The trouble with such a fast moving and somewhat fashionable industry is the emphasis on the latest and greatest rather than necessarily the most effective or relevant to smaller business.
A look at any technology publication or website would suggest to you that websites are pretty much ‘old hat’ and that anything mobile, big data, social media or apps is far more exciting, sexy and newsworthy.
To this ‘digerati’, websites are a bit like business supplies – essential to businesses but oh so last millennium.
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But while all the latest and greatest gets all the attention, websites have been quietly chipping away to earn themselves the mantle of being the most relevant and important piece of technology, at least from a marketing perspective, smaller businesses are likely to possess.
Websites uncool but critical
In case you missed it in the maelstrom of fuss over all things new, websites and the search engines that locate them, have transformed the way both consumers and businesses find a supplier of pretty much everything from paper clips to parachute dives.
But unlike the directional media of directories and classifieds before them, websites are allowing customers to engage with suppliers both earlier and later than these media were capable of doing.
The traditional media were fantastic at helping you find a supplier once you had a pretty good idea of what you were wanting to purchase.
In marketing parlance, this was the ‘Action’ phase of your ‘AIDA’ – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action –of your purchase behaviour, as illustrated above.
But by its very nature, the internet allows you to come in at the very start of the AIDA process – the ‘Attention’ phase.
Stimulating needs and wants
Who hasn’t had their attention captured by an email, social networking post, blog, online article or even online ad which hasn’t stimulated a purchase of some sort?
Even if you do recognise your own need for a product or service and are ready to take action on it, the internet allows a far more thorough research phase prior to being ready to find a supplier to purchase it from.
The other quite revolutionary attribute the internet allows is the seamless transition from Attention through Interest, Desire and onto purchase and even distribution.
It does this by simply linking to ‘calls to action’ to take your interest further.
Many readers of this blog have had their attention piqued by an article and then gone right through the process to my business website and then onto becoming a customer and often repeat customer.
And if you get the process right by providing and presenting the information your prospect wants, you won’t give them any reason to divert from the process and end up with a competitor instead.
But the benefits of the internet in the purchase process don’t end there.
Drive repeat business online
As the diagram illustrates, once you have secured the customer, you can then create valuable repeat business by using email and social media to keep them informed of developments, offers and other requirements you can fulfil.
The beauty of this capability is that, provided you do the right thing by the customer, your information isn’t competing with the terabytes of information provided by your competitors out there on the world wide web.
You now have a unique relationship with the customer that means they will return to you instead of the relative rigmarole of finding and really experimenting with another provider.
Are you set up to make these digital customer magnets work for you?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.