The business model of a sales funnel shows leads that enter at the top and filter down to become customers at the bottom. The simple logic of this model suggests that to grow what comes through at the bottom as customers, you need to increase the leads that you fill into the top.
“Effective Web marketing that produces leads through quote request forms and phone calls is a proven way to pour more into your funnel,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “However, without the right processes and people in place to effectively turn those leads into customers, just turning up the volume on inbound leads can create more chaos than clients.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your sales funnel free from roadblocks and improve performance in filtering leads to customers.
What’s wrong with a huge increase in leads?
There are two situations where more leads might not be a good thing: if the leads are unqualified and will never become customers, and if there are more leads than your current structure can handle.
As marketing attracts a population of leads, each business has a certain percentage that will ‘filter out’ for qualification reasons. The challenge lies in keeping the filtering out from being due to reasons like: ‘they never got back to me,’ or ‘they couldn’t answer my questions about the product or service.’
In today’s world of readily available online information, customers are accustomed to getting the information they need quickly. If they can’t get it quickly and conveniently from you, they won’t wait. They’ll move on to your competition.
Why is an immediate response so important?
Numerous studies have shown that the quicker a business can respond to a Web form inquiry, the more likely they are to win that potential client’s business. This is a key aspect in a top performing sales funnel.
If you can immediately reach an online inquirer, impress them, and then set up the next step (an appointment for a face-to-face meeting, an appointment for a detailed project scope discussion call, offering a proposal, etc.), then in many cases you could eliminate your competition.
If you are able to sufficiently impress the inquirer that you are capable and competent as well as establish rapport, then you can interrupt their shopping mode and foster a feeling of: ‘maybe I don’t need to continue shopping right now,’ in your potential customer.
If you don’t provide as immediate a response as possible to your online inquiries, chances are a competitor will. You invest time, money and effort into the SEO, focused messaging and marketing that generates this lead. You don’t want to let a competitor beat you to the pivotally important first contact.
How can I be the best first contact?
In the dynamic and fast-paced world of online marketing today, a number of marketing automation tools exist, from simply sending out e-mail alerts to key people that announce new form-submissions to automatically integrating online form inquiries into your CRM tool, with workflow technology to automatically assign the lead. In addition, automatically triggered e-mails that acknowledge the online request and offer relevant, valuable content to a prospect should always be sent as an inbound marketing best practice.
The real challenge, and what creates a distinct advantage, is getting beyond technology-based responses to make a live, in-person interaction. This may not have to be the ultimate sales representative. Dedicating a marketing resource as a ‘first round of response’ to inbound leads can have the additional benefit of gathering qualification information beyond what is collected in a Web form that directs the lead either on to a focused sales conversation, or into a nurturing program.
This first contact, whether from the sales, marketing or any other team, is your company’s first live impression, so the process and people in this role need to ensure capability and availability.
- Capability through adequate education on your company’s products and services. This will best ensure a ‘knowledgeable’ initial impression versus ‘an appointment setter’ that doesn’t connect with the potential client. This knowledgeable trait is doubly important for a company’s sales reps. It is safe to assume, with the sheer amount of information instantly available online, that your potential customers are well aware of general product attributes and even price-points before they speak to you.
- Availability to respond with reasonable immediacy. This may require some creative scheduling, based on the patterns of when your inbound leads occur. For example, your first responder may need to shift work hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. if leads tend to arrive during the traditional lunch hour or shortly after 5 p.m. Each business can clarify an optimal approach to immediacy through understanding the psychographics of their target customer and researching their online behaviors. Look to your website analytics to see the data specific to your business.
The key to clearing any clogs in the sales funnel centers on making the process as smooth as possible for both the target customer and your firm. When leads can be smoothly filtered along the funnel, the time and efforts of your sales force are put to best use, and your marketing organization can gain quick insight on messaging points and other potential adjustments to improve overall lead quality. When potential clients quickly encounter a knowledgeable and helpful representative of your business, you already win from a branding standpoint, and you are set up to more easily win their business.
For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.
KEVIN HOURIGAN is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.
