Website: Hype? Or Hot Spot?

by Mark Hanaway, Tech Molded Plastics, Inc.

When you have less than eight seconds to make an impression with your website, every moment counts. It’s kind of like belching the ABCs – impressive at some level, but after the first few letters it really doesn’t jump out you as genius. If you want your website to perform in a crowd, you have to understand how the traffic arrives, who’s in the crowd, where you fit in, how to present yourself, and why you’re there.

Optimizing Your Site for Search Engines
There are far more than two mechanisms to drive traffic to a website but the primary flow comes through indirect searches and the direct promotion of your site. Think about how you search the web for something specific. You can hunt through the search engines using references to the product or service, but it’s a hit and miss process. That’s why they call it surfing! But, every now and then, the right target pops up. This usually isn’t an accident.

Well-designed websites and internet applications are optimized for popularity-based systems. The greater the volume and duration of traffic on your site, combined with relevant link popularity and net exposure, the greater the chance that you will be found in a Google search. Managing your website’s popularity among a higher percentage of your preferred audience is like an exercise routine. Getting into practice once a year after you realize that your bottom has fallen out is no way to stay in the game. Making subtle changes to your website content every week does more for your bottom line than an annual resolution.

Search engine algorithms or spiders have a tendency to re-index websites for searches when regular changes are made. The key component is to make relevant regular changes. Massive redesigns and irrelevant content may hurt you in search rankings, just as leaving your website stagnant will bury you in a pile of new competition. Moderation and consistency in site content management are the most helpful strategies in maintaining search popularity long-term.

Promoting Your Website
Donald Trump is an expert at self-promotion. The Trump brand is world-renowned because The Donald has created an enterprise out of a name. Brand your own company name, product, or service, and your website will be found more frequently.

The Trump brand may be a familiar example, but how does that help the small- to medium-sized business? Most all industries, big and small, have name recognition that stands out in their respective fields. The process of web search popularity and branding doesn’t need to be an expensive adventure. You can perform these tasks in your everyday routine or outsource them.

Individuals and firms that specialize in getting your website recognized are readily available everywhere, but watch out for scams that promise placement! You can buy your way to the top, but that won’t keep you there when someone else bids higher for your position.

Instead, consider setting up a system where you have daily access for changing text on your site and let a web designer manage the whistles and bells. Keep the content fresh and refreshed consistently. Once your site has been found, the content and appeal of the site needs to project the right solution for your service or product.

Have you ever pulled up a website and an unexpected sound kicks in loud enough to launch you through the ceiling? It certainly commanded your attention! But the only reason you endured eight seconds of the home page rodeo was to get your hand back on the neck of that mouse so you can squeeze off the trigger. Getting traffic to your website is only one piece of the puzzle. Keeping the traffic engaged is another.

Take a step back and consider the most memorable Super Bowl commercials. They can be as popular as the game itself when design and execution are in sync with the crew huddling around the chips and dip, but the most memorable ads may not be the most effective. High levels of flash animation, moving images, and sound might be memorable but not helpful in driving interest and customer development. Engineer the website design with form, fit, and function as you would for a precision-manufactured product in its field application.

Value Stream Mapping Applies to the Web
From the start, be mindful of purpose. What do you really want to gain from the investment in a website and internet resources? Most organizations are quick to respond with sales. Revenue is the reason! Okay. It might be at the top of the outcome list. But, the real answer is a little deeper and not the same for every business model. It is unique to each organization.

In manufacturing, value stream mapping is considered a valuable resource to help visualize the flow of a process in production. Consider the same approach with business development. Map out your business development process and then factor the intent of the website and the ways in which you use your marketing tools. You can sketch the sequence on a napkin. Keep it simple and focused on the primary stages of progress.

Mapping the milestones for custom manufacturing might look something like this:

1. Promotion of your business services
2. Prospect inquiry
3. Request for quote from prospect
4. Internal feasibility review (investigate prospect, develop concept, and price accordingly)
5. Proposal to prospect
6. Prospect sends purchase order
7. Order filled
8. Sales booked
9. Go back to step 1. Or rather, stay at step 1 while going through all the stages.

If you are still determined and expect the website to generate volumes of sales, then consider a design that enables your prospects and customers to buy directly from you in a retail environment online. Your business model needs to support ease of purchase, with the website becoming part of your enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management system. You can set it up to track and manage progress as it’s funneled through the web for processing, production, payment, shipping, and tracking. Some plastics prototype companies have successfully integrated this concept into a made-to-order manufacturing environment. They found a way to turn around a quote in moments, including a flow analysis, design execution, and streamlined purchase process complete with tracking numbers to your door.

The total web retail solution doesn’t fit for most of us. We include engineering and customer service support in our communication to help solve problems. In a business-to-business environment, a website rarely stands alone in the sales process.

Using a Website to Support the Sales Function
When you design and develop your internet exposure, focus on the strengths of your business model. Refine your marketing tools to help in the hunt for qualified prospects and support the sales process. Measure the results against the intent. Use lead generation and sales support as key metrics. The business of developing customer relationships is about consistently being in the right place, at the right time, with the right solution.

The last few years of challenging economic conditions underscores the necessity of getting back to basics. Keep it simple, clean, and focused on function. We live in a world of hand-held devices; micro-blogging; phishing; social media; and instantaneous news, gossip, and networking sites. A website is merely a component to a much more complex internet infrastructure.

When building your web presence, invest your time in getting the right targets to your website. Measuring traffic alone is counterproductive. Look at who stays on the site and why. Ask customers how they found you. What search engine and terms did they choose? Play to the crowd that is the best fit for you and disengage quickly from those that detract from your purpose.

Developing an effective web presence that meets your internet marketing goals requires a little more effort than burping out a few lines of a childhood song when the mood strikes. However, the process can be simplified with common sense, purpose-oriented steps. Make targeted content changes relevant to your services, build your personal brand, and stay consistent to your mission. Treat your web presence as an asset and measure the results against the intent for return on the investment. By methodically building the site’s value to your target market, you’ll gain a stream of interest that will deliver results.

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