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Website MARKETING, not Website Technology

Websites are a MARKETING opportunity, not a technology problem.

A lot of the manufacturers I work with used to put website & internet techniques under the Technology classification.  They asked their technology experts to be marketing experts.

Please stop asking IT people to do Marketing.  They are already overworked and under-appreciated.  Why try to get work done outside their expertise?  Shouldn’t marketing & communication be the focus for your website?

A former client hired a new IT person who is a wizard at technology but does not know the most basic marketing concepts associated with a website.  He was asked to update the website with new content, but he decided to totally recreate the website.  Our past work allowed us to be ranked well in Google, be highly visible in local searches with good detail, and we even had site-links appear in search results.  Sales leads were rolling in!

Now?  Now the company looks like it’s out of business because the new IT person has the site offline.  He’s working on a new domain and has burned all the credibility they built over 3 years.  Shocking!  Marketing malpractice!  Their manager later called and asked for help on getting the site back up because their IT person was busy on technology projects.  I was not surprised – this was not the first time this has happened.

I am shocked by how many IT professionals treat the company website and other internet properties like technology problems.  They’re not, they are marketing opportunities.  A consistent failure of marketing that occurs in manufacturing is that executives pass their most important marketing tool to technology specialists who are already overwhelmed with work.

Websites that focus exclusively on hand-coded websites with static pages usually have these problems:

  • The page content describes technical features of products rather than benefits that cause customers to buy.
  • The site can only be edited by the technical pros…and they are always busy with something else.
  • Every change requires radical restructuring and technological gyrations instead of a simple change.
  • Adding a page or product takes weeks instead of a few minutes.
  • There is not a single call to action or information designed to sell a product.
  • WORST: An automatic streaming video of your CEO is telling visitors about the company’s vision statement in excruciating detail.

If you have a website that is marketing based for the benefit of customers, here’s what is done right:

  • It communicates product benefits & may even have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
  • Pages are easy to edit, often taking less than an hour to write & publish.
  • You inform, educate, or entertain the customer.
  • The site has multiple calls to action.
  • BEST: Customers are asking for quotes or buying your products from the website.

Marketing efforts require dedicated marketing professionals.  Give the IT folks a break and make a commitment to your customers by improving your marketing.

I hope you find this article beneficial & share it with others.

It’s been a while since I last sent out an update.  I’ve been working on the Marketing for Manufacturing Book and have been tied up with projects.

Push Your Customers Around

Push Sales Technique - This Works, Right?

I’m still shocked by how many companies think they can push their potential customers around.  I hope you’re not one of those people that try to force your potential customer to watch a long video, “click to enter”, or take a brochure.

Look up – it’s not 1993.  Push marketing doesn’t work so well any more.  The internet changed everything about sales.  Those crazy customers (that includes you and me) expect to have total control of the information they consume.  They won’t sit through a long video.  They won’t listen to a dull ad on radio.  They won’t even read your beautiful brochure.  And they really don’t care how much blood, sweat, time, and tears went into that glossy multicolor snooze inducer.

So, what’s a marketer to do?  How about think like a customer?  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  One way to think like a customer is to talk to the people closest to the customers and… and… and.. talk to THE customers (shudder).  I know, it’s scary, but it really works.  If you find out what they want, you can provide it.  That’s it.  Give the customer what they want & they will buy.

I’m still shocked by how many self-professed new marketing people still like to push customers around.  It’s simply being self-centered.  One genius even said “I don’t care what my customers want, I just want them to buy my product.”  Really?  Should I laugh, cry, or get my consulting fee before I leave?

What's Wrong With This Picture?

A pretty brochure without text, a flash intro to a web site, and any other push technique may look attractive to the seller, but they smell like last week’s fish to a potential buyer.  In consulting & training, I have seen many times when people rave about an attractive concept that just doesn’t work for sales leads.  There has been 4 different times in my career when 3 meshed gears are presented as an analogy for how well things will work together.  When it was a large state agency that showed the image, I laughed out loud!  The funny part was that almost everybody there was an engineer and the presenter said “What?  What is it?”  It was TOO accurate – let’s work in opposite directions so that nobody makes progress.

A better option is to use Permission Based Marketing.



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Manufacturing – What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

Have you ever been frustrated that sales people have trouble selling?

Do non-sales employees believe they can’t sell because it is too difficult?

Are your customers confused and don’t know WHY they should buy from you?

Maybe you need a strong Unique Selling Proposition that clearly states why a customer will want your product or service.

USP Worksheet preview

After working with several hundred manufacturers, I can tell you why pursuing sales is like pulling teeth.  Sales are hard because I have to be able to communicate the benefit of my product to a potential buyer quickly, effectively, and easily.  I also have to make it unique so that I can beat my competitor.

Unique Selling Proposition or just a Wrinkled, Nosy Dog?

Unique Selling Proposition or just a Wrinkled, Nosy Dog?

I’ve helped companies implement websites, pay-per-click campaigns, social media promotions, new literature, and all types of marketing methods.  The core problem and challenge in my work is that a majority of companies don’t know their unique selling proposition.  Marketing & sales managers are stuck trying to get busy people to memorize technical features instead of communicating core benefits.  Frustrating?  Absolutely!  For me, my clients, and my clients’ potential customers, not having a USP is a problem.

