As a marketing vehicle, your website is far more than an advertisement or a piece of collateral material (brochure, etc.). It is, rather, your surrogate. It stands at your gate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and hands out sales literature, offers the latest product review and makes a "soft" sales pitch. It answers your visitor's questions and even gives them a chance to ask more. And when a visitor raises his hand and says he wants to know more, your website gladly accommodates him by taking names and contact information.
Your Website Allows You to Form Electronic Relationships
If all you put on your website is little tidbits about yourself or your company, then all you'll get is a shake of the head and mouse click away from the site. If you don't use your website to do what it's good at doing, your visitors won't spend time on the site and they certainly won't come back. End result: a little bit of traffic and no sales, no leads, no nothing.
Relationships develop over time. In other words, your website visitors need reasons to come back and meet you online several times before they'll tell you who they are. If you don't give them a reason to be interested in you, to appreciate you and to want to get to know you better, then they won't and your website will fail.
A newsletter delivered via email is winner both from a cost and return standpoint. The cost of sending out such a newsletter, other than someone's time to prepare it, is virtually nothing. Thus, any return represents a gain. The keys to successful newsletters are:
- Consistency - set your deadlines and don't miss them. A consistent delivery schedule will begin to impress even those who, at first, don't read what you send.
- Frequency - don't over reach. If you don't have the time or material to produce a monthly newsletter, make it quarterly instead.
- Purpose - the idea is to get people to come back to your website. Don't try to duplicate what you'd do in print. Highlight a few stories, add brief descriptions and include links back to the appropriate pages in the website for those who want to know more.
- Design - it really doesn't matter whether you wrap your newsletter in an HTML format to make it resemble your website look and feel or if you send your stories in a plain text version. Either can be effective.
- Opt Out - always include a link that allows people to tell you if they no longer wish to receive your email. It's a polite thing to do and the legal one.
Just Imagine has designed, written and managed many electronic newsletters over the years. We're good at it and would be glad to quote you a price for doing yours.
"Come Back Campaigns"
Message or Bulletin Boards - one of the best ways to get visitors to come back to your site is to instill a sense of community. Obviously such an approach works better for some sites than others. A bit of functionality that will aid in this effort is called a message board (aka bulletin board or mailing list or forum). We've all probably run across message boards at various times, though you may never have participated in a message board discussion. Essentially they work like this:
- First you can view the postings (what people write, usually broken into subject categories).
- You register. Most forums want to know who you are and what your interest is. They learn this by requiring you to have a username and password before posting to the board and in order to use any advanced features.
- Your posting becomes part of the "thread." All the responses to a particular posting make up its entire thread.
- Many message boards will email you if someone replies to your posting, thus encouraging you to "come back" to the site.
One great thing about having one or more message boards on your website is that they provide you with ever changing free content. This not only will attract visitors, but it also provides nice stuff for search engines.
The downside revolves around time. If you're going to have a message board you need to police it. People will post inappropriate material that must be taken down, which is another reason you ask people to register before posting. The other time consuming factor is getting the board started. Just like people are often reluctant to be first in line at a sales booth, most people don't like to be the first to post to a new board.
Just Imagine has expertise in starting and working with message boards, as well as in using message boards as a marketing tool.
Reviews, Photo Albums and Testimonials
An excellent way to get people back to your site is to give them a way to add to your content. Asking visitors to submit relevant material and then letting them know when you put it online gets them back to the site and gives them a vested interest in your content. Such visitor provided content can include:
- Reviews - their impressions or experiences with your products or with something related to your business.
- Personal Reports - diary type information, like a trip report you might submit to a resort destination website.
- Testimonials - the oldest form of advertising and still the best. By asking clients or customers to give you a testimonial you not only give them a vested interest in your site, you benefit for their endorsement.
- Photo Albums - often overlooked, these photo arrangements can give your customers a reason to come back to the site and invite others to join them.