Your website is the first contact your potential customer has with your company – and it could also be your last depending on the experience he or she has there. Companies who say they don’t get their business from the web may be accurate, but that just means that they are missing out on potential sales. Referrals are fantastic, but what is the first step in following up? For many buyers, it is checking out the company online.
So what can residential integrators do to improve their online presence and turn their sites into lead machines? Web designer Paul Compton, owner of Paul Ryan Design, has some ideas, and he has some good insights into what a residential integrator needs, as he was one for over 30 years.
“I am who my clients are now – I speak the same language as them,” says Compton. “I can bridge the gap between them and the potential customer or visitor to their website by knowing what they do and what they sell.”
Where to begin? There are some key elements that any good business web site should have – residential integrators included, naturally. “Number one is a way for any customer – whether that is a potential customer or an existing customer – to be able to contact them immediately,” says Compton. “And this is very simple stuff. I'm a big fan of putting the phone number on the top right of the home page.”
The contact information is key for however they wound up on the site, whether it be from a word-of-mouth recommendation, Facebook page, or search. Make it easy to find. Having a “contact us” form is also important, but Compton warns to keep it simple: “Don’t ask the visitor for everything, including their blood type. Get their pertinent information and get out. Then make the phone call to them – you can get their address when you're on the phone with them; they don't need to type it into the computer. Asking for every possible scenario of information will prevent people from filling out the form.”
Another key to a successful site is to keep it fresh. “Google wants fresh relevant content on your web site on a consistent basis,” explains Compton. “So you have to view the web site as a living thing. If you don't feed it, it will die. And you'll drop in the rankings and lose potential customers because of it.”
Being in the technology business, there is no shortage of new products to keep a page fresh. Having outdated tech on your site is a sure way to lose to the competition. But, even with tried-and-true gear, Compton offers another caveat: “You don't necessarily want to sell product. You have to sell the experience, and you have to have to be able to describe to the potential visitor what these products can do and how they can improve his or her life.”
Page by Page
Integrators offer so many services and product categories that the tendency is to try and cram that all on the home page, which makes for a crowded look that new visitors may find overwhelming. How can you tell the full story without the clutter?
“What you want to do is very quickly let them know exactly what it is that you do – and you can do that in literally less than 10 words right on the header image of the home page,” says Compton. “And then from there give them an idea of the broader sense of the actual business. Then you should have – and this is the way Google wants it – a page for each service that you provide. Now some of the pages can be combined for complementary products – for example, light and shade. Unless you're really heavy in lights and shades, there's really no reason to have two different pages, so that's where people can save a little money if you are having a site built.”
A well-designed and functioning site can help you pull ahead of the competition, but there are more targeted tactics you can use on your site to stay ahead. “I recommend doing a search on Amazon home services,” says Compton. “Do a search for home theater in your area and then go to the reviews and look at the three-star reviews – not the five-star reviews and not the one-star reviews. Those three-star reviews will be actual legitimate complaints. If you look at those reviews, you will see an overriding theme everywhere – whether they don't show up on time or they didn't do this, didn't do that. Then you answer those reviews on your website: ‘We show up on time and we do this.’ And show it with social proof. Look for what your competition isn't doing.”
As gorgeous and useful as you make your website, it is just one part of your digital marketing plan, which needs to include ways of reaching out to clients and potential clients through a well-planned social media and email strategy.
Compton offers this example to demonstrate the power of a strong Facebook presence: “I have a customer in Minnesota who is absolutely killing it right now to the point where these guys are installing two to three 110-inch screens a week – and here's why: they're not showing stock images of product on their Facebook page; they're showing their work. They're taking cell phone pictures and emailing them to me. Then I'll write up a little blurb on it and post. They've only got 300 followers, but they work with about 15 builders, including a few that have a really good Facebook presence. One has about 2800 followers, and I had tagged them on a post from a job they did in one of his spec homes and it just went crazy – it reached about 3000 people and they ended up selling two home theaters.”
As impressive as that is, Compton is resolute when asked what is the best way to reach customers: “Nothing works as good as e-mail. Nothing. When you need to move the needle immediately – let's say, for example, a shop that has four or five guys and work is starting to slow down – an e-mail campaign can immediately turn that around.
“Can you sell a $40,000 or $50,000 product through email? Probably not, but what you can do is use the e-mail to walk your customers up the value ladder. These are the people that you already have a relationship with, and a lot of times your customer doesn't know all that you do. Whether it's security cameras or shades. So what you're doing with the e-mail campaigns is you are staying on top of mind.”
And as tempting as constant contact with your customers is, Compton advises restraint. “I like to send them out two to three times a month – I don't like to spam people.” he says. “If my customer is doing three e-mails per month, I do two informative e-mails – for example, a lot of my customers rep Sonos, which is terribly popular and has a bunch of backend features that people aren't aware of such as the alarm clock. So you send them out an e-mail about the alarm clock, or you send them out an email about how to change their WiFi password, or whatever. These little tips and tricks can make them a little bit more savvy. And then on the third e-mail we hit them with some sales material – things that are reduced in price. When you do that, people will welcome the e-mails and they'll open them. When you don't do that and you're just constantly barraging them with stuff that you want to push down their throats, they will start to back away from the e-mails.”
If You Build It, Build It Right
It is always a good time to evaluate (and re-evaluate) your online presence. Get opinions from customers, check out the competition, and, if need be, find some professional help.
“There are just short of a billion web sites on the planet,” concludes Compton. “If you don't do some form of SEO on your web site, or don't even have a web site because you think there's no point, you simply will not win. You might as well take a business card, walk off into Yosemite National Forest, and staple it to a tree. Nobody will ever find you.”
For more information on Paul Compton and Paul Ryan Design, visit http://paulryandesign.com.