Out of frustration and a lack of “do-it-yourself USP” material, I decided to build a self-guided approach so you can develop your own USP.  I’ve refined the USP worksheet multiple times, implemented it in multiple businesses, and drag my MBA marketing students through the process every semester (poor guys).

Download the Free USP Creation Worksheet.

Make sure to recommend it to a friend (using the Send button below) who is hurting bad for sales.  This may make their work week just a bit easier.  It might even pull a company back from the brink of disaster.  Trust me – it is an awesome feeling to rescue hardworking companies with an adjustment in sales techniques.

If you have other strategic growth challenges, take a look at all 4 strategic growth tools that I developed and tested to help grow your business.

Let me know how it works for you.

UPDATE: Very few manufacturing companies have a unique selling proposition.  Even fewer industrial (B2B) manufacturers have USPs!  Part of the reason why manufacturers lack a good USP is because their customer is often not well defined.  Is your customer the end user, the distributor, or the retailer that sells your product?  Each customer in the chain has different needs and will be attracted by a different USP.

Here are some manufacturing USP (Unique Selling Propositions) examples for companies whose end customers are the consumers who use the product:

  • “The ultimate driving machine.” – BMW
  • “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead.” – Saddleback Leather
  • “That makes the Maytag Repairman the loneliest guy in town!” – Maytag
  • “Klein Tools is the #1 choice among professional tradesmen.” – Klein Tools
  • “Become Self-Reliant with the leader in Solar Energy Since 1983.” – Sun City Solar Energy

Here are B2B industrial manufacturing USP examples.  These are quite rare and can be difficult to develop.  About 1 in 30 B2B companies I’ve looked at actually have a USP.

  • “We will solve your bulk flow problems with quality internal and external vibrators and air blasters.” – Global Manufacturing
  • “We do so much more than offer supplies. We reduce costs.” – Industrial Supply
  • “The fastest press brake in the world.” – Cincinatti, Maxform product line
  • “We build ’em like they had to last forever.” – Chicago D&K presses
  • “You think it.  We can make it.” – Thogus plastics

If you know of a great (or just good) manufacturing USP, tell us about it in the comments.

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Upcoming Marketing for Manufacturing Book

Upcoming Marketing for Manufacturing Book

For the past 9 years, I have focused on helping manufacturers and other business-to-business (B2B) organizations grow their sales.  For the past 3 years I’ve been working on a Marketing for Manufacturing book so I can help even more companies.

After some significant prodding from NIST’s MEPU trainers and my internet marketing associate in Pennsylvania who is also a co-author, it looks like the marketing for manufacturing book is going to be published before the end of this year.  Based on feedback from past classes, the book should be helpful to several manufacturers and manufacturing consultants.

The book has this structure:

  • The emphasis is on the growth needs of manufacturers.
  • Chapters “stand alone” and the book can be used as a step-by-step implementation guide or as a quick reference.
  • A core theme throughout the book is improving business growth through increasing sales leads.
  • It identifies risks to avoid and offers specific solutions for improving your manufacturing marketing implementation work.

Some of the working chapter titles include:

  • 3 Quick & Easy Improvements for Increasing Your Chance of Online Sales Leads
  • The Four Step Process to Optimize Your Current Website
  • How to Work with a Website Designer (Hint: They are NOT marketers!)
  • Website Usability: Best Practices & Massive Mistakes
  • Calls to Action that Drive Sales
  • Will Social Media Work for Me?  It Depends on Several Things
  • Proven Social Media Techniques for Success
    • Facebook Integration
    • YouTube Videos that Educate, Entertain, or Inform
    • LinkedIn Networking & Industry Communities
    • Blogging Without Blogs (News, Tips, & Customer-focused Help)
    • Email Based Interaction Like ConstantContact & MailChimp
    • Emerging Techniques & Recommended Approaches: Google+, Twitter,
  • OFFline Marketing That Creates Visits and Sales
  • Why Your Website Stinks
  • Pay Per Click Advertising – What to Use, When to Use, & What to Avoid
  • Integrated Marketing: Maximizing Growth with Online, Offline, & Operations Strategy
  • The Manufacturing Study – Where Failures Occur & Top Growth Opportunities

The current plan is to publish digitally for Kindle devices & the Kindle app on mobile device like Android & iPhone.  We will also offer a traditional book for handy use as a reference.  We are still playing with concepts for the physical book format – traditional bound for reading or ring bound for stay-open quick access.

Let me know if you have other areas where you need help or ideas for YOUR manufacturing company.  I have either written a small article on the same topic or have it listed as a potential chapter.

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Manufacturing Ad Budget Trends & Recommendations

shrinking-dollars The economy is still very slow for manufacturers and the budget belt is still tight.  Here are the biggest trends I am seeing with manufacturers.

Manufacturers are cutting their advertising budgets by:

  1. Reducing or eliminating paid listings in industrial directories.
  2. Dropping newspaper ads, if they use them at all.
  3. Permanently dropping catalog ads.

