SOURCE: Portent Interactive

June 29, 2005 11:46 ET

Six Steps for Better Internet Marketing

Using Conversation Marketing to Open and Maintain Business Relationships on the Web

SEATTLE, WA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- June 29, 2005 -- What does your web site do for your business? If you're scratching your head, don't feel bad -- you're not alone.

Too many web sites are passive promotional engines -- they look nice, but once you get past the attractive wrapping, there's nothing inside. How many times have you seen a web site, oooohed and aaaahed at the graphics, and then left, never to return?

That's just wrong. Your web site can, and should, contribute to your bottom line.

You can make that happen by treating your Internet marketing efforts as an ongoing conversation with potential customers. The Internet is not a broadcast medium -- it's an ongoing communication between audience members. Do that and you're using Conversation Marketing.

Conversation Marketing is easy, once you understand it: Here are six basic steps you'll need to know and then you're on your way:

1. KNOW THE ROOM

You need to know who you're communicating with, first. To Know the Room, you have to answer three simple questions:

--  What's my conversion goal, i.e. what do I want visitors to do when
    they get to my site?
--  Who is my audience?
--  What questions will be foremost in their minds when they arrive at my
    site?
    

Pay attention to the room, and make sure you're not looking in the mirror -- it's easy to develop a strategy that focuses on what you like. But that won't help you sell anything. Know the room.

2. LOOK APPROPRIATE

That's appropriate, not cool. Your site needs to look right in context.

If your web site design is appropriate in the context of your industry or mission, chances are most visitors will stay long enough to learn a little bit about your organization. Always make sure that your web site looks appropriate for your business.

If you don't want to spend the money to look 'good,' then at least try not to look bad. A page full of twirling animations and 30 point, bright pink text won't invite anything but a snicker. Even a low budget web site can do the job if you keep your design simple, functional and user-friendly.

Dress inappropriately at your peril. Here's a quick example: A company redesigns their web site to use Flash, video and a very image-heavy, slow loading design. The design was striking -- it could've won a Webby Award.

But their sales plunged. Why? Because they were selling office products. Their customers wanted an office supply store, but they got an amusement park, instead. Later, the site was revamped using a cleaner, faster look that emphasized simple product selection and ordering, and their sales jumped by 220%.

Remember, it's not about what you like -- it's about what your audience likes. Look appropriate.

3. SOUND SMART

If you look appropriate, then someone's probably going to want to talk to you. Your web site needs to have quality content, organized in a way that makes sense to your audience. Make sure that:

--  You have quality content. Whether it's text, graphics, audio or video,
    make sure it's professional and appropriate for your audience.
--  That content is well organized.
--  Your site works in all major web browsers.
    
Good, relevant design made customers look. Clear, useful, usable content makes them stay. Sound smart.

4. OBSERVE AND ADJUST

On the Internet, you can gauge visitor response and adjust site content, organization and look. You may not be able to see the look in their eye, but something as simple as a web site traffic report can tell you which pages of your web site get the most attention, and which ones drive visitors away. Combine that with conversion tracking, and you've got an unrivaled source of business intelligence.

Say you sell industrial equipment, and you want folks to contact your sales force. You put an information request form on your site (your conversion goal), and after a month you note that only 1% of all site visitors fill out the form, but 50% of all visitors from, say, XYZ Magazine filled it out. You contact other, similar magazines about advertising and maybe some PR, and bingo, you boost the number of sales contacts.

Your web site is a gold mine of information about how the public responds to what you say. You can use this information to adjust your conversation across all media. Observe and adjust.

5. MAKE A CONNECTION

Just as you exchange business cards when you're done with a productive conversation, you need to give visitors to your web site a way to keep in touch with you if they're interested.

E-mail is the most efficient, effective way to do this. It's ubiquitous and easy to use. You can prompt visitors to sign up for your e-mail newsletter. A monthly or quarterly newsletter reminds busy people that they liked what you had to say, and might want to keep in touch. And, you can observe response to each newsletter and adjust accordingly, just as you would observe and adjust content on the web site. E-mail is a conversation in itself.

Don't overlook other methods, though -- RSS and Podcasting, for example, generate tremendous interest, and a well-considered blog can work as well. However you do it, make a connection.

6. BRAG MODESTLY

You always get more conversations going if someone introduces you as 'the one who I told you about.'

If someone needs a widget, searches on Google for 'widgets in Seattle' and finds you, you accomplish two things: First, you get them to come to your web site.

Second, you create the impression that you're serious about what you do -- after all, you're listed on a search engine, right?

There are lots of ways to brag modestly: Search engines, pay-per-click advertising, e-mail newsletter sponsorship, blog advertising and direct navigation are all effective.

Just be tasteful, and ethical. Brag modestly.

Conversation Marketing

The Internet is the perfect medium for Conversation Marketing. Don't view your web site as a passive brochure -- it's your only truly two-way marketing device, aside from a personal presentation. Just the knowledge you gain about your audience and organization, and how the two interact, will justify the investment.

About Portent Interactive

Seattle-based Portent Interactive is a full service interactive marketing and communications agency. Founded in 1995, Portent helps clients attract visitors and turn them into customers with strategic consulting, creative and technical expertise, search marketing and web analytics. Clients include the Dessy Group -- www.dessy.com, the Seattle Audubon -- www.seattleaudubon.org -- and Princess Alaska Lodges -- www.Princesslodges.com. For more information, visit www.portentinteractive.com.

Contact Information

  • Contact Information for Portent Interactive
    Martin Levy
    Martin Levy Public Relations
    Email Contact
    206.851.7256