CHICAGO, April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Low-cost summer camp requests have almost doubled since 2008, according to a new work-life report released today by ComPsych. Overall summer care requests have increased by 7 percent as more working parents seek help from ComPsych Work-Life services. ComPsych Corporation is the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs and is the pioneer and worldwide leader of fully integrated EAP, behavioral health, wellness, work-life, HR and FMLA administration services under the GuidanceResources brand.
"Working parents are increasingly looking for help in locating free or reduced-cost options for summer care and activities," said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, Chairman and CEO of ComPsych. "This is a major change from pre-recession trends, which included more-expensive options such as sports or performing arts-themed camps.
"Employers who support their workforce with ComPsych programs – including a staff of experienced work-life specialists who can research low-cost summer alternatives – will see better productivity, less distraction and less stress in their employees."
Key findings of the report:
- As a percentage of overall work-life calls, summer care requests have increased by 7 percent in 2011, with parents seeking less-expensive alternatives for their summer needs.
- Camp requests overall have increased to 42 percent, surpassing Infant and Toddler Care.
- Nanny Service requests have dropped from 9 percent to 6 percent, as in-home care has become increasingly cost prohibitive for many families.
- Requests for relatively expensive summer camps, such as sports and performing arts-themed camps, are less than half of early 2008 levels, before the recession.
ComPsych® Corporation is the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs (EAP) and is the pioneer and worldwide leader of fully integrated EAP, behavioral health, wellness, work-life, HR and FMLA administration services under the GuidanceResources® brand. ComPsych provides services to more than 13,000 organizations covering more than 35 million individuals throughout the U.S. and over 100 countries. By creating "Build-to-Suit" programs, ComPsych helps employers attract and retain employees, increase employee productivity and improve overall health and wellbeing. Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ComPsych.
SOURCE ComPsych Corporation
By now, everyone knows that you should "go green." The advantages include reduced energy costs, having employees that are proud to work for a company that values environmentally-friendly practices, and being a company that sets the standard for green business within your industry, just to name a few.
Tiffany Bloomer, Director of Business Development, and Ashley Reiff, Marketing Coordinator, of Aventis Systems, Inc., discuss the many benefits of going green and how a company can easily and cost-effectively do so by utilizing virtualization and refurbished IT equipment.
For more information on Aventis Systems, visit www.aventissystems.com or call 1-866-528-9313.
Tiffany Bloomer is the Director of Business Development for Aventis Systems, Inc. Reach her at email@example.com.
Ashley Reiff is the Marketing Coordinator for Aventis Systems, Inc. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As communication channels expand from the traditional phone call to a bounty of online platforms, the direct marketing industry is challenged to keep up. InfoCision Management Corp. is no exception – but the difference is that they see this challenge as an opportunity.
In business since 1982, InfoCision is the nation’s second largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of direct marketing solutions for Fortune 100 companies and nonprofit organizations.
Chief Marketing Officer Ken Dawson has been instrumental in InfoCision’s transition from a traditional teleservices company to a full-service direct marketing partner. He revolutionized InfoCision’s service offerings to include multichannel solutions and highly personalized, highly targeted communication driven by data analytics.
Smart Business sat down with Dawson to get his take on overcoming business challenges, championing innovation and adding value for clients.
Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
For all of us in the direct marketing industry, a key challenge over the past several years has been adapting to changes in the ways people communicate. A number of personal exchanges that once required a phone call can now be accomplished via mail, e-mail, text message and Web (on Facebook and Twitter, for example). Where there was previously one central channel for communication, there are now multiple channels positioned side by side.
At InfoCision, we actually saw this challenge as an opportunity. More channels mean more ways to reach more people. While contact center solutions remain the core of what we do, we have made a significant investment in expanding our multichannel services. In the past few years, we have built a direct mail division; and we continue to develop new Web services, like our innovative online campaign system. Perhaps most importantly, with our Business Intelligence Group, we have advanced our data analytics capabilities. Leveraging data allows us to help our clients reach people in the most effective way possible across multiple channels.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
In order to thrive in today’s business environment, you have to be an innovator. You have to constantly be looking for new ways to make your operations more effective and efficient. Fortunately, InfoCision has always been a progressive company, both in terms of our technology and the services we offer. We are continually enhancing our capabilities and developing solutions to help our clients reach more people and earn the highest possible return on investment (ROI).