Manufacturers are still spending about the same level for some things:

  1. Trade shows are reduced slightly but are being considered for total removal.
  2. Sales and service jobs are not actively being eliminated, but people who leave are not being replaced.

Manufacturers are trying some new methods with mixed results. They are:

  1. Adding a Facebook profile…incorrectly.  Poor results in nearly all cases because of a bad approach.  Hint: Manufacturers are businesses – the should use a business page, NOT a personal profile.  People can become a fan of your company if it is setup as a business page.
  2. Trying out Twitter.  Only 1 company I know of has benefited from this method.  By the way, only 1 manufacturer I’ve talked with is taking a sensible approach to using Twitter.
  3. Testing out monthly e-mail newsletters through MailChimp, Aweber, or ConstantContact.  Aweber is my preferred newsletter system.  The results have been very good for this approach, but manufacturing marketers still have a tendency to let this method fall into disrepair, misuse, and sloppiness.
  4. Moving to shared sales representatives while trying to jump into new territories.  Results range from total failure to very good sales improvements.  So far, the ones who have had success are doing commission-only approach.  Of course the commission percent tends to be higher when there is not a base.  The no-base, higher-percent commission approach seems to attract better performers.

Improve Your Manufacturing Ad Budget Performance – Recommendations

  1. Install Google Analytics (FREE) on your website.  Check to see if you have visitors from a geographical area you currently do not cover.  Get a shared sales rep for that area that is commission-based only.
  2. Try out Google Adwords (online advertising).  Get or use one of the free $50 or $100 credits that Google mails to businesses who have installed Google Analytics (free stats).
  3. Check all your advertising for ROI (return on investment) and shift the budget to higher performing methods.  I am shocked how many companies have not done this one.
  4. Formalize your word-of-mouth marketing methods.  A great book to consider for tips is Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Marketing (aff).  You can also visit Andy Sernovitz’s blog.
  5. Get the Guerrilla Marketing book (aff) and implement just a few ideas.  Measure results.  Repeat what works.
  6. Get the Duct Tape Marketing book (aff) and implement a few ideas.  Measure, repeat.

What is happening with the ad & marketing budget for your company?

Any recommendations for other manufacturers?

What’s NOT working for your advertising?

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7 Ways You Can Waste Marketing Dollars

burnmoney Manufacturers are getting excited about their new marketing budgets.  Some marketers are so excited that they don’t know where to waste their dollars first.  Let me help.  Here are 7 ways that leading manufacturers are throwing away their marketing money.  Are you in a hurry to bust your marketing budget?  Skip to the end of the list – a bigger number means it is a bigger waster.

  1. Setup your Facebook account as an individual person instead of as a business page.  Customers may be “Fans” of your business, but being a “Friend” of you as an individual may be uncomfortable.
  2. Write your website content so that your employees and executives like it.  Make sure to ignore any customer requests or feedback.  This is a great way to prevent anyone from contacting you to buy your product.  Even better?  Use internal jargon that confuses even your most interested buyers.
  3. Pay for Google Adwords ads without doing testing, optimizing, or tracking.  Wasting money this way is similar to the Magic Money Machine (MMM) some ad agencies use when “developing your brand” – you throw money in one end and hope more money comes out on the other side.
  4. Get a Twitter account and tweet ads over and over until you ruin your reputation.  BONUS POINTS: Pay an inexperienced “social media specialist” at your local ad agency to do it for you.
  5. Use the free hosting system of WordPress and then pay to redo all your work and optimization on a hosted account later in the year.  If you are wasting your employees time to do the update, congratulations – that still counts as wasted marketing dollars.  You DO pay your employees, right?
  6. Buy your industrial directory listing.  BONUS POINTS: Pay the amount the sales agent recommends.  Some industrial directories reward payers by giving them clicks but no sales conversions.  Find out about free industrial directory listings instead.
  7. Pay several $1000 a month to get listed by something like Yellow Pages so that you can be listed on the SECOND page of search results.  Alternative for people who are out of money already? Get in the listings that actually show up in search results without having to pay anything.  Yeah, I know, it sounds like crazy talk.

If you are doing at least 3 of these things, contact me this week to get your manufacturing website assessment (sample, PDF) that can save you money and increase your online effectiveness.

If you are doing #6 or #7, or even considering them, contact me today – you are burning money like congress!

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How To Write a Manufacturing Blog Post

pencilpicture Most people think writing a blog post is complex.  It doesn’t have to be.  It’s not a term paper – it’s just some notes & tips to help out friends.  Here are some of the techniques I use when advising my clients on how they can use blog postings to help their customers and make a connection.

  1. READ other blogs with Google Reader or sign-up by e-mail.  Consider starting with some of the most popular on the Ad Age Power 150 (http://adage.com/power150/).  Some of my favorites include: Seth’s blog (the godfather of Internet marketing), CopyBlogger, and Duct Tape Marketing.
  2. Carry a nice notebook (like a Moleskine – aff.) to capture ideas as you go through your day.  This can be your best sources of business improvements and post titles.  I have developed some killer ideas for clients using this method – you never know when inspiration or boredom will create a great idea.
  3. Title your post based on top keyword searches occurring on Google (use https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal to get keyword ideas) and then use the keyword phrase at least once or twice within the post.
  4. Multiple sub-headings make the post easier to read.
  5. Brevity is very important. Short, concise, and to-the-point is valued by busy people.
  6. A “perfect post”: 1-3 short paragraphs, a picture, and a link. It informs, educates, or entertains.
  7. Consider making the key concept of each paragraph bold.
  8. It’s beneficial to occasionally write non-industry posts that your visitors will find useful – energy savings tips, time savings tips, organization tips, technical tips, and other areas that are compelling to a broad audience.
  9. Do NOT use it for forwarding humor and the Internet silliness of the week – that is everywhere already.

