Back in the prehistoric days of the Web (circa 1995), I convinced my family that our business needed a Web site. It was a bunch of money back then to create a Web site and to have it hosted by a company.



Back in the prehistoric days of the Web (circa 1995), I convinced my family that our business needed a Web site. It was a bunch of money back then to create a Web site and to have it hosted by a company.

My two primary purposes for wanting our company to have a Web presence was I wanted to put the Web address on our trucks and all our marketing and I wanted to use it as brochureware. I’ll explain.

I wanted my existing customers and my soon-to-be new customers to see us as a state-of-the-art company that was modern and tech savvy. And in all my newsletters to customers I worked hard to always point out how we were using emerging technologies to better serve them.

My second goal of getting a Web site was to use it to attract new visitors to learn more about me. I knew I had a great story to tell about our company and that the emerging Internet could do a better job than many other forms of marketing. I wanted to let people know about the way we trained, did cutting-edge work and our industry acceptance as a leader. Basically, I was looking to put my brochures that worked so well in print online. The term was called “brochureware,” and it means Web sites that basically take their company’s printed brochures and post them directly to their site.

I realized there were few if any traditional ways of marketing that could bring this message to life better. That’s why I immersed myself into learning how the Web could make this a reality.

But back then there were issues like speed of loading pages (anybody still using a dial-up connection?) and the size of the site itself. Today these are becoming non-issues with lower-cost providers of Web hosting and the widespread availability of high-speed connectivity that make it easy for visitors to a Web site to view photos, listen to audio and even watch videos.

Your potential customers expect you’ll have an informative Web site. And if you don’t they immediately make negative judgments about you and your company as they click away. People want to learn more about you before they click through or pick up the phone and that’s why a great-looking Web site is just a starting point. The days of having a Web site do nothing more than serve as a way to deliver information from your brochures are gone because it falls way short of what the Internet can do for you and what potential customers are looking for.

Like all marketing, it takes knowledge and skill to avoid wasting your precious dollars on the Web, but money spent wisely is a must.

In this recessionary economy, Internet marketing must be one of your three primary marketing drivers. What I mean by market driver is that you select three primary ways to attract new business and plow the bulk of your marketing dollars into these three marketing vehicles. My clients are finding it to be a proven winner at generating call count (making the phone ring).

The good news about Internet marketing is you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a lot of exposure. The bad news is if you don’t know how to harness its power you’ll be attracting an audience that is of no use to you and your company and missing the audience that’s trying to find you.

Great marketers know that whether they’re communicating online or offline it all begins with a clear message that’s written in plain English to their target audience. You must have a solution to their problem that helps them take the next step, which is a response to your call to action.

The Magnificent Seven

Here are seven ways to improve your Internet marketing:

1. Make sure every ad you place online or offline (including your Yellow Pages and newspaper ads) has your Web site clearly listed.

2. Make sure your home page is geared to service first-time visitors, meaning that you need to focus on what the needs of people looking for your services are - certainly emergencies, leak calls, and installation of replacement roofs.

3. Make a clear-cut call to action on your home page for visitors to take, whether it’s filling out a form or calling your toll-free number. Anytime you can offer a gift or incentive to take action, do it. Things such as coupons for first-time visits or other free gifts work well.

4. You will increase your inbound new customer calls from the Internet by prominently placing your toll-free number on the page and giving them a reason (and a promise) to call. If you call back within 60 minutes, tell them that. If you answer the phone 24 hours a day and on weekends, tell them that. If you have same day service, tell them that. Mention anything that gets them to call.

5. Be sure your Web site is listed on Google Local (www.google.com/local) - if not, add it for free!

6. If you spend money on advertising already, consider placing a geographically targeted ad on Google Adwords. By placing an ad locally, you get really cheap but effective advertising that is equal to, if not greater than, a simple Google Local listing.

7. Remember the 3 P’s of Web site design.

Make your Web site personal. Let them know you are a real, caring person. Customers do business with people.

Make your site professional. Don’t have a Web site that looks cheap and slapped together that makes finding things difficult for your visitors.

Provide proof that you can do the job by offering up testimonials from satisfied clients, pictures of jobs completed, and logos and certifications you’ve earned.

Remember that to a customer what you say about yourself is interesting but what they really want to read (or hear) is what customers just like them are saying about you.

For a good example of how to use the power of testimonials, take a look at the left-hand side of my home page at appleseedbusiness.com.

To learn more about Internet marketing, go to appleseedbusiness.com/industrylinks.cfm.

And I’ll see you in cyberspace.