Direct Marketing, Mail Order, and E-commerce News from the National Mail Order Association
Web Sites Must Meet Marketing Objectives … and Many Don’t
By Robert W. Bly
Since putting up my Web site www.bly.com in April 1998, I’ve received a ton of unsolicited e-mails, faxes, and phone calls – from casual Internet surfers as well as Web professionals – with all sorts of advice on how to make my Web site better.
Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of their suggestions are almost totally off the mark … and would be a complete waste of my time and money.
Why is this the case? It’s not that site visitors don’t have valid opinions on graphics or content, or that Web professionals don’t have good ideas. They do.
The problem is, all the advice is given with no thought as to the business objective of my site … and whether the enhancement would further this goal.
For example, a Web consultant called and said: “You are not getting nearly as much traffic as you should. I can help you get much more.” He would advise me, he promised, on how to help my Web site get more hits than the New York Yankees. I politely explained I had absolutely no desire to increase hits to my Web site, and was not interested in what he was selling.
Frankly, he was baffled. Maybe you are too. “Who doesn’t want more hits on their Web site?” you might be thinking. The answer: Plenty of folks.
Before you can meaningfully enhance a Web site, you need to understand the business of the person or company sponsoring that site … as well as the business objectives they want the site to achieve.
In the case of www.bly.com, I’m a freelance writer specializing in direct marketing. I serve a higher-end clientele – major direct marketers, Fortune 500 companies, and substantial technology firms -- and charge accordingly.
This makes me different from many entrepreneurs who have Web sites -- in two important ways.
First, 99.99 percent of people cruising the Internet are simply not my prospects. I’m highly selective, and don’t work with small firms, start-ups, mom-and-pop operations, home-based businesses, and wanna-be entrepreneurs … precisely the mass market that’s cruising the Internet looking for free marketing information and advice.
Second, with more business than we can handle, our office (I have two assistants) can’t waste time responding to low-level leads. Handling inquiries from casual Internet surfers takes time and effort … and we need to devote those limited to the needs of our many ongoing clients.
Then why do I have a Web site? That’s the key relevant question, and it’s one almost no one who seeks to advise me asks.
My Web site exists primarily for instant inquiry fulfillment to qualified prospects.
What does that mean? Before the Internet, when a serious prospect called, we’d send him an information package describing my services. That meant a lot of priority mail and overnight courier bills. And even with overnight shipping, the prospect often waited up to 24 hours to get his hands on the material.
Having a Web site eliminates that cost and wait. When a prospect wants a package, we can send it, but we first ask, “Do you have access to the Web?” If they do, we send them to www.bly.com where they can instantly get all the information they need to make a decision about using my services.
What should that information be?
In his book Roger C. Parker’s Guide to Web Content and Design (MIS Press), my friend Roger Parker says content should consist of two components:
• Information your prospects need to know in order to buy from you.
• Information you know that will convince prospects to buy from you.
My web site covers both these areas. The “need to know” stuff includes:
• An overview of my services (our home page).
• An online portfolio of my copywriting samples.
• Pages on each major service (copywriting, consulting, copy critiquing).
• My credentials (on an “About Bob Bly” page).
• Client testimonials.
The stuff that helps convince prospects that I’m the person they should hire to write their copy includes:
• Descriptions of the marketing books I’ve written.
• Samples of how-to articles I’ve written on marketing.
• A list of recommended vendors that shows I have the connections to help potential clients get whatever they need done.
As you see, my Web site is totally oriented toward the needs of my potential clients, and hardly at all to the casual Web surfer. But does this mean I don’t want you to visit www.bly.com.? Not at all.
On the contrary: I invite you to stop by. You may enjoy reading and downloading the free articles I’ve posted (click on HOW-TO ARTICLES). And I’d be pleased and happy if you clicked on PUBLICATIONS and bought any of my books (though you would not be buying them directly from me – our publication page links to amazon.com, from which we get a 15 percent commission on every book they sell through our site).
And what if you’re a small entrepreneur and need professional marketing help? Just click on VENDORS. You’ll find a list of folks who can help you with everything from Web design to mailing lists. But do me a favor. When you call them, tell them Bob Bly sent you. They’re busy too, and it helps if they know you’re a qualified referral.
BOB BLY is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 25 years of experience in business-to-business, high-tech, industrial, and direct marketing.
He has written copy for over 100 clients including Network Solutions, ITT Fluid Technology, Medical Economics, Intuit, Business & Legal Reports, and Brooklyn Union Gas … and has won numerous industry awards.
Bob is the author of more than 70 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books) and The Copywriter’s Handbook (Henry Holt & Co.). His articles have appeared in numerous publications such as DM News, Writer’s Digest, mtrak Express, Cosmopolitan, Inside Direct Mail, and Bits & Pieces for Salespeople. Visit: www.BobBlyMarketingBooks.com
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