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Marketing for Manufacturing Book

I am currently working on some book concepts for Marketing for Manufacturing.  Let me know what you think.  These books will be offered through an e-book format or as a print-on-demand.  It all depends on what is most needed by manufacturers.

Here are the books:

  1. Build a Manufacturing Website on Your Own that Drives Sales Leads, Is Easy to Maintain, Improves Customer Relationships, and Is Cost Effective.  A step-by-step workbook that uses the optimum techniques I have developed for improving manufacturing sales in struggling companies.
  2. Integrated Marketing for Manufacturing: Using Online Marketing, Traditional Advertising, Targeted Internal Improvements, and Calls To Action to GROW Sales.
  3. Working With Your Website Developer and Proven Online Methods to Grow Online Sales Leads With Your Underperforming Website.
  4. The Lean Project Manager: How To Use Project Management Techniques and Internal Marketing To Create Lasting Improvements Throughout Your Organization.

Like you, I am time-restricted in what I work on.  Which one do you think I should finish first?  Which one might be most beneficial to a manufacturing company?

The Next Generation of Online Marketing for MEP Centers

The people at Auburn Works, the Alabama MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership), have created the future of MEP Center websites. The new website creates a community using the Ning platform and integration of traditional website functionality and social media.

Don’t know who your local MEP Center is in your state?  The are very helpful!  Click the NIST MEP list to find yours.

Take a look at what Auburn Works has created: Auburn Works MEP Center

Kudos to Mitch Emmons, David Mixson, and the awesome student team at Auburn that put this together!  Very impressive work people.

8 Reasons Why Every MEP Center Needs This Type of Website:

  1. Shows that manufacturers need more than just lean & quality. To paraphrase the great Blues Brothers movie – “Oh, we got both kinds of training.  We got Lean *AND* Quality.”    Manufacturers need innovation assistance (AKA Eureka Winning Ways assistance), sales training, and website marketing (in Arkansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and others).
  2. It creates a community. A big challenge for manufacturing companies & MEP Centers is establishing a strong community that can work together.  There is so much duplicated effort and wasted resources.  This waste can be reduced (lean gurus rejoice!) when there is a strong communications infrastructure – that is what this website configuration can provide.
  3. Improves communication. Communication issues continue to limit manufacturers effectiveness – many do not even know about the resources they have in their own state.  The Auburn Works website will greatly improve this communication for their group.
  4. Rapid needs analysis for manufacturers. Surveys are time consuming and often do not gather the interest needed for valid data.  By participating in a conversation between manufacturers, MEP Centers can dramatically improve their service levels for their clients.  They will discover what is truly needed.
  5. It helps manufacturers compete. If manufacturers can see potential suppliers & customers in their state, that helps grow the manufacturing economy.  If manufactures can discover & implement best practices through a new website, that strengthens manufacturers.
  6. MEP Centers can better serve their clients. MEP Center field personnel love to help manufacturers.  Now the centers can have a tool that that identifies the needs of their manufacturers and helps their field staff to go help their clients.
  7. Improved sharing of best practices. Isn’t that the whole point of social media?  We can share the BEST of what is available with our peers and strengthen everyone.
  8. It reduces the use of antiquated “push” marketing. If an MEP sales person is sick of sending a blitz of e-mail on the next open enrollment Lean 101, be encouraged – the community can help.  If you think push marketing is a good idea, shame on you – go read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing and learn how the rest of the world markets effectively.

Don’t forget to share this with a friend.

Manufacturing Website Marketing Study – Free Download

After posting portions of the website marketing study for manufacturing, I have decided to list the full study after getting some questions about listing the full study.  Some asked how much the study would be, but I have made the file available for free.

The Website Marketing Study for manufacturing is now available at no cost and with no strings attached:  Website Marketing Study for Manufacturing

Please share the link to the study with others who might benefit.  You can use sharing buttons at the bottom if you are reading this at the website instead of a blog reader.

You can also place it on your website using “link to this page” at the bottom.

Hope you find this helpful!  Joe

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Using PDFs?

Should you be using PDF files to market your products and services?  Yes, but only if you do it the right way…most people do not do it the right way!

If you are using PDF files properly, they can be very helpful.  I read a great quote that said:

Chairs are for sitting.  PDFs are for printing.

The Right Way to Use PDF Files:

  • Notify the user it is a PDF.
  • Optimize it for search engines.  See a great article on PDF optimization.
  • Provide the content as a web page first and provide the PDF as a link at the bottom.  Say something like “click here to download a printable PDF of this web page.”
  • Make sure it is text based & searchable.  This also reduces the size of the file.  Everybody hates monster PDFs with blurry graphics, right?
  • Include a functional link to the web page it came from and company contact information.

