“The web doesn’t work for our type of business. We don’t get any traffic to our site.” — this a common complaint I hear from small and medium-sized businesses.
The reality, however, is quite different. In fact, your website can easily become your most cost-effective prospecting tool. Yes, even for complex business-to-business products and services, with multiple decision makers and long sales cycles.
How big is your opportunity? You can use Google’s free Keyword tool to check typical search volumes in your market segment. Chances are you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers and stakeholders in Canada and the US searching each month for the kinds of products and services that your company offers.
So how do you attract these potential prospects and stakeholders to your website? My experience is that most small and medium-sized business could easily increase relevant traffic by 5 to 10 times over their current traffic levels by using a combination of the following techniques: Search-Engine-Optimization (SEO); Social-Media-Marketing (SMM); and/or Pay-per-Click Advertising (PPC). Check out these pros and cons to see which approach best aligns with your business model:
The goal in SEO is to have your company ranked on the first page of search engines like Google when prospects search on a search phrase (or keywords) relevant to your industry. Keep in mind that 85% of searchers never look beyond the first page of results, so you need to target the keywords or search phrases where you can rank in the top 10.
For most small and mid-sized companies, you will not be able outrank the big websites on the generic, popular keywords, and so you must optimize your site around very specific, niche keywords. For example, instead of optimizing around generic keywords like “accounting software”, choose instead a more focused keyword phrase like “activity-based costing software”. Chances are you’ll rank higher, and your traffic will be more relevant.
Finding the right “keyword identity” for your company is primarily a marketing exercise, but the implementation gets technical so make sure you assign both skill sets to the exercise.
In my experience, SEO is the single most cost-effective long-term option for driving relevant traffic to your site. Yes, it requires an upfront effort, but once you optimize your site, and you are ranked high for your target keywords, you will reap the rewards for months and years to come with relatively little ongoing cost and effort.
For more insight, check out this detailed blog post on Advanced SEO for B2B companies.
Social Media Marketing
Surprise, surprise! A recent survey by Business.com showed that SMM is more prevalent in business-to-business world than in the business-to-consumer world. See Social Media by the Numbers.
That certainly backs my experience in the power of social media marketing. Blogs, LinkedIn, and even Twitter, can all drive plenty of relevant traffic to your site. Our small site gets over 1000 relevant visitors per month, with over 50% coming from social media sites.
SMM can be time-intensive, requiring up to 2 hours per day by a knowledgeable individual in your company to visit social media sites in your industry, participate in the online discussion, and point people back to your site. The traffic impact is immediate, with most traffic finding its way back to your site within 48 hours of your interaction. To find the online communities most influential in your industry, use a Social Media Monitoring tool from suppliers like Sysomos (very powerful) or Hubspot (less expensive).
Starting your own blog is a cost-effective way to keep your website updated with fresh content that the search engines love.
The value of SMM is not only in driving traffic of relevant industry stakeholders back to your site, but in engaging with other “thought leaders” in your industry. Think of SMM as attending an industry conference, networking with other stakeholders, informing yourself of the latest trends, and creating a buzz about your own products and services. For relatively young companies, SMM can be especially useful in helping you to refine your business strategy and establish your business network.
For more information, check out this blog post on Social Media Marketing for B2B companies.
Another option to drive relevant traffic to your site is to buy some online ads. Search engines like Google give you the option to buy positions on the Search Engine Results Page in the “advertiser” section.
The advantage is that you get immediate traffic, and you only pay for each “clickthrough” from your ad back to your website. You can limit your pay for each click, and your overall spend.
The cons are that PPC advertising only attracts a small percentage of “searchers” (most prefer the non-paid, or organic listings – see SEO above). In addition, PPC spending can ramp up fast, especially if you target the more expensive, broad, generic search terms like “accounting software”, instead of more focused, niche-market terms like “activity-based accounting software”.
Also, unlike SEO and SMM, the instant you stop spending, the traffic stops. That is why PPC is my third choice for small and mid-sized companies.
Nonetheless, a well targeted PPC campaign can play an important role in driving very motivated traffic to your site. See this blog post for more insight on implementing a step-by-step PPC campaign.
If you crunch the numbers, you’ll find that these techniques can deliver a very-cost effective stream of prospects to your website, especially when compared to traditional off-line techniques like cold-calling and direct mail. Next week we’ll cover some great techniques to engage these prospects when they arrive on your site, so that they “stick”, bookmark you, and give you permission to start a 1:1 relationship.
Also, see related posts in this series:
Axel Kuhn is President and Co-Founder of Gossamar Inc. Gossamar specializes in optimizing the web presence of small and mid-sized B2B companies to deliver “More Sales Prospects of Higher Quality at Lower Cost” by taking advantage of the industry shifts to Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation.