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Q&A: How To Leverage The Web And Grow Your Business

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:31am
Anna Wells, Executive Editor, Industrial Distribution

Editors Note: Improving the profitability of your digital presence is a hot topic with distributors. Today we’re asking Curtis Alexander — a digital marketing consultant and one of the speakers at the Distribution and Manufacturing Profitability Forum — some of the most burning questions we hear from you regarding online growth. There’s also an opportunity to get your burning question answered at the end of this article. Enjoy.


Industrial Distribution: How effective is search engine optimization for building traffic?

Curtis Alexander: I use to drive a lot of traffic strictly with SEO. It was steady and predictable. Now, it’s neither of those things. I’ve seen too many companies lose their traffic that they worked so hard to build.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use SEO but it should be a smaller part of your overall online strategy.

If you rely on SEO as your main traffic source that’s a huge gamble. And the house always wins.

ID: If SEO doesn't work as well, what can distributors do?

CA: No matter how much coffee you pour in the cup — the cream always rises.

After SEO started losing effectiveness the popular buzzword became ‘content marketing’. That was a step in the right direction but companies still came to believe that putting up any old content was OK.

What I’m seeing companies win with is what I call Value Marketing. It’s still content as you know it and can be in varied formats (video, webinars, etc) but is much higher value and is often shared and linked to more. It’s also an evolution of quality over quantity.

An added benefit is that many companies already have a lot of this information available to them - they just haven’t decided to move forward and repackage and repurpose it. Distributors that begin doing this will be the winners moving forward.

ID: What's the biggest mistake you see distributors making online?

CA: That’s tough. But too many distributors fail to become objects of interest and differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

It’s like listening to the ad and you hear a company say ‘we strive to provide great customer service’. That’s wasted. EVERYBODY says that and few follow through. Which is why it rolls off your customers mind like water off a ducks back.

The internet is the great equalizer. It allows small companies to compete with large ones. Barriers to entry have been knocked down. But this is a double-edged sword because it increases competition and noise and shortens attention spans.

Distributors who fail to embrace this reality will, unfortunately cement their status as commodities and be forced to duke it out on price. An unappealing position. But distributors whose sole focus is differentiation and building a strong brand will pull away from the pack.

ID: How can distributors become objects of interest?

CA: There is no one way. First commit to direct response principles: action — test — optimize. Secondly, becoming an Object of Interest means you must be different in one way, shape or form.

Digging beneath the surface a bit let me give distributors a concrete example of what I’m talking about by stepping outside our industry.

Cabelas - to the untrained observer - sells the same hunting and fishing equipment as the next store. They’re essentially a distributor. But you’ll often find them selling that exact item at higher price points.

That’s because Cabela’s is excellent at building relationships with it’s customers and mining it’s customers data to appeal to each one’s desires and wants. Is this easy? Absolutely not. But it’s their secret sauce.

They gather contact information and keep in touch in a number of different media. They position themselves as more than a hunting store (high-end, guided hunting and fishing trips as just one example). I could go on. But in their vertical, they have focused on becoming an object of interest and differentiating themselves. And they’re winning big.

The biggest mistake a distributor can make is to think that their business is different. It’s not.

ID: You mentioned action — test — optimize. Could you give us a specific example of what that means?

CA: Sure. Every distributor who is reading this right now is doing certain things to bring in current business. Since we’re talking about the internet lets look at their traffic source and let’s say it’s online advertising.

If so, what is your click-thru-rate on this? How about click-to-conversion? How is your landing page performing? What’s your opt-in rate? So on and so forth.

Often times these questions are met with silence. But if a distributor takes action and begins recording that information we now have a basis for improvement. Testing leads to different ideas and optimization.

Now we have a different scenario. Let’s take that ad that got a 0.5 percent CTR (click-thru-ratio) and change the headline. Bingo … CTR jumped up to 1.0 percent. We just doubled your leads.

Now, let’s take the landing page that you are sending those leads to and test the opt-in form or the headline or the copy or the color or even wording of the opt-in button. We just increased qualified leads another 50 percent.

This is what I call Incremental Optimization. And it uses the power of geometric growth to quickly and radically increase revenues. This is why ‘innovation’ is such dangerous thinking. You can’t innovate until you optimize what you’re already doing first or you’re throwing money out the window.


What Say You? Do you have a burning question? Struggling to grow online? Curtis will be presenting at the Distribution and Manufacturing Profitability Forum on June 10th in a session called How to Leverage the Web to Grow Your Business. Submit any questions you have and Curtis has agreed to answer as many as he can at the end of his session on June 10th. You can submit your questions directly to Curtis.

Register for the Distribution and Manufacturing Profitability Forum here:www.distributionmanufacturingforum.com.

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