The WRONG Way to Use PDF Files:


  • Surprise users with PDFs when they thought they were clicking on pages.
  • Use PDFs for a majority of your content.
  • Make the PDF graphics based and not text based.
  • Make PDFs huge, monster files.
  • Leave out your company contact information.

Why I Usually Prefer Pages over PDFs:

  • PDFs are a speed bump to quick browsing.
  • Most PDFs are too large.
  • Creating them can be a pain.  Note that using DoroPDF (free!) is a good alternative to the full Adobe Acrobat Pro software.  Doro is good for simple PDF creation.
  • PDFs are limited in functionality when compared to web pages.

Great PDF Uses:

  • Printing product information to show people who do not have a computer handy.  This is great for a construction or field business situation.
  • Saving on my local hard drive for later use.
  • Sharing a brochure or similar marketing piece to friends & associates that will print it and share it.  Chambers of Commerce are great about using this functionality to promote regional events.

Do you think changing your PDF files to web pages would increase your sales?

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Common Manufacturing Website Problems

I have added a new page about the most common problems manufacturing companies face with website marketing.  The page is taken directly from a study I developed about the most common website marketing problems encountered by manufacturers.  The 2nd new page is a list of the most critical fixes needed for website marketing mistakes.

  1. Manufacturing Websites Study
  2. Fix Manufacturing Websites Mistakes

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Interested in Website Marketing Services or Classes?

I’ve received several questions about how companies can make website marketing improvements.  The two most common questions can be summarized as:

“Do you offer  website marketing classes?” YES, click here for a listing of website marketing classes.

“Can you help with our website and marketing?” YES, click here to see services we provide to help with website marketing.

We offer classes and have a formal approach to ensure the information is immediately applicable to your needs.  With over 15 years of college credit & contract training experience, you won’t have to worry about PowerPoint poisoning or having information read to you.  The classes are highly interactive and energetic.  Attendees are excited to leave at the end of the classes… so that they can go try out the things they have learned.

Our services are designed around the needs of manufacturers and businesses without monstrous marketing budgets.  In many cases, one or two sessions can provide dramatic improvements.  In some cases, a radical restructuring or development of a marketing strategy is necessary.

We would love to hear any questions you have.

Got any questions we can answer?

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Words that Sell – Are You Picking the Wrong Ones?

Do you feel like your marketing is driving sales away instead of increasing sales?  Maybe the selling words you are using don’t work.  They may be on your billboards, brochures, paper-based ads, your website, and more.  Let’s find out about how your company’s selling words are working.

Quick Test 1: Grade your organization’s marketing health.  When your company develops selling words, do they:

  1. Establish a randomly selected focus group? (+1)
  2. Gather strong wording from corporate managers to drive sales? (+1)
  3. List great technical specs from engineering to use directly in marketing materials.(+1)
  4. Combine standard “words that sell” with a generic product or service related to your company.(+1)
  5. Use similar wording from a competitor (called copy cat marketing by the Duct Tape Marketing guru). (+1)

Add up your points.  How did you do?  High score?  Umm, a higher score indicates your selling words probably stink on ice.  Oops!

The grade scale for Quick Test 1 is shown below:

  • 0-2 points means you are probably OK and can probably survive tough & competitive times.
  • 3-4 points means your company has excessive risk of sales problems.
  • 5 (FIVE!?!) points.  Can you fax out your resume today and start saving for hard times?  That marketing smells like August road kill.

Quick Test 2: Last one, I promise.  Time for a marketing health checkup – how are things since the last quick test?  When your company develops selling words, do they:

  1. Survey your new clients & prospects while asking “What attracted you to our company?” and “How would you describe our product/service to a friend?” [+1]
  2. Use Tested Advertising Methods like A/B testing in newspapers or in Google Adwords? [+1]
  3. Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (free) to get ideas for keywords people are using to find you? [+1]
  4. Analyze wording used by high performing sales personnel to develop best practices? [+1]
  5. Emphasize product benefits to the buyer instead of dry technical specifications? [+1]

How did you do?  A high score is good this time!

  • 0-2 points means you need to go back to the list and try ONE of the best practices in quick test 2 – NOW is a good time to start.  Again, update the resume.
  • 3-4 points means that your company may be OK, but more work can be beneficial.
  • 5 points.  Are you going public soon?  Can I invest?  Great things may be ahead.  Hold onto your resume for now.  By the way, are you hiring?

Quick Test 1 is a collection of worst practices I see in industry time after time.  These methods create selling words that are vague, company focused, and only have meaning to company employees.  Quick Test 2 lists some good practices that I have found to be effective for creating words that sell.

Comments? I would love to see your Best Practices and Worst Practices for establishing selling words.  Also, do you have some clunky selling phrase that you can share?

Send to a co-worker using the buttons below and see how he or she rates the company.

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9 Quick Things To Improve Your Website Sales

I get the same question in almost all of my website marketing classes: “What 1 thing can I do tomorrow to improve sales leads on my website?”  Well, here are 9 things to improve your website sales fairly quickly.  They are based on methods I have tried and measured.

