Being an expert

Unless you happen to be in the unlikely situation of being the only company in the world that does what you do then the chances are you have competitors!

So how do you differentiate yourself?

Generally we compete either on price or quality. There are benefits to both.

For the industry we are in and for most of our clients there will always be someone cheaper who has better economies of scale or just is happy to produce inferior goods or services.

So the more logical conclusion and that of a company which takes pride in its work is to be better than the competition.

You don’t need to be the cheapest but if your work is excellent then clients come to you and recommend you on because they value quality and want to continue the same values to their client base.

Having taken the decision that this will be your business strategy then everything you produce, do or say should be about establishing yourself as expert in your industry and a bastion of quality that will be reflected in the work you do.

Your website (there was a point to all of this) is an excellent opportunity for you to establish yourself as an expert to your client (and perhaps even more importantly potential client) base.

Think about (or talk to your web designers about) how you can best use your website and general online marketing strategy to show the world how much you know about your industry, how much you understand about your clients and their requirements and how much you care about getting it just right.

It may seem counter intuitive but don’t be afraid to broadcast useful free information. Don’t just sell. Nobody likes to be sold to (at). What we like is to be offered useful interesting free learning that we can take away and apply to our businesses.

The fact that via your website, blog, tweets, Facebook page, enewsletter etc you give out useful tips and facts that will enhance the businesses of your clients but also complete strangers who may never even contact you, let alone become paying customers, doesn’t matter.

You will gain from it. Your existing customers and potential new ones will see over time that you are a valuable fountain of knowledge within your sector and even if they don’t need your services now, that day will come.

And when it does, and in our case they are looking to commission a website to support a new business endeavour, do you think they will go onto google and search for “cheap web designers London” or adopt the more shrewd strategy of contacting the company who they have been following for the last year anyway, reading their blog and absorbing the quality free information they have been broadcasting?

Your website is an excellent opportunity for you to establish yourself as an expert in your industry and your company as a provider of quality.

This will generate enquiries from motivated buyers who feel they already know you and are looking for a reliable supplier and a no risk project.

Online marketing funnel process

Online marketing is a funnel process.

Actually I guess this applies to most marketing but given that online marketing is what we know about then that’s what I’m talking about.

Imagine if you can a funnel – here’s an image of one in case you can’t!

Plastic funnel

The bottom of the funnel – the tip, that’s where someone buys something from you. A big something. Your core product and the one where you make your money.

Higher up the neck of the funnel are lower priced products that get the client used to buying from you and gradually building up their confidence in you. In our case that might be something like hosting or an email newsletter.

The bit where the neck meets the bowl (the collar?) – that’s the fulcrum point. It’s where they stopped being a prospect and became a customer.

Higher up in the bowl, that’s where the client has been aware of you, perhaps engaging with you in some way but no money changed hands. As they descend the bowl the interactions get more significant.

So at the very top would be something like Twitter. People follow you, read your tweets (maybe sometimes) and think you are interesting or relevant enough to be worth not stopping following.

Facebook and the various other social networking sites would be a little lower down the bowl. There’s more involvement in following you here both in terms of the quantity of content and the strength of your relationship. In the case of Twitter you may not know or know anything about the people following you more than their profile and what they are saying themselves if you have chosen to follow them back. On Facebook there’s a fair chance that you know (or have at least met once) the people who are your “friends” and likewise with Linked In.

Nearing the bottom of the bowl are email newsletters and blogs. They are similar but different and tend to have similarish content in them. People have different takes on these although general consensus does seem to be that a lot of email newsletters are annoying – particularly the ones you didn’t sign up for (well unsubscribe – but that’s another blog post).

Newsletters come to you and you probably dismiss most of them immediately – so like big tweets!

Blogs you tend to go looking for and if you value them you will go back. For me the blog is the point closest to the bottom of the bowl where a prospect is interested in you, in what you say and do and whether now or in the future is easiest to convert into becoming a customer when they have a requirement for your services.

If someone has a requirement for what you do (you can’t force that it just happens when it happens) then if they have spent the last x amount of time reading your tweets, posts, newsletters and blogs then the relationship has already been growing even if you weren’t fully aware of it.

When they are then ready to enter the neck of the funnel and put their money on the table, 3/4 of the selling process has already been done.

Do you mean SEO?

SEO or search engine optimisation is still possibly one of the most used jargon terms within the online marketing industry and it’s something people often ask us if we do.

Well the short answer is yes, but it’s never that simple is it?

Having SEO “done” on your website doesn’t automatically and magically mean loads of new business for your company. It might… but usually life isn’t that easy.

SEO literally means optimising your website for the search engines. Still sounding obvious at the moment, but let’s look at what that actually means. SEO is something that the developers do, within the code of your website that means you have a greater chance of ranking higher up on a search engine results page when a user has searched on a particular term.

The inclusion of that keyword/phrase in your sites header is certainly very important here but there are a multitude of other things that we do (and also don’t) that will affect where you rank on a search engine.

But the point is when you asked for search engine optimisation, is that all you wanted? None of the other many many methods of getting your site to list more highly on a search engine.

And in fact we could take a step further back and say is ranking highly on a search engine the be all and end all of your objective. Surely what you actually want is more traffic on your website. Well search engines are one way of getting that but there are many others.

And in fact we can take another step along this path and consider that when looking at traffic on your website it’s quality not quantity that counts.

You could have 1000 people a week look at your website, some of whom may find it all very interesting but none of them become customers. Or you could have 10 who are looking for exactly what you do and sign up to be new clients.

Simply getting lots of people onto your website isn’t enough. You need to have a strategy, thinking about who your clients are, how they might find you, where they might be looking for you, or even where they might be when they aren’t looking for you but just happen to find you anyway (because you were there).

So before you ask a supplier for SEO think about whether what you really mean is can you help me get more business from my website.