InfoCision employs innovation to give our clients new and more effective ways of connecting with customers. For example, our Best Time to Call technology uses data to tell our Communicators when they are most likely to reach a person by phone. Our variable data printing capabilities enable us to personalize mass mailings to the individual. And our online campaign system gives people the ability to interact with organizations on the Web. All of our innovations serve the same purpose: Provide our clients additional ways to connect with customers on a more personal, one-to-one basis.
How have you added “value” to the products and services you provide to clients?
InfoCision adds value to our services by customizing all our offerings to meet individual client needs. We tailor our solutions for each and every organization we work with. If a client needs a web application and phone support for contacting online leads, we can do it. If a client needs a phone call that leads to a direct mail piece, we can do it. Rather than simply provide a static set of services, we customize everything to produce the best possible results.
Our full spectrum of direct marketing solutions also adds value for our clients. These days, marketing success requires giving your audience as many choices as possible. Most organizations come to us for call center solutions and discover we offer so much more: direct mail, creative services, interactive solutions, data analytics, etc. Because we have all these capabilities under one roof, we make multichannel interaction seamless. We use data to tie all the channels together and ensure our clients are reaching customers the way they prefer to be reached. That’s a true added value, and one that helps drive results and maximize ROI for our clients.
How to reach: InfoCision Management Corp., (330) 668-1400 or www.infocision.com
Growth is nothing new to Manu Shah. His company’s been experiencing it for 36 years straight – ever since M S International Inc. opened in 1975.
Shah, president and CEO, is in the stone business; his company is a global distributor of natural stone, and the largest supplier of natural stone products in the U.S. His team knows a thing or two about staying rock solid, and not even the economic downturn could keep them from growing.
Competitors cut back or closed down, but Shah set out to follow core values, seek new opportunities and invest for the long-term by innovating everywhere, from sales and marketing to the supply chain. So while his industry shrank 40 percent during the last two years, Shah grew 45 percent.
Because of this, Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank named Shah one of the 2011 Smart Leader honorees. He shared how he innovates to expand while investing in employees and the company.
Give an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
Since opening in 1975, MSI has grown for all its 35 years of history. In the last quarter of 2008, the political and economic uncertainty, the volatility of consumer sentiment and the continuation of the global debt crisis caused a large business challenge in the form of how to compete with fear. Most of our major competitors – and the building industry in general – dealt with the fear by laying off workers, reducing pay, curtailing investments, closing locations and stopping new product innovations. Many companies in our industry decided to just shut down, or fell into bankruptcy.
After one year of survival tactics, we put aside our worries and charged forward taking risks and making calculated investments for the long term.
Instead of copying our competitors during those turbulent times, we asked all our leaders to keep our core values intact, continue to invest for the long term, and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in the industry. We asked our leaders to plan for knock-out punches and demand the necessary resources for execution. Some examples include:
1) Continued hiring at an aggressive pace and encouraging hard work and over time where required
2) Continued expansion of new branches and necessary infrastructure spending.
3) Continued investment in innovation and marketing and product development
4) Extended helping hands to key vendors, needy employees and few longtime customers.
5) Most importantly, did not lay off a single employee due to lack of work.
6) Most importantly, did not lay off a single employee or reduce benefits due to a lack of work!
The strategy worked wonders: Between 2008 and 2010, MSI grew by 45 percent while the industry shrank by 40 percent.
Most companies measure their success by top-line or bottom-line growth; we at MSI look at the market share growth. Market share is calculated geographically, customer segments and different product lines. The best time to get market share is during a downturn in the economy when opponents are weak.
We hired and trained over 150 employees nationwide in 2010. Opened three new branches. Made huge investments in IT software and hardware to improve productivity. Revitalized HR, including a focus on wellness and a digitized review process.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
Innovation is the engine of growth.
Innovation in sales and marketing – developing state-of the art display systems physically and in the virtual world.
Innovation in product packaging – attractive packaging to the consumer and more green, environmentally friendly packages.
Innovation in hiring and retaining talent.
Innovation in supply chain management, including clarity and transparency with all major vendors.
