Problem: E-mail newsletter content isn't engaging readers.
Solution: Content is king. Inspired, relevant content will capture buyers' interest and move them through the sales pipeline. As a marketer, you are charged with providing valuable content to your customers in each stage of the purchasing process.
Buyers access content for more than just getting hard data on products and doing competitive analysis; buyers go to trusted sources for tactical tips and advice, for higher-level strategic insight and to stay on top of emerging industry trends. They use broader, more business-oriented content at the beginning of the solutions search, and more detailed, technical content further along in the buying cycle. These buyers want to know what other people -especially experts-think about solutions and information in your industry. The earlier you can capitalize on expert content in your e-mail newsletter, the more value your customers perceive that you bring to the table.
According to "Define What's Valued Online," a joint study done by KnowledgeStorm Inc. and the CMO Council, buyers access independent, third-party content to make more informed buying decisions. The top six most-trusted content sources outside your company are professional associations, industry associations, analysts, journalists, independent product reviews, and peer forums and online discussion groups. White papers, product reviews and analyst research reports are the most frequently consumed content provided by these professional organizations, according to the study.
"They say" messages are powerful tools because they come from independent professionals who understand the industry as a whole. That is exactly what buyers need as they gather research to determine the optimal solutions for their business needs.
Laurie Hood is VP-marketing at KnowledgeStorm Inc. (www.knowledgestorm.com), a search resource for technology solutions and information.
Problem: Company's online visibility is low; site traffic needs to be increased and lead generation capabilities improved.
Solution: Companies are constantly looking for ways to increase their return on investment. Using search engine marketing as a means of generating qualified sales leads is one proven way to achieve this goal. The success rate of an online campaign increases when the agency and the client share an in-depth understanding about key goals.
Buying keywords associated with your industry and job-specific issues is a good way to start. In addition to mainstream engines, vertical search engines can help drive relevant traffic back to a company's Web site. By applying the most highly searched-for terms, along with derivatives that receive searches on a monthly basis, companies of all kinds can avoid using the kinds of untargeted keywords and industry jargon that do not bring in qualified traffic. As always, companies need to have a deep understanding of the action they want users to take in order to select the appropriate keywords in a paid media campaign.
For lead generation, improve the placement of the link to the form page and create new landing pages that offer visitors incentives for sharing their contact information. Rich content can inform, educate and ultimately connect the customer with the company, especially when coupled with premiums for the user.
The actions users ultimately take will determine the success or failure of a Web site and the intent of a paid media strategy. The key is to make sure that they find your site, not your competitor's.
Noah Elkin is director of industry relations for digital marketing agency iCrossing Inc. (www.icrossing.com).
Problem: Marketing strategy has shifted from being product- to solution-focused, and Web site needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Solution: If the selling strategy has changed, that does not mean you must build a whole new Web site; it may simply signify the need to develop a new component.
It is important for marketers to realize that the Web site has an impact on departments throughout the company-including customer support, sales, accounting and human resources-and are not just a marketing function. Developing a new site to replicate the message that sales is putting in front of prospective customers is a much larger undertaking than modifying a particular section.
A better approach may be a technical solution: implementing a content management system (CMS) that supports the concept of relational content. Relational content allows for particular, unique pieces of information to be distributed among multiple navigational areas. Some marketers may consider publishing press releases about new customers within multiple promotional areas (such as on the "news" and the home page areas of their sites) using CMS software. Additionally, this type of system allows marketers to publish information on products in different solution-set categories on their Web sites (such as putting information about the same laptop under both the "home" and "small business" sections) while maintaining one repository of content. This is also beneficial when information about the product needs to be changed and can be done throughout the site by making updates in one single place.
The new navigational hierarchy, described above, does not dictate the company's dedication to a whole new Web site initiative. It simply supports a natural way of selling. Even without a new site, a salesperson can use it as a sales tool with customers who have had success with a solution and want to discuss related products and their benefits.
Marketers facing this challenge should consider that making adaptations to their Web sites, with new categories or via other means, can be a much better alternative than developing a new site on the heels of changing sales initiatives.
Reid Carr is president of Red Door Interactive (www.reddoor.biz), a Web development and online marketing company.