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June 17, 2009

Website design for marketing

The web used to be about placeholders and billboards. Today it is about engagement, conversations and entertainment.

If your website is still just an online display ad then you have very little chance of using it for effectively marketing your products and services, and no chance of using it to create a tribe of loyal supporters.

The ultimate goal of your site is to engage with the growing number of people who may trip across your site looking for related services or information. The architecture of your site needs to be such that it creates several opportunities for you to start an ongoing and personal discussion with them about their problems, and your answers to those problems.

I work in engineering and equipment maintenance. Not sexy, not exciting to most people (except me) and not a very web going clientèle. Yet I have had two recent requests through the internet, one of which is likely to result on cash revenue increases.

So there are all sorts of people out there looking, even if not many, for consulting professionals.

Website Design

Who is your web page talking to?

Who are the readers of your site? What are their drivers and interests? And why might they be looking for you anyway? Let me take my own profession as an example.

A website on my area needs to talk to many levels of the organization. From the executives, through to the senior management, through to technicians and journeymen.

The site needs to carry messages and links that apply to all of them. What are their drivers and interests? Why would they want to continue a conversation with me?

In the case of the senior executives they are often well aware that their career prospects depend greatly on them being able to do an outstanding job where they are today. Journeymen or supervisors, on the other hand, may be more interested in acquiring skills that will make them more recession proof, and increase their chances of getting up the ladder.

A middle manager may be interested in how she can quickly resolve issues related to (say) oil and lubrication issues.

Whatever... the point is... make sure your web page appeals to all of them through links, language and downloadable documents.

Engaging in Discussion

It is easy to follow the crowd and just think that everyone needs a blog. In some cases this is true, and I am going to be writing some more about blogs for B2B marketing shortly.

But a website can have several blog type elements to it. And their feeds, headline style, should appear on the front page.

For example, I am working on creating a blog called "What's working in maintenance". The idea being that it is an ongoing narration of discoveries, case studies, news on new techniques and practices, testimonials and practical assistance.

The idea of this blog, as with any B2B blog, is not to deliver a message or a strap line - but to deliver value.

Get it? No..."For more information contact". No, "We are doing a fantastic job, every time!", and no "Just call us and we will be happy to help you achieve..."

Forget it. People are far too cynical and they either get blog blindness, glossing over the obvious spin lines...or they just surf away to another part of the web. (It's big by the way, and you are only one point on it)

Instead post things that they can use. It doesn't have to be a full blown article, and it doesn't have to be every day. But it does have to be...

Second: You need a news feed. And you need news. Your PR strategy, combined with your news release strategy are key to this. Campaigns of two to three news releases every week should occur frequently.

Colorful emotion evoking titles about things that are coming up, events, case studies, recent wins - whatever. All of these need to be worded in such a way so as to appeal to your audience(s) - not to appeal to the news media.

After all... they also search th news, and sometimes bloggers pick them up, and so on and so forth. It is all a part of creating a dominant presence online.

Things like "Condition monitoring reduces costs by 20% - according to industry research", "Company X forms best practice group within the underground mining industry - exposes large possibility for revenue growth". And so on...

This stuff is about telling everyone what a great job you are doing. And combine it, with your "other" news stuff. The things that you have created through your "Be the news not the ads" campaigns.

Permission to talk please

You must have a newsletter, this is glossed over as an outdated form of internet marketing but the results speak for themselves.

But in order for you to get people to reliably give up their email you need to exchange them something of equal or greater value, and preferably with the promise of more to come.

"4 tips for shaving percentage points off downtime" for subscribers to our bi-weekly Uptime Tips newsletter
There are lots of things you can do with email newsletters. Set up autoresponders for example. A series of four or five emails. I have a 6 part series on this site that has been immensely popular.

A quick tip - take bi-weekly as a minimum. Weekly will kill you if you aren't spending a lot of time at this.

And by continually giving something in exchange for the right to speak to them, you get to turn them from readers into friends - and hopefully from friends into repeat business clients.

Content - not products

Whether you decide to follow these tips, or other similar concepts of your own - there is one thing for certain. If your website is a part of your marketing campaigns, and it should be, then your strategy is one of content and value - not one of products and placement.

Those days are gone, and they may never have existed. Todays web surfing buyer needs to be engaged, entertained and find you to be the holder of scarce and valuable information.

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