  1. Move your contact information to the top of all your website pages.
    • Make sure to include your physical address, which research shows is one of the most significant aspects of website credibility. Phone number is also required.
    • You never know when a potential sales lead wants to reach out and try to buy from you – make it easy by listing your contact info right in front of them.
  2. Replace all e-mail hyperlinks with feedback forms.
    • Forms QUALIFY your sales leads.
    • Browsers do not always properly launch the preferred e-mail program when a user clicks a mailto hyperlink. This means MISSED LEADS.
    • Almost all junk mail comes from website hyperlinks. If you have coding that looks like “mailto: name@companyname.com”, that e-mail address is harvested for spamming.
  3. If you are already using forms, REDUCE the amount of required information.
    • Most forms are abandoned because of ridiculous information requirements that challenge the sense of security of leads and their patience.
    • Only ask for one way to contact and allow the sales lead to select which one they enter. Why even ask for a FAX number?
    • Allow them to select “Request more information by e-mail” (check box) and/or “Please have a sales person call to tell me more” (check box).
  4. Setup an XML Sitemap and ROBOTS.TXT file on your website.
    • These files can improve how well search engine robots index your website.
    • The XML Sitemap should be submitted to Google Sitemaps at least.
    • The ROBOTS.TXT file should be added to your root: http://www.website.com/
  5. Develop some keywords and advertising text to start an ad campaign.
    • Use Google AdWords, Yahoo Sponsored Search, or MSN Microsoft AdCenter.
    • Note that MSN might provide better results in some situations when purchasing personnel have MSN as their search engine instead of Yahoo or Google.
  6. Submit your website to the big 3 if it has not already been done.
    • Each search engine uses a slightly different approach. Follow their rules for submission!
  7. Respond to web inquiries as soon as possible.
    • Anything past 24 hours will be seen as non-responsive.
  8. See who is linking to your competition and ask for a link in an appropriate way.
    • Search by typing “link:www.thecompetition.com” – without the “quotes” in the big 3.
    • Google will show the most important links and the smallest number – start with them.  Yahoo provides the most detail.
  9. Use web analytics to get more information about how your site is performing.
    • Google Analytics is fairly easy to setup and allows you to dig fairly deep.
    • Check with your web developer or hosting company to see if they have analytics.

If you have some quick things that helped your website, please tell us about them in the comments below.

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Avoid Website Marketing Mistakes That Even Big Companies Make

Here are six big mistakes that even big companies make and recommended fixes for the mistakes.

1. Excessive Company Focus

Assuming that you built the website for your customer’s use, why would it be focused on internal company processes? Who in their right mind will pause at a home page that lists a company’s vision statement? Does somebody actually think that approach increases customer sales or improves the company-customer relationship?

FIX : Find a website that has a good home page and follow their techniques. As a small hint, that good page will not have a vision statement, will not say “Welcome to our home page,” and will not have a photo of an executive you are not interested in.

2. Confusing Navigation

If people cannot find their way around your website, they will leave and they will not be happy. How frustrated is somebody when they are lost? Do they typically criticize the area they were in? I’m guessing that a lost website visitor will not promote good word-of-mouth for your company.

FIX : Use simple navigation on the left side or top that is text based without animation, pop-outs, or color changes. Use simple to understand text like “Products,” “Services,” “Contact Us,” “Home,” and “What We Do.” If Amazon.com, with its monster budget, does not make navigation complex because “its cool,” then why should you?

3. Using PDF Files Way Too Much

Have you ever been to one of those websites that you are constantly closing Adobe Reader or losing your place because of all the stinking PDFs that keep appearing? Visitors to your website do not like to click on what they think is a web page link and then have to wait while their machine locks up for several seconds to open the most recent Adobe Reader software. One great mind once said “Chairs are for sitting, PDFs are for printing”.

FIX : Use PDF files only when a specific format is needed by the customer. Give them a hint that it is a PDF file and not a regular page.  You should consider changing every PDF on your site to a web page and then make a PDF available at the bottom of the page. Before the PDF link, you should say something like “Get a printable version of this page” and provide a link to the Adobe Acrobat Reader software.

4. Excessive Use of Flash Animation or Graphics

This would have to be my top pet peeve. Why do so many companies spend large chunks of dollars to get a flash intro page? Do they know it reduces visits by as much as 95%? Probably. That would explain why they have the Skip Intro link on the page. The only thing I can think of worse than a flash intro is a flash intro with junky music enabled and no “Skip This Stupid Intro” or mute links. Yes, there are some companies that actually have websites that bad. Note that some flash animation can add to the user experience, but it can also be used for evil.

FIX : Just don’t do it – really. If an uninformed, but well meaning, person pushes for the flash intro, you need user testing. The most important book to read for websites is Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think (aff) which describes how to do user testing and get an effective website. The user testing provides real data to validate your argument against flash intros.

5. No User Testing

This seems to occur more often with larger companies for some reason. An internal developer or an ad agency is so confident in their website that they run out of time to test.

FIX : User testing does not have to be complex – just gather a few people and have them walk through the website looking for certain things. Again, the Krug book is a great resource for this.

