Here's an inconvenient little fact that has been researched and verified to death: The average buyer only buys after being "touched" seven times.
Few marketing systems are set up to touch a prospect seven times. Prior to the Internet, that type of frequency was prohibitively expensive.
You know those fantasies you harbor of persuading prospects to hire you after receiving one marketing letter or after visiting your website one time? Give them up. They violate everything research has shown to be true.
Every lead generation system you deploy must accommodate multiple touches. And that's why Internet marketing has surpassed every other approach for lead generation. You can touch prospects numerous times cost free.
Let's cut to the chase: If you took the money you spend annually on the Yellow Pages, Service Magic, direct mail, and other standard print advertising vehicles, you could build a website that would blow your competition out of the water and position yourself to charge far higher prices than you currently do.
The Internet Has Changed EVERYTHING
We are going to cover four Internet marketing strategies and prod you into implementing the most aggressive strategy you can sustain.
Advantages of Internet Marketing
The Internet lets you easily deploy the six triggers of buying behavior: reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. (Note: pick up a copy of Robert Cialdini's The Psychology of Influence to learn the ins and outs of these six influencers).
The most similar off-line marketing technique is radio call-in shows hosted by local businesses. Most cities have advice-oriented call-in shows on Saturday morning hosted by local businessmen and women. The hosts take calls, give free advice and frequently have interesting guests. For example, two such programs in my area have been on the air for years. One is hosted by a financial advisor and the other by a lawn care contractor. Both have become local celebrities via the radio.
If you have such a radio show in your town, listen to it once and take notes. To a large extent, the strategy the host is using to marketing his or her business is the same you should use to market yours on the Internet:
- Develop a relationship with your prospects.
- Give out helpful advice.
- Let your personality shine through.
- Show that you care.
Here are some of the advantages the Internet has over traditional (outdated) marketing methods.
- It is amazingly affordable.
- You can position yourself as the expert in your field.
- You can position your company as completely customer-centric.
- You can entertain.
- You can cut off simple, repetitive questions [using a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page].
- You can present endless testimonials
- You can tell your story with pictures, videos.
- You can speak directly to your customers (audio)
- You can easily analyze your marketing efforts
- You can create incredible emotional bonds with your prospects, long before they ever call in.
- It automates the referral process.
Internet marketing is not just another marketing technique. Internet marketing is not a 21st Century twist on old marketing methods. Internet marketing is a complete obliteration of past marketing methods.
For those who do not currently have a website, here are two strategies that will get you in the game quickly and cheaply. Then a strategy follows for deploying an education-based marketing system. Finally, we will explore the cutting edge of Internet marketing and show you how businesses that are serious about gaining a competitive advantage are using the Internet to displace their competition.
What we are not going to address is whether your business should have a website. You may think you have an option whether to put up a website or not. You don't. Your prospects are on the Internet. If they can't find you there, they aren't going to hire you.
The 4 Classic Web Strategies
The first two strategies apply to the thousands of contractors (hopefully not you) who have not made the effort to launch a website. The following is a brief introduction of the strategies. Guidelines are provided for each later in the article.
Web Strategy 1: The Business Card
"Hi. Here's what I do and how to get a hold of me."
Web Strategy 2: The Online Brochure
The site looks virtually identical to your marketing brochure. Often created by handing a brochure to a novice web programming and saying "Make it look like this." The site contains almost exclusively advertising text. It's intended to be an online sales presentation.
Web Strategy 3: The Caring, Helpful Authority
With this strategy, you're starting to tap into the power of the Internet. The site is designed around information that is useful and interesting to your prospects. Done correctly, it positions you as an expert in your field. Over time, this type of site will be found fairly easily by the search engines.
Web Strategy 4: Interactive, Entertaining and Viral
This strategy requires considerable upkeep, but it pays off in spades! Sites designed around this strategy grab people's attention and hold on to it for long periods of time.
The Golden Rules of Internet Marketing
Know the strategy you're using and have a clear goal in mind for your website. For example, are you going to use it as a place to direct prospects to learn about your services? Are you trying to build a list you can reach through e-mail? Are you trying to get them to read and participate on your blog? Are you trying to optimize your local search engine ranking? Make this decision prior to designing your site.
List your prospects' interests, pains and concerns. Storyboard your site. Don't be "Me Too." Be different than everyone else in your market. "Me Too" doesn't sell and certainly doesn't draw in prospects.
Think up a clever name for your site. Make it easy to remember and, if possible, easy to type. Register your name at GoDaddy.com or the other handful of domain name registry services. It shouldn't cost you more than $10 a year.
Publicize your domain name everywhere. People remember domain names. They don't remember phone numbers. If you only have room for one item, ditch the phone number.
Set up an e-mail with your domain name behind the @ sign. Anything else looks unprofessional.
Outsource your graphic design work. The world is packed with graphic designers eager to develop your sites look and feel. You can find them on CraigsList.com and on Elance.com, is an auction site for services. You don't need to look your graphic designer in the eyes to get a knock-out design.
Find someone to code the site for you. Check out CraigsList.com, then ask your neighbors, your employees, your family and your friends if they know of anyone who designs websites on the side or someone they have used professionally. If you are going with a type three or four site, find a professional. They're worth the money in those two cases.
