Website an extension of your business

The Internet is quickly becoming the most frequently used method to search for products and services. This week, I’ll briefly discuss how any small businesses can use an Internet website to generate leads.

The Internet is quickly becoming the most frequently used method to search for products and services. This week, I’ll briefly discuss how any small businesses can use an Internet website to generate leads.

The starting point is to cut through all the hype and confusion and to begin to think of the Internet as another tool in your marketing plan. As with other forms of marketing, there are characteristics of a good website, and several key elements that should be included to make an individual want to investigate your business further.

Your website is an extension of your place of business. Hire professionals to design and implement your website.

Interview them, look at their portfolios, and check references. Make sure their “style” and attitudes match yours. They will ensure that you understand and take advantage of “search engine optimization” and “ad words” — methods used to direct visitors to your site — and recommend other features that you may not be familiar with.

Just as you advertise to get people to visit your business location, you need to advertise to get people to visit your website location.

Be sure to direct the reader to your site when designing phone directory or print advertising. Feature the address prominently on your business cards, letterhead, email signature and company vehicles.

You can also find opportunities to advertise on another business’s website, the Advocate, for example, and also have a link to your business site. It is usually both inexpensive and effective.

When someone visits your Internet site, you can be reasonably assured that the visitor has an interest in what you are selling and is a potential customer. However, getting visitors to your website doesn’t mean that it will ensure more leads.

It’s critical to capture their details, to have them “click through” or investigate your website thoroughly. We’ve all visited websites that look great but are not really easy to immediately find what you’re looking for.

Visitors to your website are just the same as visitors to your place of business, with one important difference. Usually, there is no one to talk to on the website.

This can be remedied now with videos and avatars (animated personalities). Technology has advanced to the level that websites can now be alive with video, audio and slide shows.

Turning visitors into leads requires using various strategies to capture the prospect’s details. It doesn’t matter if the website sells, or doesn’t sell, products online. If the website lets visitors “surf” right by without tempting them to submit their contact information, the business is losing qualified leads and potential revenues.

Your website should impress visitors by including an incentive or offer. You can have your prospects request appointments and give some details of the job they are planning by completing a “survey” or “request for more information.”

Including testimonials on your site makes the visitor feel that it is “safe” to buy from your business.

All contact information gathered on your website can be put directly into your contact database. Once in the database, this information can be used to start converting leads into customers.

The process can all be done automatically and at little or no cost; there are several programs that automatically send newsletters, special offers, announce closed door sales at pre-set intervals. It’s an ideal way to automatically generate leads and to keep in touch with your prospects.

“Social networking” sites are the latest internet strategies that some companies are using to market their products and services. However, a professional, interactive website should be the anchor of your online presence.

Once again, this strategy should be looked on as a long-term investment and not an expense.

ActionCoach is published on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month in the Business section of the Advocate. It is written by John MacKenzie, whose Red Deer business ActionCoach helps small- to medium-sized organizations in areas like succession planning, systems development, sales and marketing, and building/retaining quality teams. MacKenzie can be contacted by email at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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