6. Text is Difficult to Read

Why, oh why, would a company spend tens of thousands of dollars to get an online presence and then hide their information? Are they afraid their far-sighted competitors are going to try to capture the information? I usually see bad text on old websites or new websites that have crunched every bit of useless information into a single page. Instead of being selective or reorganizing the information, most companies just tell the developer to “see if you can fit that in.” Then nobody reads it. Here are the worst offenders , often born from an urge to be artistic or creative:

  • Off gray or other non-black text
  • Complex pattern backgrounds (everybody repeat: “Dude, that is so 1995 “)
  • Tiny text
  • Complex font
  • Too many columns of information
  • Not enough columns (one that spans your entire screen
  • Centering text – man, I really hate this one! People have read with left alignment for decades and some twit thinks centering somehow makes their message more valuable.

FIX : Four foot test. Standing four feet away (eyeballs to LCD distance – no leaning!), can you read the screen? If not, make some adjustments. Note: You should have normal vision to do the test.

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6 Most Critical Elements of a Successful Website

The 6 most critical things you need for an effective website can be determined by looking at what performs. In other words, what is needed to get the sales, leads, or other conversion needed?

1. Search Engine Visibility or Source of Traffic

The first and most important element is having a source of website visitors. Most people start with Search Engine Visibility. The whole SEO (Search Engine Optimization) movement is tied to getting people to search and find your website. Here are some sources of traffic:

  • Search engine visibility
  • Pay per click advertising
  • Links pointing to your website (inbound links)
  • OFFLINE advertising such as business cards, signs, gifts, and other items that have your website prominently displayed.

2. User Experience

If the user is not happy, they won’t stay. They want information relevant to their needs and they want to find it quickly and easily.

3. Good Content

I know of several companies that spend large amounts of money on pay per click advertising and have essentially no text and few pictures on their website. A better use of their money would be to just mail their contact information by business card. Good writing and valuable information is what makes the internet work.

4. Good Navigation

Ever heard of “mystery meat navigation”? It is when there are pretty graphics without text. You have to hover your mouse over each graphic to find out what it is. Horrible! Another bad one to avoid is using vague or non-standard wording for navigation.

5. Ease of Interaction

When a visitor decides to make the next step toward buying or initiating a relationship with your company, you want to make it as easy as possible. This means get rid of the obstacles . One big obstacle is using e-mail links that start up their e-mail program without any guidance on what to enter. Other obstacles include hidden contact information, overly long Contact Us forms, and when all fields are required on a form for submission.

6. Sales Techniques

Have you ever gone to a car lot to shop for cars and the salesman keeps handing you more and more information without interacting with you? No, probably not. When somebody visits your website, you should initiate calls to action that advance the sales process.

I have worked with some companies that have spent over $50K on their website and there is not a single call to action. For one company,I used one free recommendation that really made their manufacturing sales leads jump. I am going to share it with you: Add a call to action that says “Call us to get a Free Quote.” Yeah, that’s all it took. Amazing.

Here are some other Calls to Action to test out. Do You Have Any That Work Well? – leave a comment and tell us about it.

  • Request a Free Quote (linked to short easy form)
  • Sign-up for E-mail Updates (forms based with text that says “Why your information is safe”)
  • Request a ‘no strings attached’ Brochure (forms based)
  • Download Our Price List
  • Download Our Free Product List
  • Print This Free Coupon for 10% Off Your Next Purchase (make sure to have an expiration date)

I hope that you spend some time discovering which of these critical elements help your website most.

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Top 16 Website Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

website-mistakes-smHow many of these website mistakes did you avoid when building your site? Did you get caught by any of these?

1. Don’t shop around and pay way too much

Because small business owners and managers are so busy managing multiple areas of the company, it is tempting to look at one company that appears to be capable. Consider at least two different website developers. If you don’t know another website developer to get a quote from, ask the current web developer that you are considering or ask other businesses who they use.

2. Unbridled enthusiasm leads to a “backward implementation”

The concept of being a business with an online presence can be very exciting. Many businesses get so excited about the potential that they approach the project totally backwards – they get a domain name and the hosting, develop the web site, and determine what customers want. A company should follow the following steps in this order for lower cost and improved success: 1) Define customer expectations and needs; 2) Develop the web site – you can reserve a domain name at this time, but hosting is not needed yet; 3) Select the hosting and activate domain name; 4) Upload web site to server and integrate your internet presence into your marketing approach.

FREE TIP: Don’t buy a dozen domains just because you “might need them.” What a waste of money.

3. Poor structure and formatting

Look at some of the most widely known web sites and you will see nice, clean formatting and a structure that is easy to navigate. Many sites have terrible navigation with broken or unclear links, horrible formatting like dark text on a dark background, and inconsistency from page to page. Poor structure and formatting causes potential customers to leave as soon as they see the first page.

4. Overkill on graphics and personal photos

Web design software allows a designer to place more graphics on a website than is practical. In addition, a large image can be shown as smaller than its actual size, but could still consume a large amount of bandwidth. Personal photos do not always present a professional appearance and should be used sparingly.

5. The Company Vision is listed first

The last thing a potential customer wants to look at is your company’s internal practices and vision statements. Ask yourself “Why is a potential customer looking at my website?” Chances are that most potential customers want to look at the benefits your products or services provide to them – list them on the front page or provide an easily noticed link to the products and services information.

