Four Tips for Creating Websites to be Used as Marketing Tools

An effective web presence has evolved to become the central crucial element in the process of marketing your tech business. But the truth is, many companies fail to recognize the critical importance of a website and the amazing influence it can have on your business.
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Many products being sold today, such as wireless speakers and music systems, barely even existed five years ago, yet they now have a dominant share of the market and continue to grow. The same holds true for the tools and techniques of marketing, some of which barely existed five years ago but now are becoming increasingly dominant in the process of marketing your tech company. With so many marketing options from which to choose, what are the top tools and best techniques to market your

tech company today?

Your prospects don’t want you to “pitch” them or “sell” them anymore. Any marketing that even remotely looks or sounds like you’re selling them is rejected–or worse–labeled as spam. Instead, they want to independently learn more about you and your products or services by reading useful, informative content that you’ve made available to them. By creating compelling content, you become, in effect, an information or content publisher. You start by creating valuable, interesting, useful information in a blog post, white paper, e-book, podcast, YouTube video, etc. Then you “share” the availability of this freshly created content via social media, email marketing, and on your website. The prospects can then choose for themselves the circumstances of when and how they will view or consume your content.

While some of the marketing tools in this new world may seem familiar to you, keep in mind that they are often used in new and very specific ways to enhance their engagement factor. This week, as a preview my Residential Systems June 2015 print article, I’m presenting a four-part series on Tools and Techniques to Power Up Your Marketing Strategy

  1. Treat Your Website as the Foundation
  2. A Blog as Part of Your Marketing Plan
  3. Email Marketing Strategies
  4. Social Media Marketing

Today, I’ll focus on treating your website as the foundation for your marketing strategy. An effective web presence has evolved to become the central crucial element in the process of marketing your tech business. But the truth is, many companies fail to recognize the critical importance of a website and the amazing influence it can have on your business.

Data from market researcher BIA Kelsey shows that 97 percent of consumers research companies, products, and services online before shopping either online or locally. That’s 97 percent! And of those going online for information, 90 percent use a major search engine–Google, Bing, or Yahoo–to find what they’re looking for. Astonishingly, in spite of this new reality of consumers researching online to decide what they want buy and where they want to buy it–an amazing 44 percent of businesses don’t even have a website. Sadly, we have run across that reality in our very own tech industry. Of those technology integration companies that do have websites, many have poorly designed, static pages that haven’t been updated in months or years and contain little or no useful content. We’ve talked to tech companies that say they view their website as a sort of electronic business card, offering little more than address and phone number.

“We participated in [a recent regional dealer show] and I talked with a half-dozen dealers that were interested in talking to us,” Andrew Ard, global marketing and business development manager of Relidy LLC said. “They literally had sites–some of them were between two-to-six years old–that weren’t doing anything because they’d had them built and they didn’t have the time to put anything in them [add content].”

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Andrew Ard, Relidy 

Most integrators say that they get business through referrals–referrals from previous customers, from architects, from builders, etc. They often don’t appreciate the power of marketing. Instead, they wait for a phone call from a prospective customer that was generated from a referral. While referrals are important, the process that consumers use to decide whom to buy from is changing.

“What’s the first thing you do when a friend says, ‘Oh there’s this great restaurant to try’ or ‘I’ve been to Punta Cana before, let me tell about this great resort where we stayed?’” asked Ami Wright, director of sales and marketing for One Firefly. “Do you respond, ‘OK, great, let me book that restaurant or that hotel right away?’ No! You’re going to Google the name the person told you. So it’s really a paradigm shift that consumers have so much power at their fingertips to become more educated–they don’t even want to talk to you until they’ve done more homework on their own.”

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Ami Wright, One Firefly Remember that statistic that 90 percent of online researchers will use Google/Bing/Yahoo to find you? If you don’t have a website, then they won’t find you. And if you have a website that is not optimized to Google’s search algorithms–a practice called search engine optimization or SEO–they may still not find you.

As Wright mentioned, even your referral customers now go to Google first to research your business. In the past, prospective customers really had no choice, “they had to call you and let you educate them about your business,” Wright said. Now, you don’t even get that call until they’ve researched your business on the internet; the dynamic has clearly changed. Your website better be doing a good job of presenting your company, or that referral call isn’t coming, even, in many cases, when it was connected to a recommendation from one of your customers.

Here then are four tips for creating websites to be used as marketing tools:

1) Choose to DIY or Pay a Pro. When it comes to creating a website, you can do it yourself. Many domain registry sites offer low-cost or free templates and step-by-step instructions on how to add your content. But before you decide to do this, consider the caveats. Creating an effective website is an exercise in both art and science. Templates can help you conquer the “science” part, but most free or low-cost templates are very plain vanilla layouts designed to appeal to a wide range of businesses. They typically are not SEO savvy, which could hurt your rankings with the major search engines and make it harder for potential customers to find your business. They generally do not present a particularly compelling layout. They also are not unique, with many hundreds or even thousands of businesses using the same template.

As far as the “art” of this process, your website needs to effectively communicate the unique aspects of what makes your company special, and it needs to do so in language that is meaningful to your prospective customers. To achieve this, it takes captivating writing and dramatic imagery.

Finally, can you afford the cost of designing your own website? The true cost of a website is the sum total of time and materials, including content creation, needed to create the site. It generally will take around 45-90 days to create a simple multipage site. This is a lot of man-hours, so seriously consider whether you have that much time on your hands.

2) Employ a Mobile-ready Design. It is absolutely critical that you employ a site design that automatically resizes the pages such that they are optimized for the size of the device seeking access. This is known as a “responsive” website design. Earlier this year, Google announced that it was changing its search results algorithms to consider the “mobile-friendliness” of any site’s design. This means if your site is not considered mobile-friendly, you will lose ranking to other sites that are.

3) Chip in for a Quality Upgraded Template. For those who are determined to build their own website, forgo the free templates and search major template providers for better template options. One popular service is Template Monster (www.templatemonster.com), which offers a wide variety of attractive template designs–many for less than $100. There are many other services like this, so don’t be afraid to shop around. Not only are these reasonably priced templates generally better looking and richer in graphics and more robust in structure, they typically have been designed with SEO features built-in to give you an added edge in snaring search engine referrals. And they include many templates that are responsive designs.

4) Be SEO Aware and Update, Update, Update. There are a couple of easy ways to help your site rank higher on Google’s search results pages, but the best method is to regularly refresh your content. Google’s algorithms are biased to rank websites higher if they regularly post fresh content.

Next, we’ll focus on using “A Blog as Part of Your Marketing Plan.”

Ted Green (tedg@stratecongroup.com) hosts a widely read weekly CE business blog at Strata-gee.com, the online home of The Stratecon Group, his marketing and strategy agency for the tech industry.

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