By Bob DeStefano

A featured presenter at the 2009 Closets & Home Organization Conference details ideas for turning your company Web site into an online marketing machine.

Smart company managers know that the last thing you should do in a down economy is pull back your marketing. Instead, you need to learn how to do more with less – making sure every marketing dollar is working for you. But, how do you do it?

In our annual “E-Business Trends in Industrial Marketing” study, my company endeavors to answer this and other related questions to help manufacturers and distributors, like you, become effective online marketers.

Times are tough and most manufacturers and distributors are concerned about the current economic crisis. More than 70% of participants in our study feel the current economic crisis will have a negative impact in 2009. However, at the same time, most are optimistic about the future and they are taking bold steps to leverage e-business and online marketing not just to survive, but to thrive.

How can your company thrive in these troubled times? By marketing smart. Let’s get started.



Think of Marketing as an Investment, Not an Expense

If you think of marketing only as an expense, you’re probably doing it wrong. Marketing is an investment that should produce a measurable return in the form of qualified leads and bankable sales. Just as you would carefully review the return on investment (ROI) for stocks and funds in your retirement portfolio, you should carefully evaluate the ROI for all of the investments in your company’s marketing portfolio, including online and offline marketing activities.



Measure Marketing ROI

How will you know if your marketing investments are producing significant ROI?

You need to measure results. ROI needs to be as fundamental an ingredient in marketing as it is in finance, sales, R&D or any other strategic department in your company. Unfortunately, according to our study, less than half of industrial marketers are measuring their marketing ROI. If you are not measuring marketing ROI, it’s time to start and it’s not as hard as you think.

The following ideas will help you get started:

• Implement a Web Analytics system, such as Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics), to measure how well your Web site is working toward achieving your marketing goals. This online report will show you where your most profitable Web traffic is coming from, what products and information visitors are looking at and what “calls to action” are generating the most leads.

• Use unique, trackable phone numbers and unique Web addresses for each of your marketing activities (e.g., print ads, catalogs, postcards, etc.) to track online and phone-in leads generated by each marketing activity.

• Leverage a Marketing Analytics system to track your marketing ROI; SVM leverages affordable services like Marketing Meter (www.marketingmeter.com) to automate all of the above-mentioned ROI measurement tactics.



Cut Marginal Marketing Investments

Now that you know what’s working and what’s not, it’s time to cut, cut, cut.

Cut marginal investments that are not producing a return. Save this money or choose to funnel it into activities that are producing stellar returns.

According to our study, most of your peers are pulling funding away from traditional marketing activities, like magazine advertising, trade shows and direct mail. At the same time they are increasing investments in online marketing activities such as Web sites, search engine marketing and e-mail marketing because they are producing results.



Turn Your Web site into a Lead Generation Machine

According to our study, more than 50% of industrial companies consider their Web site to be their most powerful marketing tool. Do you? Your Web site is the most public face of your company. More people will visit your Web site than will ever visit your offices, view your catalog or talk to your salespeople. Make the most of this marketing channel by transforming your Web site into a lead generation machine.

Begin by providing customer-focused content and interactive features that speak to the needs of your customers and provide the solution they are seeking. Next, do not rely on your Web site’s ‘Contact Us’ page as the sole method for prospects to take action.

To turn your Web site into a lead generation machine, pepper your Web site with a variety of relevant offers tailored to the needs of your target audience, such as:

• Request a quote or purchase online;

• ‘Call me now’ or online chat to reach out to salespeople;

• Order free samples;

• Register for seminars, Webinars or events;

• Request access to “premium content” – whitepapers, knowledgebase, articles, etc.; and

• Subscribe to your e-mail newsletter.

In addition, do not forget to prominently display your phone number on every page. More than half of Web visitors prefer to call rather than complete an online form.



Attract New Customers from Search Engines

If you are not focusing on search engine marketing, it is likely that your company is invisible online. Search engine marketing is extremely important because, according to research, more than 80% of customers begin at a search engine like Google when researching products online.

Simply defined, search engine marketing helps ensure your company’s Web site is presented at the top of the search results when people are searching for your company’s products and capabilities. Prospects who find your Web site through search engines are actively looking for information on your products and will be motivated to take action when they land on your Web site. With the pay-for-performance model of search engine advertising, you only pay when a qualified prospect clicks on your ad and visits your Web site.



Cherish Your Existing Customers

Last, but certainly not least, enhance your relationships with your existing customers. We all know that it is by far easier to sell to existing customers than to try and win new ones. Make sure you do everything you can to demonstrate to your current customers that you are a valued partner that understands their needs.

Many industrial marketers are turning to educational e-mail newsletters to help with this effort. According to our study, industrial marketers feel e-mail marketing is very effective for nurturing customer relationships, providing educational information that will help customers, as well as retain their customers’ business.

However, more than 50% of industrial companies are not taking advantage of e-mail newsletters. Often, the big challenge in producing a successful e-mail newsletter is creating content that your customers will find valuable. E-newsletters that simply provide a recap of your latest products and news may be of great interest to you, but they are of little interest to your customers. To make your e-newsletter a ‘must read’ and a valuable nurturing tool for your business, you need to provide useful, actionable, business-building information that will truly help your customers. If approached correctly, your e-mail newsletter will be a valuable relationship builder for your company.

By embracing these ideas and “marketing smart,” your company will be well-positioned to succeed in 2009 and beyond.

To learn more about how to implement these strategies, visit www.svmsolutions.com/guides to download our free Online Marketing Planning Guides, as well as a copy of the 2009 E-Business Trends in Industrial Marketing Report.

Catch the Author at the 2009 Closets Conference

Bob DeStefano is president of SVM E-Business Solutions, a leading online marketing agency focused on delivering measurable results for manufacturers and distributors. Founded in 1995, SVM helps industrial marketers leverage the Web to generate sales leads, strengthen relationships with customers and measure the return on all marketing investments. Learn more at www.closets-expo.com.

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