6. Listing of e-mails (This is bad? Yes, it can be)

If you list your e-mail on a website, a spambot can locate it and use it to spam you. Some companies understand this risk and will still list their e-mail address, which requires them to install anti-spam software or even have a larger e-mail server to handle the junk mail traffic. A better option that works well is to have an entry form that influences how potential customers communicate with you. This form does not expose your e-mail address to the web, but can still forward customer comments directly to your e-mail.

7. Restrictive or intrusive forms

While forms are a valuable way to gather information about potential customers, many developers make each field a requirement and ask intrusive questions. This prevents potential customers from contacting your company. A better approach is to have non-intrusive questions with most fields being optional.

8. Trying to do it all – self hosting, domain name purchase, and updates

Unless you have a very large corporation with strong network support, it is nearly impossible to effectively host a web site from your own server and keep all updates current for security maintenance.

9. Wrong service – storage, bandwidth, provider reliability, support, technology, or other options

Because of the wide variety of options available for getting a website up and running, many organizations have made costly mistakes. Depending on what your customers need on a website and your plans as an online enabled business, your website needs will vary widely.

10. Web site looks old or has dates indicating that there are no updates

The path to heck is paved with good intentions.

Developers think that they will update the website every week, but it never seems to happen that way. Website designers may include “updated on” dates, dated news, and other dated materials that indicate that the web site is not regularly updated. Unless you have a full-time web developer that LOVES to write, listing dated materials can be problematic. You could also hire a great writer.

11. Use of family and friends to refer “experts”

I just heard a dozen professional developers cringe! Find a website developer that has done the work before. Ask other businesses, ask the local chamber of commerce for contacts, or browse existing websites to locate good developers.

FREE TIP: Ask for their portfolio or go see their site. Weird thing – some great developers have crappy sites, but do great work on their customers’ sites.

12. One person’s view is not enough – you need two or three

Imagine that your website is nearly done. Are you going to make the final approval without asking anyone else what they think? You should contact a few people to develop ideas and find criticisms to improve your final website design.

13. Spelling, grammar, and style problems

The most common embarrassment in websites is not technical functionality or appearance; the most common mistakes are grammar errors, spelling mistakes, and poor readability. A website developer should correct any of these errors on your website for free; even better, the errors should never appear!

14. Use of large files to deliver information with the assumption that everyone has a fast connection

Some small businesses have their website on their company server, where scarce resources are shared between customers, employees, and updates. This potential speed problem is made even worse by overly large files and unnecessary graphics that prevent fast download – the slowdown is on the company server, not with the customer’s Internet connection.

15. Overkill on animation, blinking text, and other distractions from communication to the customer

This problem has declined over the past several years. A great website will have easy navigation, appropriate graphics, a good color scheme, and will avoid anything that drives potential customers away.

16. Customers have a sense of “What now?” when they enter the site

Value-added content is information that helps your customer’s business or enhances their life. Do you produce wire harnesses? List the 10 best ways to protect the harnesses from damage or the 5 best ways store the material effectively. If they don’t find what they need, there needs to be a quick way to request information without having to provide a detailed biography in the Contact Us form.

Know of any other really bad mistakes made by small businesses on their first website? Let us know in the comments.

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3 Industrial Directories That Bring the Most Sales Leads

There are a lot of industrial directories out there and some work dramatically better than others.

There are so many directories out there that it would be difficult to register with all of them.  However, there are a few that consistently provide good traffic and sales leads.  After working with dozens of manufacturers and tracking what brings in good leads using Google Analytics, here is some insider information… these three industrial directories provide free listings that have worked extremely well for my manufacturing clients:

  1. MacRaesBlueBook.com (highest number of visitors, most sales leads)
  2. ProcessRegister.com (fewer visitors, but similar number of sales leads and sales)
  3. GlobalSpec.com (good number of visitors and sales leads)

Should I pay for my industrial directory listing?

Initially, no.  Later – maybe.  If you can do a small budget and use Google Analytics to track links from the industrial directory, you might give it a try.  Don’t depend on the industrial directory for your performance measures – that loses  a lot of manufacturers money (average of $3000 per year for many).  For my clients, I start them on website optimization and the free listings on the industrial directories listed above.  If one industrial directory performs really well, that would be the best candidate for some ad spending.

Tell me how industrial directories have helped your company OR how they have ripped you off in the comments below.  If you find this valuable, please share with friends using the AddThis button below.

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Get Your Local Business Listing Online – for Free!

Many of you spend money to be listed in the Yellow pages and similar tree-based materials. The search for products and services is rapidly moving to the Internet and you might be missing some great opportunities to get new customers.

Did you know you can have a free online listing and drive sales leads by using search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN? At a bare minimum, you should enter your local business listing into Google Maps using www.google.com/local/add. An even better solution I recently found is GetListed.org . GetListed.org automatically checks to see if you are listed in the major local search listings. It will then guide you on how to get listed. I have done several of these and and have seen some good results.

I would love to hear how well your company performed. Were you listed on most of the major local search engines? Did the change bring in some new sales leads, calls, or website visits?

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