March 2014 / Volume 66 / Issue 3|
More on smart online marketing
By Keith Jennings
Presented here is the second part of my column about Web-based marketing. The first part appeared in the February issue.
While appearing near the top of an Internet search makes it easy for potential customers to find out about your shop’s services, a downside is that many of the people conducting searches are marketers looking to sell something. In addition, many people who search for shops are competitors collecting information or just being nosy, so be careful what you freely post. With that in mind, keep your online content professional and do not provide unneeded information, such as anything personal or any specific details about your operation.
An obvious upside is that when you’re found online, you’re branding your company and, hopefully, generating business for machined parts outside of your normal area. If budgeted carefully, exposure through searches can be more cost-effective than hiring a salesperson. However, some shops already have enough work and don’t want or need new business. If you’re in that category, congratulations—your sales budget is probably a smaller percentage of overhead than most.
In 1999, I became aware of the power of robust online marketing and started digging to determine how and why a company appears on the first page of a search site. At that time, Yahoo was the dominant search engine and I discovered appearing first on a Yahoo search required paying them $500 to $1,000 per month in sponsored searches to guarantee results. For that amount, we definitely saw an increase in the number of inquiries and, eventually, new sales through many new prospects. Over time, most new business came via Internet searches and it was a wonderful thing.
Fast forward 10-years and Google is the search king, charging dramatically higher prices for high-quality results, with the competition to achieve those results being quite costly. While our company still allocates funds for an online campaign, we’ve had to adapt to the reality of an online world where the desire to be on top has become prohibitively expensive, especially for smaller shops. This requires a change in online strategy to include very targeted search terms so you’re not competing among the costliest search terms.
Even today, our company spends several thousand dollars per month for an online marketing program, but the caliber of solid leads has become so watered down that only about 25 percent of inquiries are worthwhile. The remainder are a hodgepodge of goofy requests, sales pitches and inquiries from job seekers. Even so, the potential to expose and promote your company and expand your reach is great.
While all these ideas may sound good, the ultimate measure of success is whether sales increase. If the results aren’t generating new business, perhaps you didn’t choose the right search-engine-optimization (SEO) consultant and, therefore, your Web site isn’t effectively optimized for Internet searches.
Effective SEO consultants, advertising agencies and Web developers exist, but do your homework by first obtaining references and validating credentials. They don’t have to be local to be effective and worth hiring. We’ve used reputable consultants from outside our area and communicated through conference calls and e-mails. Even so, a good campaign is still going to cost a minimum of $1,000 per month. However, it may provide exposure for your shop beyond your normal territory and create some valuable new accounts.
Adding an online presence can take you to new heights. However, to use the words of President Reagan, “Trust, but verify.” Effective online content is an awesome tool, but is by no means the only way to sell and promote your company. Nonetheless, it’s important, and practically mandatory. Use it effectively and grow. CTE
About the Author:Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, metal fabrication and metal stamping. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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