One of the Internet’s strengths is its ability to help consumers
find the right needle in a digital haystack of data.
~ Jared Sandberg
Many businesses assign a large portion of their marketing budget to building, upgrading and optimizing their corporate website, only to find they’re not receiving the results they expected once the project is completed. A common error is to assume that once the website is built and running live on the internet, the customers will start streaming directly to the site. This “if we build it, they will come” mentality has proven to work in a lot of arenas, so why not the web?
The internet is a dynamic, ever-changing entity. Content is added, updated or removed every millisecond of every day. This is what makes the internet such a strong resource and network; however, this also means that if businesses are not keeping up with their sites regularly, they’ll fall behind and get lost in this “digital haystack” of information.
Building your website is a continuous process, starting the moment your site goes live. We’ve provided below a list of twenty practices that will help you keep the building process moving forward and eventually drive more traffic to your website. Each practice involves little more cost than the time and effort to implement them, but don’t expect results overnight. Waiting for your traffic rate to improve can be discouraging at first, but if you’re consistent with both quality and content, the website visitors and improved results will come.
1. Optimize your website to be search-engine friendly. Submit your URL to various search engines and directories. In addition to major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing and Ask, it’s worth submitting to lesser known web directories like DMOZ. If your website is listed in as many places as possible, it can boost your rankings in major search engines as well.
2. Spread the word about your affiliate program by submitting it to affiliate program directories and contacting the owners of related websites.
3. Create a links page that will contain the links to other non-competing websites in the same industry. Contact the owners of other websites with your proposal to exchange links. You will add their link to your links page, and they will link to your website in return.
4. Post in forums. Visit the online discussion forums where people in your target market like to gather. Post useful responses to people’s questions, and include a link to your website at the end of your post next to your name. Although you ultimately want to get your signature file with the link to your site seen as often as possible, don’t overdo it with your posts, otherwise other forum-ites won’t respect you, and therefore won’t visit your site.
5. Comment on blogs. Visit blogs on the topic related to your website. Most blogs allow you to add comments about the issues being discussed. Add insightful comments about the blog topics and leave your website link. Your comment and your link will permanently remain on the blog website. (In fact, you should start by leaving comments right here on DrivingRetention.com!)
6. Create a corporate email “signature” – your name, your website address and a short tag-line describing the main benefit of your site. Set your email program to automatically add your signature to every email that you send.
7. Look into traffic exchanges. There are many types of traffic exchanges but the idea is the same – you team up with other webmasters and they send you traffic in exchange for you sending them traffic. Search the web for “traffic exchange” to find those services.
8. Create something of value that people will pass around. It can be a report with useful information that you allow people to give away. It can also be some kind of cool and unusual web page that people will want to email to or share with all their friends. Of course, the pass-around item will include your advertisement and your link, spreading the word about your website. This is a “viral” strategy.
9. Write articles on the topic related to your website and include a link to your site in your author bio. Submit your articles to article directories and allow people to publish your article in their newsletters and websites. Your articles will spread around the web like wildfire. People will read them and visit your website. The best part is that people who read your articles will regard you as an expert, and they will be much more likely to buy from you when they go to your website and to share their experiences with their friends and family. How’s that for a free publicity?
10. Use accurate keywords for your content. The point of keywords is that they are the terms most people will search with while looking for your article by topic. Check those with free Google terms and use the most popular relevant one in your title – a descriptive title to let them know right away what it is if it’s a word with multiple meanings. Drawing blood for a phlebotomist is not the same thing as a comics artist drawing blood in a fight scene. Be very literal and then use the exact keywords several times in the article where they are relevant, as well as synonyms. Don’t overdo it, or you look like you’re trying to spam Google. Just use the keywords naturally when describing the topic.
11. Start an e-newsletter for your web site. When people read each issue, they’ll be reminded to revisit your web site. Submit it to all the free e-newsletter directories on the internet.
