Communications are one of the most important factors in any business, and naturally the most important communication is marketing communication. It's also a fact that the most important marketing media your business uses is your own website.
In this article we'll look at the things you can do to make sure your communications through your website are as effective as possible, so you can reach the greatest potential audience and get more positive results.
First, make sure you have an awesome website
You'll find a lot of tips on this site to help you improve the awesomeness of your site, but you can also hire other people to help you if you think that will give you a better result.
The thing to keep in mind is that money or time spent on improving your website is a genuine investment that will pay off. The only time that's not true is when you do a truly bad job, and that won't happen if you follow the advice on this site.
It's not good enough just to have a decent site. You need an awesome site. It doesn't matter what you're trying to sell, you won't sell it well if you don't sell it with passion. Your site needs to radiate the same passion and enthusiasm that you'd expect your sales staff to radiate when they're dealing with a customer face to face.
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Go take a look at your site now. Do you feel the passion radiating from the screen and hitting you right in the heart? If not, then your site is not awesome enough. It's time for you to do something about that.
Being awesome is not just about looking good. It's about having a great personality. It's about being easy to deal with. It's about being friendly, approachable, and helpful. All of these things are just as true about a website as they are about a person. The best websites have these attributes in spades.
Promote your site in as many ways as you can
Far too often we see small business owners get a website built and then sit back and start dreaming of all the millions of new customers who are going to visit them. It's a huge mistake, but a very common one, because the media and many “marketing experts” give that incorrect impression.
In truth, websites need not to just exist, but to be promoted effectively and widely. You need to have your URL on everything you can possibly put it on. When your URL is everywhere, it gets burned into people's minds. There is no way to forget it when you're always reminded of it.
Also you won't your URL to be associated with whatever it is that you sell. It's not enough just to be remembered, people also have to remember why they remember you.
So promote your site offline, online, and everywhere else you can think of. Just steer clear of anything that might tarnish your reputation. If your promotional efforts are you'll be helping your business get more reach.
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Curiosity is a powerful motivator, so if you can intrigue people enough to visit your site, then they'll arrive there and see how awesome it is (remember step 1?) and they'll be far more likely to bookmark your site, read the content, view your products or services, and maybe even buy from you.
Create a mailing list
A mailing list, if done properly, and not in some spammy way, is an ideal way to keep existing customers informed about developments in your business, and to inform them of any special deals you currently are promoting.
The two leading contenders in mailing list software are Constant-Contact and MailChimp. This isn't the place to go into a lengthy comparison, especially since it has already been done for us in this hand side-by-side comparison of Constant-Contact vs MailChimp.
Some additional tips to ensure your newsletters will get read and not ignored:
- Make sure you only send newsletters or promotional emails to people who have requested them.
- Don't be annoying. Sending more than one or two emails a month makes you seem clingy and desperate. Customers need their space.
- Try to avoid sending emails that are only an image and nothing else. Yes, we know image emails look good, but most email software blocks hotlinked images by default, while embedding your image in the email is even worse than hotlinking, because it wastes bandwidth and space on the user's device.
- HTML emails need just as much testing and attention as websites do. You need to check how they look on different devices and screen resolutions, and it's probably even a good idea to print a copy of the email and see how it looks when printed.
- Don't forget to include your company info, contact info, and site URL in the email itself, because if you forget those, there's a good chance your customer will forget who you are, too. Repeating your URL is always a good idea, because you're supposed to put it on everything you can, including your emails.
Always respond to every communication you receive
What we're talking about here, of course, is legitimate communications you receive. It doesn't mean you should reply to obvious spam or bait emails. You do need to apply some common sense.
But any genuine communication you receive deserves a reply, even if the communication is nothing but a rant or complaint. If you follow up politely and in a timely manner, then there's a good chance you'll at least defuse the hostility the complainer is feeling.
The same applies when you receive praise from customers. Always respond positively and show that you're listening. It will do wonders for your image and may even help to get you recommendations from those customers.
Be sincere with your communications, but avoid being negative. This counts double when you're responding to communications on social media. You need to manage those responses carefully, and put some thought into them.
It's not necessarily the case your response needs to be dour. Think about the manner the other party has communicated in and try to reach the same level of serious they do, but without seeming sarcastic. This can be difficult to pull off, so you may want to consider hiring a customer relations expert (or a team of them) to handle this task.
The really big bonus is that if you can make a customer truly delighted with the response they receive from you, there's just that chance they might share it, and that can result in virality. If that happens, you'll be big news for a long time after.
Just the same, if the customer is unhappy with your response, that too can go viral, and this is why you do need to make sure every communication is well planned and hits exactly the right note.
Of course some customers can't be pleased no matter what you do. But if you make a sincere effort, and you're polite, it will be them who looks a fool, not you, if they choose to go public with the matter.
Winning the communications game is tough, but it's necessary
Nothing about any of this is easy, and it would be wrong for us to suggest that it is. You will have to invest time, energy, and thoughtfulness into building a good online communications strategy. The pay-off is the best thing ever, though, so resolve to master this domain and you will reap the rewards in due course.
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