Hang onto Your Keyboards!
When the Internet became part of our lives 12 short years ago, at first it was a virtual free-for-all. Some commercial Web sites were as lifeless and unimaginative as business cards. Others were so farfetched creatively that they simply confused their visitors. Thankfully, a few talented pioneers seized the Internet’s potential.
I recently spoke with Jason Kocina, president of Burnsville-based Checkerboard Strategic Web Development, about the best ways for businesses and organizations to leverage their Web presence.
“In the beginning, most Web developers were self-taught and not familiar with even the most basic marketing techniques,” Kocina said. “The Web design industry was so young that its natural selection process had yet to take place. People paid too much for their sites, and more often than not they didn’t get what they needed to increase sales.”
The public rapidly raised its expectations for buying online, and in today’s tight economy companies that don’t deliver satisfactorily might not survive. Kocina added that businesses should be using their Web sites as extensions of their sales force and integral parts of their business plans.
“Your Web site should be selling for you 24 hours a day. But it needs to be done right. Your e-commerce will fail without the right marketing tools in place.”
Kocina noted that smart businesses are spending more time planning their sites before they implement them, and savvy Web marketers are demanding more of the following:
- Better quote request systems
“Customers who are ready to buy want immediate quotes. For example, if you are shopping for fencing you want to be able to input the style and your yard’s dimensions and receive a quick quote.”
- Shortened sales processes
“People don’t want to hunt for ordering options. They want fewer clicks and forms that are faster to complete.”
- Interactive tools
“If a business has a large product line, a visitor should only have to answer two or three questions to reduce their selections to a manageable size. We’re seeing more tools that help customers decide what to buy. For example, many paint suppliers now enable their Web site visitors to input room dimensions, and account for walls and windows, to determine how much paint they need to order.”
- Intuitive sites
“All of us have experienced the frustration of clicking all over a Web site looking for what we consider to be basic information. Your tools and information should be exactly where customers expect to find them.”
- Supporting information
“Why send consumers to a different place when you can provide them with ‘how to’ information as well as the necessary supplies? For example, a Web site selling heart-healthy nutritional supplements should also have information on how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.”
“Businesses are producing their own videos and podcasts, skipping the filters associated with traditional advertising. These videos will contain useful information to grab consumers’ interest. For example, a tile manufacturer might feature a short video explaining proper tile installation techniques.”
The bottom line, according to Kocina, is that your Web site should effectively translate your sales goals into measurable strategies. Then you should have a plan in place to ensure it delivers.
I’m quick to echo Jason Kocina’s view on creating measurable e-marketing strategies that take advantage of the ongoing growth of the Internet.
If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be teaching courses online, I would have scoffed at the idea. Now so many new students, especially career changers, want the flexibility online courses offer. It never ceases to amaze me how the Internet continues to change.
Businesses should exercise caution when moving to enhance their Web presence. With so many new options available for e-commerce, organizations need to keep pace with shifting trends, but then only select the e-tools that make sense for their Web sites.
I teach students to be aware of why they are creating the strategies for their marketing plans and how they will evaluate these strategies. In my e-marketing course, students are asked to step back and analyze what they want to accomplish before they create the strategies to advance their online Web experience.
To give an example, you don’t want to add an enhancement like a blog to your Web site unless you have something valuable to say to your customers and are willing to write regularly.