Innovation in never using “OPM” – Other People’s Money. About 95 percent of our A/P is paid as soon as shipments are confirmed shipped from 35 countries – 30 to 90 days before our competition pays.
Innovation in information systems to get all info as soon as it happens to all with the need to know.
Introduce many databases with ARC (Analysis, Recommendations, Conclusion) by using over 40 servers with real-time data.
How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
We expanded wellness program to every employee, introduced matching charitable contributions to all 500-plus employees, trained 15-plus college students during summer (which we do each year), added 40-plus employees locally in Orange County, received “Best Place to Work” recognization in Orange County as well as an award for large family-owned business and an award for the Business of the Year by the City of Orange.
We work with numerous community organizations on their needs, as well.
How to reach: M S International Inc., (714) 685-7500 or www.msistone.com
I began these series of Online Insights articles addressing the process of your writing a personal financial and business plan. My objective was to uncover the “source” — the purpose — of this planning process. I was hopeful that examining the purpose of your financial and business plan would lead to the personal question as to what is your life’s purpose. Identifying your life’s purpose should have moved the business and personal financial plan writing to a different dimension.
To further help illuminate that inner purpose and destiny, I asked you to consider two questions. The first question was intended to allow you to explore the possibilities of living life without the fear of not having enough money and think about what you would do with your money. Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
The second question added a new “wrinkle” to your financial and business journey — your own mortality. I asked you to consider an approximate 10-year remaining timeframe to your life. Your next decade would continue as it is now. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life and how will you do it?
This second question drew you closer to defining a life with purpose. Remember, our compelling theme throughout these articles is about your creating the experiences to manifest your current life of success into a life of significance. There are many paths you can take to become significant. Your own creativity and inner soul-searching will provide you with numerous ideas that equate with significance.
What adjustments would you make to your current definitions of purpose if I introduce the third question? All three questions are intended to “drill-down” to the “why” of what you do and “who” you are. So here it is:
This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or done? What did I miss? [i]
So as we do goal planning, is today just a means to an end? All the things we chart out and itemize, does that minutia allow us to “smell the roses along the way?” Are we actually living each day to the fullest? Or, as Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book “The Power of Now,” are we living in the Now? Take the time to reflect upon the questions within this third question. Even though we plan, we are only guaranteed the present moment. How are we using each moment to create our journey of significance?
Previously we used “making an impact on people’s lives” as one example of purpose. Our prior discussion in previous articles progressed from pleasure and passion to purpose. Philanthropy may be one of the ways to demonstrate a sense of purpose in impacting people’s lives. But what does the third question evoke in you? One question provided you with a 10-year timeframe to plan accordingly. Now, your time frame is 24 hours. In addition to all of the emotions that consume your every thought, the word “legacy” may pop into your thoughts. What legacy is created at my death, and how will that impact people’s lives?
This last question has a tendency to question all those trivial things that you once thought were so relevant and important. You have left a succession plan at death for your family (either by choice or through the intestacy rules within the state/county in which you reside). The long and short of it is whatever you have documented will transfer to your heirs and the next generation of family and employees. Hopefully planning, and not chance, will determine the future disposition of your estate. Legacy refers to the inheritance or bequests that will be created at your death.
So “piggy-backing” upon the discussion with your family and employees about philanthropic planning, what other content can be include in your “open” discussion with family and staff? Have you discussed your business succession plan? What relevant discussions have you had with the disposition of both your personal assets and your business interests? Are your heirs informed to the extent that they feel comfortable with your wishes, and are your employees comfortable with the continuation of their jobs as well as the future of the company? You’ve empowered your staff and made them ambassadors of your business’s purpose. Where do you start with finding the right successors? How do you document your transition?
So in the next few articles, let’s explore the many ways of transferring assets and purpose to our intended beneficiaries.
Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, CEO & Managing Member of RAV Financial Services LLC, can be reached at email@example.com
[i] These questions are taken from the book “Lighting the Torch: "The Kinder Method(TM) of Life Planning” by George Kinder and Susan E Galvan.
