It’s always great to hear that remodelers are having a stellar year ? referrals are coming in, solid leads are turning into clients, and business is booming. However, one part of the total business pie that can easily be forgotten, amidst all of this success is marketing. It’s amazing how often you hear that the first thing to go is one’s marketing plan for the year, marketing is too expensive or my budget just doesn’t call for marketing this year.
Au contraire, marketing doesn’t have to break the bank; the new age of marketing is all about the Internet. Internet marketing involves many segments and some that this article will touch upon include the basics: Web site development, search engine optimization and marketing via e-mail.
The Internet has been called the Information Superhighway, for many reasons, might I add. Millions of people surf the Internet for information every day, but are they getting what they are looking for? Studies have shown that people give up on looking for what they want if they can’t find it in eight clicks. It is your job, as the Web site provider, to offer this sought-after information in a clear and easy-to-find manner.
Your Web site is an asset
The Web site is the key player in your marketing and sales endeavors, no matter how big or small your company may be. Your site should serve as a portal for potential customers and as a marketing tool for your remodeling company. Potential customers, in their own leisure time, can learn about your company, see your work, meet your employees, etc. For many, this is the first impression they have of you and your company, so design your site to appropriately reflect what your company represents.
Internet marketing is incredibly cost-effective. Your Web site can help promote the information you are trying to convey without printing costs for hard copies and postage.
Content is King
Pictures may say a thousand words, but content is king on the Internet. Define the content to satisfy your target market. Every remodeler has amazing photos of their work, don’t forget to include these on your site. However, remember to include copy that goes along with it. This will help with your SEO (see the next subhead on SEO) and gain you more traffic than if you wouldn’t have included copy. According to the American Marketing Association, quick load times are important for a successful Web site. Don’t let large images bog down the site, therefore losing that particular visitor.
As you do in your own business, building your framework, on your site, is very important. Create a flowchart and get your visitors from Point A to Point B as fast and easily as possible. Don’t overwhelm people by putting links to your entire site on the home-page. Instead, create a model to prioritize and categorize information. Define logical relationships between subjects and define links between information types.
It used to be that getting traffic on your Web site was a great success. Today, not only is traffic important, but we now have to analyze this traffic to make sure the “right” people are visiting and that the marketing plan you implemented is working. Tracking services such as Sitemeter.com or extreme-dm.com are great tools to help analyze that traffic the site is receiving.
The new buzzword
Not by any sense of the word is search engine marketing a secret. However, there are many dos and don’ts that could help provide the best results for this quest in Internet marketing.
Search engine optimization is the new buzzword in marketing via the Internet. It means including the right “ingredients” on your site for these search engines to “like” it ? which could ultimately send thousands of visitors your way, increasing your chance for some solid leads. Studies have found that 65 percent of visitors to sites come from search engines.
The way search engines work is quite simple. A search engine has a database, which lists every Web site that the search engine knows about. When a search is performed, it tries to find matches in the database for the key words entered.
As a Web site owner, you want search engines to send you as many visitors as possible. Therefore, you want to make sure that you are in the databases of as many search engines as possible. This is pretty simple. All the major search engines allow you to register your site free. You can simply go to each major search site, click on “Add Your Site,” “Submit URL,” or something similarly worded, and fill in your site information.
The main ingredient for a successful SEO is not the right key word, but the right key phrase. Try searching Google.com for remodeling. I came up with 8,900,000 sites. Now, try searching the same engine for remodeling in Detroit. I came up with 36 sites. See the difference? Creating the right key phrase will help eliminate unqualified leads and will also help potential customers find your company with a lot fewer complications.
If you are having trouble with creating the most appropriate key phrase to help your SEO, there are Web sites that can help ? Wordtracker.com compiles a database of terms that people search for. The user will enter some key words, and Wordtracker.com will tell you how often people search for them and will also tell you how many competing sites use those key words. The site will also provide a listing of all the key word combinations that bear any relation to your business or service. Just remember, the more instances a key phrase is on your site, the higher up on the ranking totem pole your site will be.
Next, you’ll want to think of a description of your site. Most search engines will ask for a 25 word description.
Marketing by e-mail
Many companies have attempted to use electronic mail (e-mail) for advertising ? only to receive a deluge of abuse from infuriated Internet users. A Harris poll of computer users reveals that, out of those who are receiving unsolicited bulk e-mail, 42 percent want to stop receiving it. According to Time magazine, “unsolicited junk e-mail now accounts for 10 percent of all Internet traffic and up to 30 percent of the 26 million daily messages on America Online.”
E-mail marketing can be highly effective and extremely-cost effective if you choose to follow some simple best practices. According to Al Bredenberg, publisher of emailresults.com, here are few ethical ways to having a successful e-mail marketing plan.
1. Build your own house e-mail lists. Collect e-mail addresses at your Web site, at trade shows, on product registration cards, during sales and telemarketing calls, or at other points of contact with customers and prospects. Make sure that everyone on your list knows exactly how you will use his or her e-mail address. Your own in-house e-mail lists are a valuable asset.
2. Start an announcement list. This is a simple in-house e-mail list designed to keep you in touch with your Internet audience. Use it for distributing company news, new product releases, special promotions, announcements of personnel changes or other items of interest to your company’s contacts.
3. Publish a free e-mail newsletter. An e-mail newsletter, or “e-zine,” is a way to keep your company’s name in front of your target market. Be sure to offer value ? industry news items, how-to articles, analysis and commentary about your industry niche. Your e-zine will position your company as an expert in the field and will enhance its reputation.
4. Advertise on opt-in and voluntary e-mail lists. Opt-in e-mail lists are now available “for rent” from many companies. In contrast with the bulk e-mail spammers, the opt-in list providers have built their lists on a voluntary basis. The Direct E-mail List Source provides links to many permission-based e-mail lists.
5. Advertise in e-zines and e-mail discussion lists. You will be able to find numerous e-mail newsletters and interactive discussion lists that reach your target audience. Many of these will accept advertising or sponsorships. If they don’t already sell ads, they might ? if you make an offer.
“Spam is such a controversial subject right now that I urge marketers to stick with permission-based e-mail only,” says Bradenberg. The risks to the company’s business and reputation are just too great. What constitutes true permission-based marketing? Simple. Make sure that nobody is placed on any e-mail list without their explicit permission. No one should have to ask to be removed from an e-mail list they never asked to be on in the first place.