The Anatomy of an Effective Web Presence
IT solutions providers are being confronted with a massive shift in the balance of power between customer and supplier. Studies such as those from the CEB lend credence to this view: customers on average have already made 60% of their decision before they have any direct contact with a potential supplier. Customers are more independent now than they ever have been; they conduct their own research on the internet and compare potential solutions and providers, all without any direct communication with the provider.
The previously marginal aspect of marketing within this process is growing and the role of marketing needs to be reconsidered. To adapt to the new behavior of customers, marketing from software providers needs to evolve beyond its traditional scope. Contemporary marketing needs to deliver more than just nice brochures and colorful slide decks. The marketing team of today needs to support the entire sales process by ensuring the company has a smart web presence and a range of informational content available through its online channels.
Optimizing the Digital Marketing Mix
Finding the right mix of digital marketing tactics is no easy task. In this article we’ll demonstrate and explain three best practices that we’ve developed on the back of the more than 60 website audits we’ve conducted for IT solutions providers.
Diverse Contact Options
In much the same way as people have different preferences regarding transportation, customers prefer having a wide range of means by which to contact a potential supplier. The online content on the website should allow customers to easily and quickly discover all that the provider has to offer and at each turn there should be some invitation to establish direct contact.
The Classic Contact Form
The most widespread option for generating contacts through a website is the contact form. This typically consists of multiple fields that an interested party needs to fill out before a message can be sent to an IT provider, including the name of the sender’s company, the sender’s name, job title, email address and telephone number. The majority of the IT providers we audited use this sort of contact form.
Request a Call-Back
A more specifically targeted version of the contact form that was seldom used by the companies we audited is the call-back option.
Some of these forms allow interested parties to provide a specified time at which they would like to be called. On the other hand, other forms explicitly define a timeframe during which an employee will contact the interested party in order to provide more information. A call made with minimal delay (for example, two hours following the reception of the call-back request) is essential for establishing a personal connection with the potential customer.
For website visitors who insist on talking to a specific individual on the side of the IT provider, there is the option of contacting the person by telephone or email: some IT solutions providers go so far as to openly provide these details.
This type of contact option is especially useful when displayed product description sites as this enables the visitor to take up direct contact with the associated expert. Although this contact option is easy to implement, very few solutions providers make use of this tool.
In our experience not every potential customer is willing to provide his or her telephone number and email address right away. A live chat option is a great way to ensure that even the shyest of customers have the opportunity to ask questions. A superimposed chat window allows website visitors to pose questions to the IT provider directly without having to provide personal information. On the side of the solutions provider, it is generally quite easy to ensure that internal personnel are available to chat during normal working hours. This option allows potential customers to communicate in real time with the IT provider.
Although live chat options are relatively easy to integrate into most existing websites, this contact option is rarely offered by IT solutions providers.
Request a Demo
Just like the call-back request option, the demo request option is a more targeted version of the classic contact form. Website visitors can express their interest in a product and request a guided demo to learn more about the functionality of the solution.
At first glance this contact option is nothing special. However, the information provided by this form is of significant value to the IT provider as a visitor who sends this in is signaling his or her explicit interest in a particular solution.
Demo requests are especially important for cloud solution providers. At the moment small and midsized solutions providers are struggling to keep pace with big players like Sales Force who make extensive use of such tactics.
Customer Testimonials and Case Studies
Phrases like “We’ve already successfully implemented X number of projects” or “We help our customers to improve” don’t impress website visitors. Unfortunately these are exactly the kinds of statements that many IT providers use on their websites to try to engage potential customers.
The best websites reach out much differently. Following the statements made above, successful providers use citations from satisfied customers and concrete examples from case studies to support these claims. The case studies themselves should also focus on practical issues of interest to a client, including the business challenges faced by previous clients, the solution provided and the results achieved. And of course, all important claims should be supported with hard facts and figures.
Landing Pages for Lead Generation
One area in which all of the companies we audited exhibited shortcomings was landing pages. Landing pages are sites that have been optimized to target specific audiences and present the offers that would be most attractive to these audiences. The primary goal of the site is conversion, or transforming visitors to the website into leads.
Such sites are different from the company website in that the former stand apart, often using their own domains, and are more focused and clearly structured. Landing pages present information in a clear and concise manner and elements that would lead the visitor away from the site, such as navigation buttons, are reduced as much as possible.
Landing pages should motivate website visitors to take some action and download a whitepaper or fill out a survey. Such “calls-to-action” help to ensure that visitors to the page are ultimately converted into leads.
Success Through Perseverance
“What can’t be measured, can’t be improved.” This old adage isn’t a valid excuse when it comes to websites, especially since the effectiveness of a web presence can in fact be measured. What is alarming is the result of the PDAgroup Channel Partner Study: 60% of the companies surveyed admitted that they do not undertake any actions to improve their websites.
Web analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Piwik, as well as the statistical analysis tools of individual social media sites like Facebook Page Insights and Twitter Analytics, are freely available and provide a great place to start.
The digital marketing mix for your company, essentially the anatomy of your web presence, should be continuously improved in order to ensure that your website is successful both now and in the future.
This article was written by Marina Brenner, MA and Prof. Dr. Dietmar Kilian
Marina Brenner, MA is a product and project manager at PDAgroup GmbH. Her consulting focus is the digital transformation of businesses, including marketing and innovation management. Together with clients she develops innovative strategies to solve their challenges and achieve sustainable revenue growth.
Prof. Dr. Dietmar Kilian is a professor of Business Process Management and Networks at the Management Center Innsbruck. He is also the managing partner of PDAgroup GmbH and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Academy Cube GmbH.