Is a business valuation needed when you aren’t planning to sell your business? What factors determine a company’s value? What do you need to know before hiring a valuation professional? These are some of the common questions that business owners pose when the issue of a valuation is raised. Since 2011 is expected by some economists to see an increase in mergers and acquisitions activity, it is a good time to review the role of business valuations.
“Valuations are useful in such circumstances as mergers and acquisitions, due diligence by a lender, succession planning, estate planning and complying with government regulations,” says Jeff Hipshman, partner, HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors in Tustin. “Even if none of these trigger events are happening now, it still can be beneficial to have a valuation. A business valuation can impart insights into a company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as provide a road map for increasing its value. Understanding what adds value to your company can help you in future business decisions, such as timing the sale of your business for the maximum selling price.”
Smart Business spoke with Hipshman about some of the typical questions that business owners ask about business valuations.
Why is a valuation needed?
Valuations can be helpful in many situations, including some you may not have even thought about:
- You want to buy or sell a business.
- You are divorcing.
- You use gifts as a tax strategy in your estate plan.
- You are liquidating your business.
- You are the executor of an estate.
- You are setting up a buy-sell agreement.
- You are seeking business financing.
- You are doing strategic planning.
- You require a fairness opinion.
- You need to comply with certain FASB standards.
- You are converting your C corporation to an S corporation.
What methods do valuators commonly use?
The business is first analyzed and then a valuation method is selected based on the analysis, the interest being valued and the purpose of the valuation. Your financial statements are a starting point when setting a value for your company. But important information will be missed if the analysis relies solely on the financial statements. Valuators select their valuation methods based on their analysis and all other facts and circumstances.
Typically, a valuator considers one primary method to derive the asset’s value, and one or two others to serve as checks or supports of that value. The process of valuing a business is necessarily somewhat subjective. Valuation professionals may vary in their estimates. In using the various methods, even the same valuator may come up with several estimates.
Here are some of the most common valuation methods:
- Income approach. This approach capitalizes the company’s expected income or cash flow stream by determining the rate of return on investment required by a potential investor, and it sets the value at the amount appropriate to generate that rate of return. This method is often used in conjunction with a discounted cash flow analysis to estimate the present value of the future stream of net cash flows generated by the business.
- Market approach. This approach gathers data from acquisitions of similar businesses or from the stock prices of comparable publicly traded companies. The valuator adjusts the data to account for differences between the subject company and comparable firms. An adequate number of comparable companies are necessary to produce credible results.
- Asset-based approach, also called adjusted book value method. This approach requires establishing the value of all assets and liabilities as a method of valuing the entire business. This method is often used when a business’s earnings and cash flow don’t materially contribute to its value. The identification and valuation of intangible assets is the most challenging aspect of this method.
To ensure a quality valuation, be sure to hire an independent valuator who knows the ins and outs of your company and industry.
What makes some businesses worth more than others?
Many factors affect your company’s value. In addition to financial factors (e.g., profitability, revenue sources, cash flow, current debt and equity), some of the key factors affecting value include:
- Economy: Economic conditions, especially costs of materials and availability of capital, can profoundly affect a company’s continued profitability.
- Industry: A particular industry’s economic outlook can have an impact on the value of a business. In addition, markets and channels of distribution as well as changes in production technology can greatly affect a company’s future potential and have a major impact on value.
- Competition: The number and nature of current and potential competitors and their ease of entry into a company’s market can profoundly affect a company’s success.
- Regulations: From a valuation standpoint, compliance requirements and restrictions to market entry may be particularly important. Also, current or anticipated zoning and licensing restrictions can substantially affect price.
- Market position: Reputation, pricing policies and diversification of customer base all significantly affect a company’s ability to generate earnings.
- Intangibles: An established name and reputation, a customer base, a skilled work force and many others are what increase the value of a business above its tangible assets’ fair market value. They can greatly increase a company’s profitability.
- Internal controls. The functioning of accounting and operational controls affects risk. If internal controls are faulty, financial and other data could be as well.
Jeff Hipshman is a partner at HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors (www.hmwccpa.com), one of Orange County’s largest local accounting firms. Contact him at (714) 505-9000 to discuss how your company or client could benefit from HMWC’s business valuation services.
