Our work in lead generation and social media marketing give us a unique perspective on two different dynamics that are at play in the world of interactive marketing.

The first is the idea of creating a brand online.  This is like going shopping for a new set of fancy clothes.  You start with the intention, I want to look good, and then you keep trying on clothing until you look pretty much the way that you want.  (Or, you think that you look the way that you want, but that’s another story…some of us can’t ever quite get there.)

For web marketing, this means getting the kind of look and feel, feature set and whiz-bang cool things that let you say that your web site is a pretty cool looking set of duds.

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Of course, you factor in practical considerations.  After all, just like when you go shopping for clothing, you’ve got to stay reasonably close to your budget, and you’ve got to be able to sit down in it.  But, when push comes to shove, you are going to err in the direction of your heart.

The second is the challenge of converting online visitors into prospects and customers.  This, after all, is the paramount benefit of the internet, that you can provide prospective customers with the kind of information that they need in order to determine whether to work with you or buy your product.

This is nothing like buying a suit of clothes.  This is like trying to find recruit athletes to a Division III college.  You can’t give them a scholarship, you can’t influence admissions, but you need them to believe that you can give them a better experience than anyone else.  It’s about capturing interest, holding on to it and closing the sale at the right time.

That’s an entirely different kind of web experience.  Your web site isn’t designed on the basis of aesthetics; it has to be designed on the basis of data.  What are the images, information points and links that cause your users to take an action that is of an economic  benefit for you?

For most of us in business, that action is a phone call or a visit to our place of business.  And when the prospect already has gotten information that is important to them and decided to reach out and contact you, you have the highest odds of making that  prospect a customer.

As we’ve worked over the past year and a half with local businesses, we’ve discovered that there is a tremendous lack of understanding as to how to use a web site in order to create qualified prospects.  And, as we’ve  built social media footprints for our clients, and developed broader distribution of their content that has elevated their natural search traffic, we’ve found that very few have reliable processes for tracking and capturing those users.

Where do you start as a small business?  With taking the time to understand the simplest attributes of web tracking.  Anyone in business can use the Analytics tool from Google in order to track the activity on their web site.  That is your starting point.  If you are able to answer how many people are visiting your web site, what kind of things they look at most frequently, and how many of them are sending you additional inquiries, either in person, by phone or on e-mail, then you have the beginning of the information that will help you decide how to make your web site more than a pretty set of clothes.

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  • Anonymous

    Dan, Good to see a couple of fresh posts, I always enjoy your writing.
    Great retailers know exactly how to steer you through their store to maximize sales. Case in point, if you have ever been in an IKEA, it is a well planned and calculated maze. However, most small businesses haven’t ever thought about their web site as their virtual storefront, nor what they want you to do once you get there.

    On one hand it doesn’t seem all that complicated to map things out, while at the same time it is extremely challenging for the everyday all hands on deck business operator to grasp. Someone told someone that a web site is a web site, and since we have one now, we are done with that piece.

  • http://twitter.com/fguitton Frederic Guitton

    Converting web shoppers into live prospects is a huge challenge, with consumer behavior shifting it is bound to stay that way. Many don’t want to share their info online. Many just want to get info and not take action right at that moment.
    It’s about lowering the threshold of resistance and inviting anonymous web shoppers to take action where they get something in exchange. I like the e-book downloads or access to vital information about buying, selling or renting real estate. I have seen sites that require a registration in order to move forward and while it does generate activity it also creates a lot of noise, in my opinion asking for people to pay for free content (give us your e-mail to check out the listings) is a bad idea.
    You have to think of your website as a retail space, Eric uses IKEA as a visual benchmark for how a website should work. It’s about making it easy to browse and offer to help at strategic moment of a visit. Your website is probably the most valuable real estate companies have except that they treat it too often like brochure rather than an online retail store.

  • Anonymous

    A website by itself won’t convert traffic or get many visitors unless it’s optimized for the search engines. For example, if you are in Chula Vista, you might want to optimize for “Chula Vista Real Estate”.  You can hire a firm or even do it yourself; there’s plenty of resources and forums online where you can learn. It isn’t rocket science but it’s a very important if you want traffic for your site.

    San Diego New Homes