12. Start your own online discussion community. It could be an online message board, email discussion list, interactive blog, forum or chat room. When people get involved in your community, they will regularly return to communicate with others.
14. Join free safe-lists. These are lists of subscribers who have opted-in to send and receive emails to each other. You can instantly reach potentially thousands of people by sending out emails, and you don’t have to worry about receiving spam complaints either because everyone on the list has opted-in to receive emails.
15. Set up pages and profiles on all the major social media platforms – and use them! Interact with your followers and fans. Start a conversation, share updates or offer rewards.
16. Constantly update content on your web page. Having a news section is a great way to keep your site updated and will draw the attention of search engine spiders and crawlers especially.
17. Update your personal Facebook status to let your friends know every time you update your site. Your friend’s friends will see when they join your business page or comment on your status.
18. Submit your website to top social bookmarking sites to create a back link to your website, which will increase you page rank as well.
19. Sign up to Yahoo Answers and other wikis and leave helpful comments to questions people are asking. Leave a link back to your site with more helpful tips on it.
20. Stay on topic. All this socializing, forum commenting and question answering ought to be on your website’s main topic. The more your activity and site content match in topic, the more likely the right people find it. The more targeted your affiliate links are to the topic, the better you’ll do with them too. People don’t mind advertising that’s on topic; it starts to look like a convenience directory rather than irritating commercials.
What other tips can you share on ways to improve website traffic?
Prepaid Maintenance Plans (PPMs) have traditionally been used as a customer retention tool by dealers, and rightfully so. Paying up front for services is a guaranteed way to get customers back into the service lane. But the pricing and structure of many PPMs administered by third parties did not make the plans very profitable for the dealerships, and even more important, for the customers.
The new generation of self-administered, self-managed PPM plans offer many benefits beyond customer retention—mainly, more revenue. PPM customers frequently purchase additional customer-pay retail parts and labor services that boost profitability.
Boosting PPM repair orders by upselling an additional $150 to $350 of retail customer-pay business adds serious money to the bottom line. A dealer who plugs a basic three-product PPM plan into every one of the 600 used units he or she sells each year can expect to generate more than $1.3 million in total incremental service revenue, even after factoring in a 55 percent utilization rate and plan costs.
So, given these upsell profit opportunities, why are some dealers’ prior experiences with PPMs disappointing? Many have said that customers simply won’t buy these plans. However, this may not tell the entire story. When those programs are examined, it is clear why customers wouldn’t be interested — they were loaded with services of low value to the customer yet priced quite profitably for the dealership. This is unfortunate, as the nature of these plans and dealers’ inability to sell the plans cost dealers much lost service business.
Newer, redesigned PPM programs help to eliminate this downside. Today’s programs offer a wide range of products and services and are completely customizable to each dealership. They are also software-driven, handling once time-consuming chores like plan registration, service claim and premium submission. Because dealers control these programs, any reserve or forfeiture is immediate and goes directly to their bottom line.
Retention vs. revenue? A PPM should deliver both.
People respond to what is relevant to their needs, desires and motivations. With the help of customer loyalty data, companies are learning about the behaviors of their customers and acting on that knowledge to identify their best and highest-potential customers and personalize their communications. They are beginning to understand how communicating with (not at) their customers in meaningful ways can encourage the customer to consistently choose their brand and ensure long-term growth and success.
Where personalization was once defined as a greeting which used the customer’s name, personalized communications reflect a deep understanding, appreciation and respect for the customer. By putting the customer at the center of their marketing strategy, companies can ensure that the right content goes to the right customers through the right channels at the right time. And companies can also measure the effects of those communications to understand how to continue to be relevant.
Effectively engaging customers through direct marketing channels hinges on several key principles:
1. Start with the customer data. By using connected data to define a single view of a company’s best customers, organizations can understand customer behavior across online, in-store and direct mail. People respond differently to the same marketing activations and it is important to recognize how customers have responded in the past to inform the next communication.