The price of listings in the yellow pages, service magic, other directories and lead generating services rarely turn out to be worthwhile. Most people start their searches with search engines and only move to the online phone books when the search engine fails to bring up a worthy site. The quality of leads produced by Yellow Pages and Service Magic leave a lot to be desired.
It's time to choose your Internet marketing strategy.
Strategy No. 1: The Business Card
If you are a one-man shop, want to stay small and only need a handful of leads annually, the business card strategy may be just fine for you. You can get this type of site up for less than $100.
The "Business Card" site is a one page site that contains your logo, your contact information, your picture, a list of your services and a slogan. Your contact information should include your street address, your office, cell and fax numbers and your e-mail address. Try to post at least one testimonial on the home page.
This type of site will not be easily found by search engines, but it beats the heck out of not having a website.
Strategy No. 2: The Online Brochure
This is the most common type of site by far. An online brochure lists the services offered, presents pictures of completed projects, has a FAQ page and tells a short story of the company's history. These sites usually have between five and fifteen pages and cost less than $1,000 to get up.
This type of site should have:
- Testimonials sprinkled across every page
- A Contact Us page complete with the information listed for The Business Card site
- At least one page dedicated to each service performed
- A home page that crisply presents your unique selling proposition (why to hire you instead of your competition)
- Bios and pictures of all key personnel at the company including your office manager and receptionist
This type of site has a much better chance of being found by search engines, especially if you invest several hundred dollars and register the site with Yahoo's business directory. Several other registration directories are available for $40 or less. Registering your site with Yahoo is a must.
Check out GoodBarry.com for a relatively easy hosting and editing platform.
Strategy No. 3: The Caring, Helpful Authority
The goal of this strategy is to position you as the expert in your local market. People are attracted to authority figures, especially those they like. If you are willing to invest the time, implement this strategy. It is the minimum approach that will maximize your placement in local search engine results (tool around maps.google.com to get a feel for a local search).
In addition to the features mentioned in the online brochure, this type of site should offer:
- A newsletter via e-mail
- Articles that show your prospects how to select a contractor that meets their needs
- Articles that contain tips on how to maintain the completed project in near original shape
- Free special reports
- A blog to share your thoughts and provoke feedback from readers
- Links to other sites of probable interest to the reader
The best way to design this type of site is to study the best, most interesting sites you can find that promote a similar business. Print them out and copy their style (not their text, that's copyright infringement).
When the time comes to create content for your site, recruit as many employees and friends as you can to help. It's always better to have the educational information penned by your company. If no one at your company has the time, drive or skill to write effectively, contact the owners of the sites you printed out and ask their permission to post their content. You will need to give them full credit, of course.
Your primary goal with this site is to get people to sign up for your newsletter list. Ask for name and e-mail address only. Once you have that, you're on your way to building a great relationship. Newsletters kill two birds with one stone. They position you as a caring expert. They enable you to touch your prospect several times.
Remember the magic number of seven? Newsletters hit that and more. Another magic number to remember is twenty. People will forget about you if don't touch them within twenty days. Send your newsletter out every other week. The content doesn't have to be long, just worthy of being read.
This strategy also requires the loading and posting of a blog. Blogs serve two purposes. Like the newsletter, they position you as an authority. Unlike the newsletter, they are loved by search engines. Here's a valuable trick---write about local businesses and events in your blog. That will propel your site up the local search engine results list.
Strategy No. 4: Interactive, Entertaining and Viral
This is where the leaders in Internet marketing are putting great distance between themselves and their competition. They are taking advantage of something referred to as web 2.0.
Web 2.0 means your site is tapping into the power of the social networking sites that have exploded on the scene in the last few years. The most famous of these are MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube, Google Video, Digg, Del.icio.us, LinkedIn and HubPages. There are dozens of others.
These sites are flooded with people who like to share cool and useful things with their friends. Your goal is tap into their word-of-mouth sharing. As these people spread your information far and wide, your site becomes far easier to find by the search engines...and by your prospects.
An "Interactive, Entertaining and Viral" site is one that is loaded with videos, audios, articles, blog posts, discussion boards and surveys. Site owners often host free webinars to promote their site and their business. Naturally, this type of site contains everything found in "The Caring, Helpful Authority" site.
These websites draw traffic (prospects) like flies. They are easily found they invite participation; they get prospects to share their contact information; they get referred; they become the place to be. They turn casual interest into serious leads.
The goal of a web 2.0 site is the same as "The Caring, Helpful Authority" site: to position you as the expert in your local market. The primary difference is that an "Interactive, Entertaining, and Viral" site will draw far more traffic and turbo-charge your exposure to prospects. The downside is that it takes considerably more upkeep and attention.
The Choice is Yours
If your business is flush with quality leads and you've yet to enter the Internet marketing arena, reserve your domain name and upload a "Business Card" site. Then find a well-regarded designer/programmer and hire her or him to create your "Online Brochure" site.
Keep an eye on your competitions' websites. Spend time researching contractor sites. Sooner or later you will get motivated to create your very own "Caring, Helpful Authority" site. That's the real beginning of your Internet marketing lead generation system. That's when you will start to create the return you are looking for from your marketing systems.
Construction Business Owner, July 2008