Every business owner has, or at least has heard of, a business plan. It summarizes the operational and financial objectives of your business and gives a high-level overview of the operations of your company. Business plans are not only useful for planning purposes, but are oftentimes necessary to obtain financing and attract investors.
But what about a business model? This distant cousin of the business plan is rarely written or talked about, but it’s what separates a Starbucks from an ordinary coffee shop. It describes your business and how it will generate revenues. It assesses the marketplace’s needs, risks and costs and is the basic framework your company will follow to become profitable.
Smart Business learned more from Matt Marchbanks and Paul Orsborn of Comerica Bank about the main components that your business model should contain.
What is the first thing a business model should contain?
Marchbanks: The first item to include is a description of the products and services your business will offer and why customers should purchase them. What makes your business unique and differentiates your products or service offerings? How will they fulfill the needs of customers? You must consider in your business model how you will transform your product or service into something attractive to consumers and how it will be made available to them. In essence, you should describe what will make your business successful.
Should necessary expenses be included in a business model?
Orsborn: Yes, the next crucial item to consider is how much your fixed expenditures will be. First, think about the core operating costs of the business. This includes everything from rent and employees to equipment and office supplies like computers. Also take into consideration the cost of any fees you may encounter when starting your business, like licenses, agreements and legal, accounting and insurance fees. You should also determine how much your product will cost to produce. Will you need a factory or supplier to produce it? Will you need to pay for shipping or transportation across the country? If you’re going to offer a service, think about what upstart costs you will incur.
How should revenues be factored in?
Marchbanks: The next step is determining how you will make money to offset the cost of your expenses and, in the end, be profitable. Who will your potential customers be? Look at the demographic you will be targeting and identify your target customer. Next, start to think about how you will develop customer relationships and how you will sell your product or service. You will need to develop a marketing and distribution strategy. Entrepreneurs should learn about trends and new breakthroughs and research their competitors. It’s also a good idea to talk to people outside of your industry. You never know what valuable information you can gain from an outside perspective.
Should a detailed financial plan be developed?
Orsborn: Yes, your detailed financial plan should include the initial investment needed to get your business up and running, like facilities and equipment, and also working capital to begin and sustain operations. It should also include an itemized list of expenses and revenue projections and keep track of profit, return on investment and cash flow. Also remember to keep continually thinking about your business model after you start your business, especially when it’s time to branch out. If your business goals change, it’s time to revise your business model.
Matt Marchbanks and Paul Orsborn are senior vice presidents for Comerica’s Texas Business Banking Division. Comerica Bank is the commercial banking subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated (NYSE: CMA), the largest U.S. banking company headquartered in Texas, and strategically aligned by three business segments: The Business Bank, The Retail Bank, and Wealth & Institutional Management. Comerica focuses on relationships, and helping people and businesses be successful. In addition to Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas, Comerica Bank locations can be found in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan, with select businesses operating in several other states, as well as in Canada and Mexico. Comerica reported total assets of $53.7 billion at Dec. 31, 2010. To receive e-mail alerts of breaking Comerica news, go to www.comerica.com/newsalerts.
A “set it and forget it” belief is the fast-lane to failure in Web marketing. In fact, one of the most detrimental moves that many companies make is to build a website without understanding that the creation of the site is just the first step in an endless commitment.
“Recent statistics show that 80 percent of customers begin their buying research online, and to ensure that your product or service shows up for these potential customers, you need to take some basic actions to keep your website current and performing,” says Hourigan. “This includes frequent updates and publishing relevant content that showcases your company’s subject matter expertise.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about what it takes to keep your Web strategy up to speed so it produces consistently positive results for your business.
What is the first step in an effective Web strategy?
You must start at your website. Basic requirements of being found at the top of the search results when people are looking for your product or service are the relevancy to the topic they are searching for and the freshness of the content. Websites that are built with the correct structure to support relevancy and the flexibility to allow fast changes are the essential core of a successful Web strategy.
My best advice on how to start is to build with the never-ending end in mind. Really understand what you want from your website before you design or develop it. What are your goals for your website? What do you want your website to do? Generate leads; be used as a research tool where prospects can learn more about you; serve as an interactive tool for your existing customers; recruit employees, etc.? Your website goal, or prioritized goals when there are more than one, are your guide. Make these the driving force and litmus test for all aesthetic and functionality considerations when creating your site.
