Here’s our first broad brush, crystal ball prediction of the year: 2008 is the year of web engagement for B2B technology firms.
You built v2 or v3 of your site last year. You have a bunch of corporate content (about us, products, services, etc). You have some interesting content assets – white papers, case studies, etc. You have a CMS to publish stuff. But this year you really want your site to work harder – to generate leads and help speed up purchasing decisions.
To do this your site needs to become more than a calling card or brochure. You need to make it an ancillary sales person that works for you once your sales meetings are over.
(Note: this is a philosophy to be adopted. No cost.)
Here’s what you need to do:
1) Invest (heavily) in banner content
Support the sales process by becoming CONTENT RICH. This means more than just white papers. Think webinars, video, blogs, online PR, screencasting, product demos. Tell compelling stories via your site that address specific product / service / customer issues via digital media. Captivate people’s attention through moving images and audio. Words are great, but not enough.
(Note: Treat these things as ‘sunk’ costs to support specific products/services or campaigns.)
2) Make your site more available to your audience
Become super RELEVANT and TARGETED. Invest (heavily) in search engine optimisation (SEO). Find out how people want to engage with you via Google and rethink your marketing messages accordingly. Use sophisticated tools to do this investigative work.
Embed this new thinking via great implementation of keywords in your web site. This is a messaging exercise (embed keywords in descriptions of who you are and what you do) and a technical exercise (embed keywords correctly at the code level). It’s also a design exercise: you need to tweak your site structure to ensure that landing pages and navigation paths are logical and get people to the content they need, fast.
Then, engage with proactively with search engines and influence the way that they index you so that the next time someone types in ‘widget for SAP optimization’ into Google you have a fighting chance of showing up on the first page of results.
(Note: this is both a philosophy to be adopted (you need to change the way you describe and present your stuff, guided by user searching trends), and a strategic investment. Not especially cheap.)
3) Once you’re content rich, relevant and targeted, you need to engage with the world
You need to become CACHE RICH.
Note: this is a new philosophy. You have a great web site, stuffed with great content in highly targeted areas and improved visibility on Google. But you can’t stop there: the ‘build it and they will come’ approach no longer works on the web.
Firstly, stop thinking of your web site as your only online destination – it’s just the ultimate one.
To engage with new prospects you have to cache your online presence across the web… by following the right crowds, capturing their attention with timely deposits of relevant content and inviting them back to your place.
- Cache the news sites via Online PR: distribute targeted, keyword-specific press releases announcing company news or the availability of your new content offers via online news hubs. Your goal is to generate automated web pages that point back to strategic points within your site, in order to boost interested traffic and SEO.
- Cache the content networks via Pay per Click advertising: the Haiku of marketing – tightly focused, personalised and relevant ads that contain offers related to your banner content. Again, the goal is to drive interested, prospective customers, and to ask them to engage with you in some way – sign up for more content, register for an event, etc.
- Cache your prospect’s inboxes via (permission-based) e-Mail marketing: a series of newsletters or ‘blasts’ that draw your database of contacts towards your content assets and into new sales conversations.
- Cache the Blogsphere: using words, video and audio to showcase your thinking, your product developments and all of your news via your own blog. Your goal is to engage with key influencer communities and to position yourself within important industry level debates as a thought leader. This will drive new, interested parties to your site and into the sales funnel. At the same time, comment on other people’s blogs and drive their readership to yours.
- Cache your key content destinations via Affiliate and Display Advertising: use traditional methods to reach new audiences in niche, cost-effective areas – eg, newsletter sponsorship, blog advertising, etc. Again, your goal is to drive engaged traffic and new leads towards your content jewels.
- Cache your influencer networks via Social Media: engage with prospects via your LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, de.icio.us, by posting valuable content, links, alerts, opinions, etc, that lead back to your site and your (related) content assets. (Note: this needs to be handled smartly – poor content and poor engagement strategies will benefit nobody.) Your goal here is to seed compelling content and ideas into active networks where your audiences already exist, and to encourage them to pass it on.
4) Once you’re executing and engaged, you really need to measure
This is critical – you need to treat your SEO and engagement activity as a perpetual beta program. Experiment quickly and at reasonable cost, see what works, back the winners and ditch the rest. You need to establish one key metric across all your activity – cost per acquisition (of leads).
How? By using tools like Google Analytics, Technorati and other keyword and SEO measurement apps to generate regular reports that provide a clear indication of how your engagement campaigns and web sites are performing (minimum quarterly, recommended monthly).
…and that’s it.