We’re getting pretty used to deflection these days. During the past presidential campaign, I remember a representative of one of the presidential campaigns was asked about their ideas for fixing the economy. His response? “We have a lot of ideas and they are all on our website at www.I_wanna_be_prez.com.” Wrong answer.

A better response would have been a brief summary of the major points with a suggestion to visit the site for details. The host gave him a perfect opportunity to sell those ideas and he blew it.

I was speaking to my dad, a Salesforce.com consultant for 501cTech, about these missed opportunities. He told me a similar story…

“I was planning a kayaking trip in a place where I don’t normally visit and don’t have a boat readily available. I emailed an outfitter with several questions about which rivers were available and other options. The response? ‘All of our information is on our website.'”

Again, a perfect opportunity for this outfitter to sell what he is offering and he passed it up. A website is not a dumping ground for leads you don’t feel like dealing with or inquiries you are ill equipped to handle. A website should be an extension and a support system for your sales efforts – sales efforts ranging from selling a product to gaining an advocate for your business or organization.

As we wrote about in our series, What Makes a Good Website, a good website focuses on the user. A good website is one that can handle a user coming in blind. But, why would you knowingly send someone to your site without instruction when you can easily point them in the right direction? And why wouldn’t you follow up with them after their visit to the website?

People do business with people. A website is not a person. While your website, if built properly, can act as an extension of your sales team, nothing sells better than a person. Don’t abandon this just because you can. Use sales and technology together.

Let’s take that last sentence a bit further. Marketing on the web comes in many forms…

  1. Content marketing
  2. Social media marketing
  3. Search Engine Optimization or SEO
  4. Email Marketing

These disciplines are all based on the principle that the right content, positioned strategically, will draw the ideal client to your website.

And the perfectly crafted landing page will close the deal. This is the ideal scenario and it works very well when well executed.

But it’s passion that sets you apart from your competition and the noise that you are up against. Passion can translate online but it works better when supported by a committed, engaged and knowledgeable person from your team (maybe it’s just you).

Here’s what each discipline mentioned above might look when supported by such an individual…

Content Marketing

Content marketing is as it sounds, marketing your services using informative and useful content. This could be any or all of the following:

  1. Blog posts
  2. White papers or eBooks
  3. Webinars and web video
  4. Infographics

The list goes on and certainly spills over into the other 4 disciplines we’ve discussed above. For this example, let’s look at blog posts. A good blog post is…

  1. written by a subject matter expert
  2. edited by someone who understands writing for the web and
  3. distributed by someone who is eager to share this knowledge with engaged fans

When writing a blog post, it is useful to think beyond the content and map out any possible points where an interaction occurs during the life of this post. For example:

  1. Research – leading up to writing the post, you need to gather ideas and facts, and learn about the problems your audience faces as it relates to the topic. The best way to do this? Talk to people. Read other blogs and comment. Check your social channels.
  2. Distribution – of course the distribution of your blog can be automatic. We are syndicated by a few marketing blogs and it happens automatically when we launch a new blog post. But there are other ways to get the blog out there. Sometimes, simply sending someone a link with an explanation of why you think it would be of use to them can be very powerful.
  3. Discussion – blogs are not meant to exist in a vacuum. A good blog post is thought provoking. After your post goes live, pay attention to comments about the blog both on and off your blog. An ongoing discussion about the topic is a way to show that you are truly passionate about the subject and are interested in more than posting content to please the search engines. You are a problem solver.

As you can see one blog post presents multiple opportunities for one to one engagement with a potential client or brand advocate.

Tip: invite someone to comment on your blog to kick the discussion off.

Social Media Marketing

It’s in the name, Social. Unfortunately, so many businesses and organizations miss this. They treat it like advertising, blasting out post after post without any kind of interaction with the audience.

Social media marketing works better if you focus less on the platforms and channels and more on the audience and the conversation you can have with them.

It comes down to listening. Posting to social channels, especially when done within the confines of a content marketing strategy, can be incredibly effective.

Your social media marketing efforts should garner replies, likes, comments and even referred traffic to your website (kind of the point really). But if you are not listening for these things, you’re missing a huge opportunity to make a meaningful connection and possibly even a sale.

