I hear this phrase frequently: “Our Website is our brochure.” As a B2B marketer who helps companies get new business through an effective Web presence, it drives me insane.
–> A brochure presents information in a linear fashion — You read it left to right, top to bottom and page to page.
–> A brochure’s content usually is limited — Typically brochures contain information about products, services and the company itself.
–> A brochure’s shelf-life is limited — Often, a brochure is out of date the moment the ink has dried.
A Website, on the other hand is dynamic, allowing you to update information as needed.
A Website allows you to incorporate all kinds of elements — text, images, video and sound — to help you better communicate your message AND make offers designed to generate leads, subscriptions to e-newsletters, requests for demos and attendance at webinars and in-person events.
PLUS a Website provides the kind of information usually found in a brochure — that is, information about your products or services and company.
Most important, Website content isn’t linear — a key difference between Websites and brochures and one many small business owners and/or marketers just do not “get.”
Due to search engines and links found on other Websites, site visitors start their perusal of a Website where a searched term or phrase was found, or where an inbound link led to — rather than the home page. (Read that sentence again.)
And, Website visitors follow navigation, text links or buttons on a page to get where they want to go, rather than following a page left to right, top to bottom and page to page like a brochure.
In short, prospects and customers interact with a Website in ways they cannot with a brochure.
So what can you do to ensure your Website isn’t a static online brochure that does nothing for you?
1. Optimize it for search.
I got a call one day from a small business owner. In the last two years he had gone from being a thriving business to barely making enough to buy groceries.
He lacked a Website but argued he didn’t need one as all of his business came via word of mouth. I told him to type his key search phrase into Google and tell me what came up.
“You still there?” I asked.
“I’m looking at a page that lists all of my competitors. I guess that’s where all my business went.”
To remain in business, you must, must, must optimize your site for search engines so that your prospects can find it when searching. Period.
2. Develop content on a regular basis.
The “online brochure” mindset carries over to how small business owners view the site — basically, they develop the site, get it online, and then forget about it.
To get traffic to your site — and to better sell your services / expertise / products — you must create new content on a regular basis.
Most people groan when I say this. The expense! The time! But we sell widgets!
Here is a simple plan for developing fresh content on a regular basis:
–> Publish a monthly e-newsletter and archive each issue on your site (do not archive it on the site of your email service provider — this defeats the purpose).
Twelve e-newsletter issues a year equals twelve new pages of content each year — content you can also optimize for search.
–> Develop three white papers, reports, or e-books (or combo thereof) — Consider a “top mistakes” e-book. Survey your newsletter readership and generate some kind of industry report. Analyze the different options available to those in your industry regarding software, hardware, etc., and present an unbiased report.
Once you have your content ready, develop dedicated optimized landing pages for each piece so that people can easily find the content and download it.
–> Write three case studies — Case studies deliver a double marketing punch: they let you show prospective customers how your company can solve their challenges PLUS you get to add three new pages of optimized *high value* content to your site. (For other reasons why case studies work well, read this interview Forbes did of me about B2B case studies.)
Follow this plan and at the end of the year, you’ll have 18 pages of new Web content. You’ll also see a corresponding increase in traffic as people begin linking to your content, writing about it, and downloading it. Your pipeline will begin to fill as those searching online for your products and services find your content, click over to your site and then call and email you.
3. Market the hell out of your site.
When I recommended to a small business owner that it wasn’t enough that she build a site, she had to market it, too, she looked at me with a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?” she asked.
What I mean is that you have to build roads or paths to your Website using a number of different methods, including (but not limited to!):
Posting comments on blogs
Getting involved in social media
Creating content others link to and write about
Developing offers people download
Hosting online events such as Webinars
Developing online profiles at places like LinkedIn or Google
Writing articles for online publications
Furiously taking notes, the small business owner said, “Wow! No one ever told me this before. Thank you!”
Now you can see why I go crazy when small business owners tell me their Website is their “online brochure.” It most definitely is not!