The recent 2011 Demandbase National Marketing and Sales Study by the Focus Expert Network had some interesting findings that some social media strategists might not want to hear: That your company website is the top source of new sales leads, and is 7x – yes 7x! more effective than social media.
Wait- before you shut down your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, just listen to the rest of the findings. Though perceived as a ‘silver bullet’ for online marketers who, let’s face it, love to experiment in the latest social spaces, this survey urges marketers not to ignore the #1 source of sales – your company website. Why? Because the company website it the “hub.”
Still, just as a wheel needs its spokes, so too does your company website need a variety of ways for visitors to get there (i.e. your social sites and online community).
Think back to the 3 pillars of online marketing: Your online community, social media sites and company website. Their voices need to all be in sync and have consistent messages in order to build trust with your target audience. What I think this survey shows is that not enough companies are finding that harmony between their multiple online sites, so when a visitor ultimately gets to the company website they are still uncertain as to what, if any, value you can provide to them.
Here’s some ways to make the most of your company website and ensure you’re maximizing on your lead potential WITHOUT ignoring your social sites.
1) Keep your social media sites and online community going. Yup. Don’t you dare shut them down. These are critical elements of your marketing mix, but are you using them effectively as a driver to your company website? Consider persuading your social friends and community followers to your company site is through promotions, free demos and trials, and other prominent calls to action to download a new educational resource. Make them prominent, engaging and unique, and make it clear to your visitors exactly what they’ll find when they make the transition from social site to company website.
Also, reach out to your social communities when you’ve added something new to your company website, like “check out our new ‘News’ page and tell us what you think!” or “Vote for Our New Company Website Color Scheme!.” By making the lines between your different sites blurry means that your customers won’t feel like they are entering a sales pitch or needing to commit to you when visiting your company site: It will just be a natural extension of their interactions with you online.
2) Make your company website social. Add a “Community” page to your company website that houses all your social information, like who’s sharing what content, who’s answering discussions, and who’s liking what. Allow your network to contribute to discussions, or post their own experiences with your products and services in an open forum. Again, social media isn’t the “end all be all” for your marketing, but it is certainly a medium many people are comfortable engaging with. So, bring those social interactions to your company website- the place where the most lead potential is, and surround it with your great content (see #3) or Calls to Action (see #1).
3) Grab your visitors’ attention (and information) with content. Any marketer knows that content is the key to building brand awareness, getting quality leads and high organic search engine ranking. Use your social sites to promote or provide “teasers” to your online content, but then ultimately drive those conversations and content pieces back to your company website. Start a forum for your most recent white paper, and post statistics from the piece directly on your social sites. This way, you’re giving site visitors exactly what they want; valuable information and answers to their questions with the ability to provide their own insights as well.
Also consider reaching out to your community for content ideas. Take a poll on what your next webinar topic should be, or invite others to be featured guest contributors. Make the content something that really matters to them and give them ‘skin in the game’, all huge engagement drivers.
4) Move from static to dynamic –and know what works: 80% of survey respondents indicated that their website wasn’t living up to its potential. By applying some of the same rules you impart on your social media sites to your company website, you may be able to avoid this problem. Social sites and online communities should not be static, and in this day and age, neither should your company website. Though it’s a “hub” it’s not and shouldn’t be unchanging: Make it compelling, interesting and dynamic; refreshing content, ads, calls to action and information frequently to keep visitors engaged and interested. Making your site more social and content-focused, and less about “you” is a great way to establish trust with your prospects, increasing their propensity to invest with you when they’re ready.
5) What you don’t know may kill you (ok, maybe not kill you- but limit your sales potential). The most important thing to focus on with your company website is making sure you’re measuring all these activities: Implement a way to capture visitor information and metrics (including how they got to your site, how long they stayed, and where they abandoned it) as a way to optimize your investments and know what you should put the most effort into. And remember, it’s not just a numbers game anymore. While the survey shows that 34% of respondents wanting quality versus high quantities of leads, consider what your company is really driving towards with these efforts. Are you looking for lots of traffic? Or maybe a smaller number of highly engaged individuals? Do you want people coming in from LinkedIn groups, or Google?
All roads lead to your company website, but there are many ways of getting there. Make the path easy for your target audience, make it interesting and scenic, and make it fun.
What are some ways you’re integrating your multiple online channels? Are you struggling with the effectiveness of your company website, consider its potential value as a lead-generating machine?