As you post to channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you want to be ready for the replies and the feedback. If you blast post after post without any engagement, you will come across as a source of information (or a blowhard) but not a resource for solving problems.

Use the alert features in your social channels to monitor for comments and shares.

You might want to even go as far as monitoring for specific keywords in ongoing conversations through one of these resources…

  1. Google Alerts
  2. Hootsuite
  3. and others

Be the resource by engaging in productive discussion and you will turn followers into fans and fans into advocates and clients.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO

SEO is the practice of optimizing a website for maximum search engine visibilty for a specific, targeted group of keywords and phrases.

In other words, if you run a Science Center in Boston, MA for example, you will target the keywords “Science Center” and “Boston, MA” in your content. That way when Google indexes your site, it does so in a way where you rank high for these terms.

Seems simple right? Not really. The art of finding the right group of keywords is an ongoing process that takes a lot of research and analysis to be done correctly.

But, here’s the thing. An SEO expert might be able to do the necessary research and analysis to fine-tune your keyword list to one that is most effective, but no one knows your organization better than you.

You interface with the target audience and know what they need from your organization. You have direct access to the source – the exact group that you wish to target via the search engines. Use them.

I was discussing this very issue today with one of our copywriters. We were talking about how effective a simple online survey sent out to a select group of clients could be.

If the right questions are asked and the survey is presented by a real person, the kinds of data you can get back can be incredibly valuable – what search terms they would use to find you, how they describe your services and so forth.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the process of using an email service provider like MailChimp, ConstantContact, AWeber or WhatCounts to send targeted emails to a distribution list of subscribers in an effort to drive some sort of action. It could be a product promotion or maybe just a distribution channel for your content.

Even though email marketing is technically one-to-many, it can be done such that it is perceived as one-to-one. The service providers are set up so your campaigns can come from one person and be delivered and addressed to one person – or at least appear that way.

Furthermore, because these emails come from a real address and are delivered to a real address, a chance for a real interaction is entirely possible. All the recipient has to do is hit reply and the conversation begins. (email marketing campaigns sent from noReply@ or sales@ or info@ misses the point)

Make sure that the person on the receiving end of that reply is ready to handle it. They should be available when the email campaign is launched to handle replies as they come in within 24 hours max.

And they should know what the goals of the campaign are, be familiar with the subject matter discussed in the email copy, and be empowered to speak on behalf of the company in response to any inquiries generated from the email campaign.

People still matter

As you can see, even in technology age, people still make the difference. People are what can mean the difference between attention and conversion. People who are know your business and are empowered to speak on your behalf can set your organization apart from your competition who is sending their clients to “the information that’s there on our website.”

How do the people in your organization make the difference? Please share some examples in the comments section below.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

5 Responses to “We’ve Got a Website, Who Needs Sales?
    • Bob Bailey

    Good piece. I’m always amazed at how difficult some sites make it for me to buy something. I’m there, I’ve got need, I’ve got money; talk to me!

  • Some great info and examples here. So many people think that simply having a website (or joining an organization, or posting a sign) will automatically generate business. But bringing people to the door is just the beginning of the sales process.

    Oh, also, that copywriter you were talking to sounds pretty awesome. 😉

  • Great points here and a good reminder that personal human-to-human contact is still the best way to “close the deal.” At this point, any business that makes personal contact a priority is going to be the standout.

  • Great article and very relevant for my class today, but you can find my real response on my website. 🙂 jk

  • A lot of good stuff here. I agree, once you have personal contact you should only be pointing prospects to the website if they ask for a brochure (a what?). However, too many businesses have their websites setup like “old-fashioned” brochures instead of something similar to sitting down with a salesperson.

    If a business is doing the online marketing items you listed above they’ll likely be driving visitors to their website who have not yet talked to anyone at the company. The website needs to be closer to sitting down with a salesperson and not like a fancy brochure someone tossed them at a tradeshow. For example, if they have several distinct audiences visiting the site (B2B, B2C, students, etc.) have them pick that pathway on the homepage. Don’t list all the services like Cheesecake Factory menu.

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