How do I bring it all together?
Three things to be sure to have your website integrated with are:
- A content management system (CMS).
- Analytics (Google analytics is free and can serve this need well).
- Integration with your CRM for tracking leads through to sales.
These will help ensure that your website is built to be search engine optimization-friendly, and friendly to your Web marketing needs in general, which are a moving target. If it takes a Web programmer to add Web pages or affect a change to your website, then your Web marketing is nearly doomed before it begins. When you are forced to incur the time and expense of programming to achieve the ongoing needs of your Web marketing, you bog down your ability to quickly adjust to the dynamic nature of marketing. This costs not only time and money; it will cost you sales and competitive performance in your market. A CMS enables marketers to do your Web marketing. Analytics is a prerequisite to effective SEO and measurement. Integration to your CRM enables accurate tracking of the bottom line impact of your Web investment.
Having your core website solidly in place and able to meet the needs of ongoing change enables you to best utilize Web marketing tactics that achieve your goals.
How do I develop a winning ongoing Web strategy?
A Web strategy that continues to perform is an ongoing process of planning, executing, measuring and adjusting.
Planning your Web strategy is often the most intense and most crucial exercise. Again, your website goals are your litmus test for identifying, evaluating and selecting the tactics you will use, as well as how and when to measure their successes.
A great rule of thumb is to be readily able to answer:
- What goal you are furthering with a tactic.
- How it influences or causes this progress.
- What metric you are using to gauge it.
In addition to the core functionality and flexibility of your website that supports this iterative process, it is key to have talent on board that understands the balance and interdependencies of different Web marketing tactics. This allows you to best execute to achieve your goals.
When measuring your Web marketing performance, focus on metrics that are tied to achieving your goals. An example of this is to look at not just the number of leads a tactic generates, but also the cost per lead and the percentage that converts to proposals and sales. This perspective will keep you from getting lost in the metrics, which is easily done.
Regular analysis will guide the critical fine-tuning of your Web marketing mix. This is an ongoing effort, customized to your business and the evolving conditions of your marketplace. When done right, your Web strategy can be made of very different elements from one year to another, and for good reason. It needs to be a moving arrow locked onto your moving target.
Taking this disciplined approach to crafting your Web game plan is how the consistent best performers separate themselves from the competition.
A constant of the Internet world is change. Very often this is rapid change. Having your core and flexibility in synch puts you ahead of the game. From there, it is vital to put in place the processes and the people who are skilled and equipped to keep the strategic cycle of Web marketing in motion and delivering best results.
For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, visit www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.
Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.
When it comes to being successful, it’s all about momentum. One small win needs to be parlayed into two wins, which in turn need to fuel the big win needed to make budget. You not only have to get people moving in the same direction, you have to keep them moving at a faster and faster pace. Otherwise, everything just stops. There are many aspects to momentum, and it starts with vital business ideals like the mission and vision statement, runs through relationship building and ends somewhere on the far side of culture. Only when everything is working together are you able to turn multiple small victories into momentum that can change an entire organization.
Below is a sampling of what three CEOs previously featured on the cover of Smart Business Pittsburgh had to say about keeping your momentum going to drive change.
“You’ll have a lot of people who won’t really share your vision and will tell you all of the reasons why it won’t work. But if you really believe in it, you move forward anyway and find ways to make it work.”
Ed Stack, CEO, Dick’s Sporting Goods
“The key is to really show them what’s going on today and explain very clearly why the organization needs to change; then get them to help develop that future collectively with you.”
Dr. Christopher Olivia, president and CEO, West Penn Allegheny
“Whether it’s your clients or your employees, you’re less successful unless you have a relationship with these people. Everything we try to drive is relationship-driven, and it makes us more successful on the service side, it makes us more successful on the sales side, and it makes us more successful on the employee-retention side.”
Patrick Hampson, founder, chairman and CEO, MED3000
Believe in your plan and don’t be detracted by naysayers.
Explain to employees why things need to change and get them to help you do it.
Everything in business is driven by relationships.