Think back to 1997. I remember the year well. I’d just moved from Vermont to Chicago with no job. My brother was kind enough to hire me to sell Web sites to kitchen dealers. And believe me, that was no easy task!
Very few of us had even surfed the Information Highway, so the idea of promoting our businesses via this road was still pretty far fetched. (One guy even told me he would have nothing to do with the Internet until all the porn was gone!)
Web sites started out as pretty basic entities. In fact, a lot of dealerships had just one page. As the Web, and our working knowledge of the Web, grew, we learned that one page just wouldn’t cut it. There was no way it would be found by search engines. Potential clients just weren’t finding our companies via these abbreviated pages.
Then, things seemed to take off at lightning speed! We learned how to use search engines, spam reared it’s ugly head, and then adware followed suit.
So, we had multi-page sites built. Then there was the collective sign of relief! “Whew, got it up and running! Here comes the world.”
Today, we all have Web sites, but I’d venture to guess we think about them far less than we used to.
Enter the Echo Boomers, the most connected generation ever. These consumers don’t even remember life prior to having a cell phone or Internet access.
And it won’t be long before they’re your clients, just like the less connected Generation Xers and Empty Nesters before them.
So your Web today can no longer look like it did on Day 1. It needs to keep up with the times – and your clients.
Web sites are works in progress. It’s important to consistently build your site. The good news is you really don’t have to get too fancy. There are several ways to do this:
1. Building your site editorially.
Take your cue from industry leaders like NKBA.com and Kitchens.com. Both sites continuously update and expand by adding editorial content, because it’s still about the foundation of your site.
The unique flavor of your company and employees should be reflected on your site. For instance, Tom, your project manager, can write a column on what the client can expect from him as project manager. Sue, the kitchen designer, can write a story about design trends for your region, and you can write a story covering all the great new products you saw at K/BIS. Post these on your site.
If there isn’t a writer among the left brains, get permission to use editorial content from other sources. As an NKBA member, you can have rights to publish their written definition of a CKD or other information. If your cabinet manufacturer uses a unique hinge or hand-rubbed finish, ask them for written information to publish on your site. When a favorite appliance manufacturer comes out with a new product, ask them for information on this ground breaking new appliance.
The benefits to focusing your Web site on editorial content are many. First, the larger your site, the more key words, such as “kitchen” and “design,” and the greater the chance that your site will be found by search engines.
Second, the more information you provide to potential clients, the greater chance you have of positioning yourself as the “expert.” This creates a sense that they need to work with you in order to have their dream kitchen come to fruition.
2. A ‘Node’ to Photography.
Take your site to the next level via virtual tours. I promise, they’re not as scary or as expensive as you imagine! With permission from clients, have photos shot of your favorite projects or add a virtual tour of your showroom. In addition to the cost of photography (which you probably needed to do anyway), adding virtual tours to a site can be done for about $200 - $300 per node.
Hmm, you’re probably thinking…what’s that “techie-type” word? To explain “node,” imagine that you’re standing in the middle of your favorite showroom display. To complete a virtual tour, you need to take one photo and then, from the same spot, turn to take a photo of what’s next to the photo you just took. So basically, you’re standing in one spot, taking a photo, and staying in the same spot, just turning to take another photo. You’re done when you have 360 degrees of photography.
Adding virtual tours offers many benefits. If a picture paints a thousand words, imagine the picture you’ll be painting for potential clients with 360 degrees of pictures!
And, it’s not breaking news that if you hand someone a door sample, it’s hard for them to imagine an entire kitchen done in that finish and door style. Yet, if you show them an entire kitchen, it’s so much easier to help them visualize it.
You can use this benefit to upsell your kitchen projects. Place your upgraded finishes and door styles in the virtual tour. Once you’ve paid the photography and Web costs, you’ve basically added a salesperson, who won’t even expect a vacation!
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Since this must be done correctly to make sure clients can find your site easily on search engines, it’s a good idea to bite the bullet and hire a search engine optimization company. If you’re not sure where to begin, call your Web site development firm and ask them where to start.
By optimizing your site so it can best be found by search engine crawlers, you allow it to be found by more potential clients.
4. Bring ‘em back, bring ‘em back, bring ‘em back!
You want clients to visit your site on a regular basis to keep you top of mind. For that reason, it’s a good idea to offer opt-in opportunities by asking site visitors to leave their e-mail address. Send out monthly e-mails ranging from notices of what’s new on your site and promotions you are running to tips on caring for granite countertops. Send out a “coupon” for $200, when the past client refers a friend to your company, and when it comes time to remodel another room of the house, or refer a friend, your company will be top of mind.
The benefits to updating your Web site and keeping it current are vast. The site is online 24/7 and it’s an entire other sales staff selling you, your employees and your company, even when your showroom is closed.
More importantly, by not updating your site, you allow old, outdated information to linger on months – or even years – out of date. And by doing so, you’re sending a message to clients that says you’re too busy to stay on top of it all and welcome them as new clients.