2. Recognize and reward your best customers. The primary purpose of personalized communication must be to reward customers by giving them a little bit more of what they want and need. If the offer doesn’t do that, then you see lower redemption rates and lower sales uplift, reducing your return on investment. It also weakens your customer’s preference for your brand if they feel like you don’t understand or respect them.
3. Remain communication channel agnostic. Keeping a customer-centric lens on measurement tools and tactics will further cement the alignment between data, decision-making and successful results. Let the customer and the data decide the best communication vehicle. The more effective the channel, the more it should be used. Tailoring channel usage based on the behavior of a customer is another method to deliver relevance and reward your best customers. The best channels to use are the ones that deliver the greatest effectiveness.
Source: Reprinted from Direct Marketing Guide magazine, January 2012.
How have you used your customer loyalty data to better target and reward your best customers?
When Pei Wei Asian Diner introduced the Caramel Chicken entrée, the Chinese food chain took advantage of the occasion to beef up its email database. Pei Wei, which is owned by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, worked with email provider ExactTarget to create a multichannel campaign centered on email to help spread the word.
The effort included in-store signage, online ads and social media messages that invited consumers to sign up for Pei Wei’s email list for a buy-one, get-one free offer. To get the offer, consumers were asked to text their email address to a shortcode.
“Email is being seen as viable again because of smartphones,” says Jason Miller, digital content and community manager at P.F. Chang’s. “Emails now have even more immediate impact, and with large lists, restaurants can drive a lot of information and traffic quickly.” The campaign led to 20,000 new email subscribers in two weeks. In addition, the restaurant saw 20% redemption rates.
In this tough economy, restaurant marketing departments are facing challenging times, says Eric Giandelone, director of research at food data analysis firm Mintel Group. “With high unemployment and a slow economy, restaurants are using lots of email offers to motivate people to eat out.”
Giandelone says that email is a cost-effective way to send these offers. “It’s a lot cheaper than direct mail or TV,” he says. “But restaurants have to make sure that price promotions are strong enough to get people into their restaurants, and that they can afford them with increasing commodity costs.”
Although email is cost-efficient, Giandelone warns that restaurants should not over-send offers. “Email marketing is a great tool to send offers, but if it is done too much, it promotes a culture of consumers who expect deep discounting,” says Giandelone.
Joel Book, principal of the ExactTarget Marketing Research & Education Group, agrees with Giandelone’s assessment. “Daily deal promotions specifically are something that we are seeing working well,” he says.
Taco John’s International, a West–Mex chain based in North Dakota, is using email combined with social and mobile to attract new customers. The chain uses promotions to help build its list and to drive traffic into the store. For instance, in November of last year, the company sent out emails to its database to promote its new Baja Boneless Wings dish. In order to encourage recipients to go into the restaurant, Taco John’s email included a coupon for a free portion of the meal.
Like Pei Wei, Taco John’s also uses in-store signage that encourages consumers to sign up for its email list by texting to a mobile shortcode. The motivating factor for signing up for the list is a free serving of its signature product, Potato O’Lays.
“Email is a great way for us to help our customers feel special and in-the-know by letting them know about new products first,” says Renee Middleton, VP of marketing at Taco John’s. “We want to give back to our customers with a free product to thank them for being a Taco John’s loyalist.” Email marketing, combined with social marketing, is a great way for businesses to reach out to loyal customers and rewards members and continue building strong business-to-customer relationships.
This year, the chain plans to create email templates to enable its franchisees to run campaigns at the local level. For example, if it’s 18 degrees outside in Fargo, N.D., and traffic is slow, a franchisee will be able to run an 18-cent taco promotion to drive customers to restaurants.
“This is a competitive category, but using emails at the local level is a powerful way to help drive people into stores in their community,” Book explains.
Source: Reprinted from Direct Marketing News magazine, January 2012.