m going to leave you with, have you ever gone to a networking event and been handed a business card that you found it difficult to keep the expression off your face that would let the person you met know they just handed you something that looked like it was just printed seconds before they met you? Were you ever handed a business card that immediately had you showing it off to someone near by because it was that impressive? Where between the two do you think your business card, or any of your marketing materials, falls?

The difference between success and closing next year…

The silver bullet for marketing a successful business”¦doesn’t exist. Sorry to disappoint you. There’s a world of difference between closing in six months and seeing year two come and go. A lot of it is hard work, timing, patience and the ability to adapt. I’m going to say this over and over again over the course of these posts so let me get it out of the way. Your marketing/brand materials are only one aspect of your business. Depending on your industry they could be a very big thing or the thing that keeps you fresh in your prospects minds.

When it comes to the marketing and design aspect of a successful business it comes down to three simple things:

  • A clear message
  • A consistent brand identity/message
  • The ability to see beyond what you like and into what your prospective customers

You have to simultaneously predict the future, correct the problems of the past and be able to change on a dime if the marketing shifts.

You don’t have to throw all of your money into your marketing materials, and I highly suggest you spend what you can afford, but make sure that you put your best possible marketing foot forward with each piece you put your companies brand on. The major corporations that you see on a daily basis put the same kind of care and effort into each marketing piece. You need a plan of action, a budget, a visions for your message, a target audience and reasonable sense of what you expect to receive; you’re return on investment (ROI). These things are established in your marketing plan. Rather than go over what’s all ready been done on Technosailor, take some time and read Steven Fisher’s Marketing Plan Series.

Let me put something into perspective for you. Coca-Cola historically has put close to forty percent of their profits back into the marketing of their business. They have 400 brands in over 200 countries and they have advertisements in every possible avenue of marketing. You can practically go anywhere in the world and people will know the Coca-Cola name. They are in almost every store, office vending machine and are a house hold name to people who don’t even drink the stuff. But if they are that well known why spend the money?

Because they want to be the only cola you think of”¦even when you’re not thinking about it. Because they know their competitors are working just as hard to get your attention. Because without you, and everyone else who drinks their product or who will ever try it, their company and product simply wouldn’t exist.

Do you think of marketing your company in the same way? Do you keep your competitors in mind when you’re working on your website, advertisement, elevator speech or whatever aspect of marketing you’re working on? Do you put a dedicated effort into making sure every piece of marketing you pay for supports each other while simultaneously keeping awareness of your product? Is it more than just a business card, a brochure, or a website to you? They are to Coca-Cola. They are to your competitors. They are to your customers and prospects. Your marketing materials are just one of the several crucial pieces of the puzzle that makes the difference between success and closing next year.