Okay, you have identified your target audience. You’ve narrowed down the list of potential customers and their demographics. What’s the next step in the website design process? Unless you want to create your website in a vacuum, you need to see what other people are doing in your industry.
Step two in the website design process is to review the competition. What we’re talking about is good old-fashion research. And the great thing is that with the Internet as your partner, it doesn’t take long to accomplish this task.
I’ve heard many businesses say that they don’t have any competition. Let’s get one thing straight, every business has competition. And competition is healthy for everyone. Consumers and businesses alike. Competition helps your website business because you don’t have to make the same mistakes that others have made. Here are some ideas to work with when researching the competition.
- Find 10 businesses that sell your product or service
- Where are they located?
- Are consumers buying their product or service online?
- Buy a product or service from a competitor
- Review their marketing materials
- Review their sales figures
- Try to speak with a sales person
- Find associations of your industry
- Research trends from statistics that associations provide
- Find 10 more business that sell your product or service
I could list 100 ideas for researching the competition. Just keep at it. Never stop looking at what others are accomplishing in your industry. Research, review and reevaluate. Keep updating your website and marketing materials. See what works for others and how you can benefit.
Morrison Sign Company, located in Columbus, Ohio, has created a new website for their business. The website design for this company effectively promotes their products and services. The portfolio page in particular displays photos of their work in a creative manner. Flash animation adds interest to the website as well.
NY Times article ‘Publications on Fitness and Health Head to Web’ describes the trend of publications to increase their website efforts. Hearst Corporation is seeking to improve the branding of their publications. The NY Times article covers the financial side of the business very well. It would be helpful to the reader if the article spoke towards publication website design as well. Good website design allow users to dig deeper into relevant information quickly and build a strong relationships. Strong relationships mean repeat visitors to the website.
Here’s an example of another well-designed website located in Columbus, Ohio. This website is for the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA). Flash animation was used to show a portfolio of photos about OADQA. The navigation is easy-to-follow and helpful for the target audience.
FedEx has a one of the funniest commercials running on television. It portrays a scene where meetings are useless, and some people are clueless. But by using FedEx, you can still get the job done. The main message throughout this commercial and their campaign is that FedEx offers a range of services that help small businesses meet their needs. Well done.
There’s no secret to driving traffic to your website. It takes planning, hard work and execution. Picture of your website as being located in the middle of a corn field. How would anyone be able to find it? You basically have to plow a path leading to your website. The more paths that you plow, the more opportunities there are for your target audience to find your website. And by connecting the paths, you create additonal chances to connect with users. One path could be optimizing your site for search engines. Another path could be to increase links back to your site. Think of those paths as strategic methods and you’re well on your way to improving visibilty with your target audience.
Bring your website to life by adding a Flash animation. If customers and prospects are not excited about your website’s design (and maybe not excited about your business), introducing Flash animation can help. Flash, a software product from Adobe, has a steep learning curve so you may want to consider hiring a professional company that is experienced in developing Flash websites. It’s all about driving traffic to your website and Flash can help spread word-of-mouth marketing.
If you have a business, then you need a blog. According to Technorati, the blogoshere has grown from 100,000 blogs in March 2003 to nearly 73 million in March 2007. The numbers suggest that this is no longer ‘bleeding edge’ technology. Blogs have become mainstream as a valuable source of information for Internet users with interests that range from travel to computer hardware. Not all blogs are created equal however and there are a lot of, to put it mildly, sub-par blogs that offer little or no value. For that reason, companies that understand how important it is to connect with customers and prospects will utilize a professionally produced blog. Here are some important points:
- Hire a professional maketing firm to build your blog
- Utilize multiple authors to write articles
- Write articles about solving customer problems
- Use photos and graphic images to make your point
- Encourage feedback to articles
- Update blog as often as possible
- Find ways to connect to the blogosphere and extend your blog’s reach
Your business blog should offer solutions to customer problems, not just a sales pitch to buy your products or services. Update your blog at least once every week and cover a wide range of topics specially tailored for your target audience. And don’t forget to take advantage of the many methods for connecting with other blogs and blog aggregators such as; Digg and del.icio.us.
If this all seems ‘Greek’ to you, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources available on the Internet to help your busness create an effective blog. The great news is that the technology to create a blog is open-source (meaning free). And there are many other solutions available as well. Forget email, start a blog to move your business into the future!
Fernando Sosa and Thomas Middleditch, two unknown actor/musicians, posted a rap video about Chicken McNuggets on YouTube and created a sensation. The video eventually was spotted by McDonalds and a 30 second spot was created to run on commercial television. Mr. Sosa was also interviewed by Neil Cavuto on FNC. It just shows how creativity, marketing and Web 2.0 access can level the playing field in marketing your business.
If you opened up the doors of a new business 15 years ago, your marketing (Marketing 1.0) would have consisted of advertising in the local phone directory, printing up business cards, stationary and brochures and waiting by the phone for the customers to call. Once in a while, when business was slow, you might even take out an ad in the local paper or drop off a few business cards at a trade show.
There were computers back then and a new phenomenon called the Internet was breaking loose, but all-in-all marketing was pretty basic. For example, if you needed to research the competition, you would try to find a copy of their brochures. For information about larger potential customers you would have sent away for annual reports. You would have read about general business news in the local or national newspapers. And local information about your industry would have come from associations and membership organizations. Researching prospects and customers would take you to a place called a library. It was a place that everyone went to, to get the information they needed. Yes, those were the days!
Now, imagine that you have been asleep since then and unaware of the new technologies available for the past 15 years. (You can choose your own reason for sleeping that long!) You’ve suddenly woken up to a new world of marketing. What used to be a simple world of basic marketing is now a world of Blogs, Widgets and Wikis. To say that times have changed is an understatement. Technology now allows us to market our businesses in ways we never could have dreamed about. And even though we haven’t been asleep the past 15 years it’s still amazing to imagine the potential of utilizing this technology. Welcome to Marketing Your Business 2.0.
Marcy Design will bring a fresh perspective on how your business can take advantage of this brave new world of marketing. We will review new products, services and Web sites related to marketing.Feel free to review the RSS feeds on this Web site to gain a better understanding of what’s out there.And let us know if you have any questions or new insight to share. One last thought, according to the consulting firm Capgemini, more than 80% of consumers surveyed in 2006 said they used the Web during the buying process, twice as many as in 2004 and more than four times as many as in 2002. This new world of marketing revolves around the Internet.