A good site?

18 March 2008

Most rental companies believe their online activity finishes when they successfully launch their website. They sit back on their office chair, hands behind their heads, believing their new website will bring them outstanding sales and ultimate financial success.

They quickly come to the realisation that a great deal more is needed to be successful in the online arena.

The problem the majority of rental companies face is that they are not sure how to go about getting better results from their online presence.

What they need is web marketing, otherwise known as e-marketing. It does not matter if your company is technically web savvy or if it is just beginning the journey, web marketing is paramount to your company's future success.

It is easy to get confused by the terminology that the online environment brings. Today's online marketing language is populated by new terms and they often lead only to confusion. Some examples? Try the following: sales funnels, ecommerce, flash, hyperlinks, auto responders, blogs, keywords and meta tags, search engine optimisation, data mining, viral marketing, podcasting, and affiliate programs.

What is important to remember is that the same basic principles of marketing apply to the online world. These are to target, understand and define your niche market. You need to have a unique selling point and a call to action, as well as a defined marketing plan and strategy. Your marketing plan might incorporate the goal of achieving greater brand awareness, or it could extend to more rentals during a specific period. Your plan, like real world marketing, is the foundation block from which you work.

Make your website a resource centre – not a promotional brochure

The best web marketing strategy begins with your web page. As we wrote last month (IRN, July-Aug), when you are creating the perfect website you must be able to appeal to three different types of customers: your existing customers; warm customers (those considering buying from you); and your cold customers (those who are just browsing).

One of the biggest problems with the majority of websites on the Internet today is that they are about themselves, not about their customers.

There are 439 million websites in the world today (5 years ago 162 million – 1997 19 million) and that number is increasing every second.

Once your website is on the worldwide web, how are customers and prospective customers going to find you in this vast online ocean?

Choosing the right domain name is vitally important. It becomes your registered address (or URL (Universal Resource Locator)) on the Internet. If your company name is ABC Rentals then an ideal domain name for you would be www.abcrentals.com. Availability plays a major consideration, of course.

The most important web marketing strategy is to have your website stand out amongst others through the process of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO (search engine optimization)). Your web designer should help guide you in the right direction in the overall process – but a combination of keywords, well-written content on each page and meta tagging will help you achieve satisfactory results. For exemplary results, have a number of hyperlinks available on each page and look to change or update your website continually.

What ranking you can't achieve through SEO, you can usually attain through the use of a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign. The two most popular PPC are Google's adwords or Yahoo's search marketing. Advertisers bid on “keywords”, the words they believe their target customer would type in the search bar or browser when they are looking for their type of product or service. For example, you might want to bid on the keyword “JCB Backhoes”, hoping a user would type those words in the search bar, see your ad, click on it and enter your website. With a PPC, you only pay when a user clicks on your ad.

Funneling traffic to your Website

Increased traffic web traffic to your website not only helps you with your SEO efforts, it gives your company greater brand awareness and greater chances of orders.

One key trend in achieving significant traffic to your website is that of viral marketing. Viral marketing is a form of email marketing, although sounding sickly, it is a fast, cheap and effective marketing strategy. Viral marketing means customers spread the word to their friends and associates. Burger King is one company that has used viral marketing very effectively.

In 2004, they created the Subservient Chicken website and then used viral marketing principles to get traffic to the site. They told only 20 people about the site. Word spread quickly (with the help of a tell-a-friend link) and the site received 20 million hits in the first week alone. Viral marketing succeeded by bringing in high traffic as well as widespread media coverage worth far more than the cost of the viral marketing campaign.

Another effective form of email marketing is the humble newsletter turned into a dynamic enewsletter. The enewsletter is an effective way for your company to keep in front of your customers as well as your prospective customers. Tracking capabilities of an enewsletter allow you to see who opened the newsletter, who read what and when, and what action did they take resulting form their reading.

One of the best ways to get long-term residual traffic to your website, as well as achieving a good number of back links (which helps to improve your SEO ranking), is to write and publish articles related to the industry.

The hard work lies in writing the articles. It is best to write and publish at least one new article every two weeks. Try not to make your articles a direct ad or blatant testimonial. Best to utilize the 80/20 content rule (80% content, 20% sales pitch).

The trick is to showcase your insight about the problems that rental customers face everyday – thereby distinguishing you and your company as a high-level expert capable of solving problems and providing the solutions.

Writing the article is really just one part of the traffic building campaign.

You still need to publish your article on as many other websites as possible. There are a number of websites that accept written submissions. Websites like ‘ezinearticles.com’ or ‘Go Articles' are common examples.

Simply type ‘articles submitted online’ into the search functions of your web browser to get a number of avenues where you can submit your article. The more submitted, the better – but ensure that there is a link back to your site in all of the articles written.

Of course you do not have to limit yourself to the online environment. Any real world magazines, newspapers or industry periodicals would also be avenues where you can get published. Don't be afraid to send your article to many of them as well and be sure to also include your contact details, including your web address, for real world publications.

Engaging your audience

Blogs help with your SEO – because regularly updated sites are known to improve SEO rankings considerably.

There are a number of free software applications for blogs available on the web. I recommend Wordpress as it is relatively easy to set up and is highly customizable. Your current web host and designer should be able to implement a blog for you tomorrow using the Wordpress format.

There are ways to effectively increase traffic to your site. We have only touched on a few. I encourage all rental companies to look at this new online environment with an open and inviting mind.

Look to learn more about interactive PDF files or Dynamic Emails. It is now mid-morning in the dawn of a new world. ECRM Systems (Electronic Customer Relationship Management), auto responders and evouchers are here to stay.

While many rental company owners will choose to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to learning about this new technology, the companies that embrace it will see incredible advances in their business today as well as having a strong foundation for tomorrow.

You don't have to be an expert, but you do have to understand how the online world and how emarketing applies to your business. It's always best to be one click ahead of the competition.

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