No matter what kind of online business you have, it is essential that customers are able to find your company. Once they locate you, it is necessary to engage them in the browsing or buying process, depending on your site objectives, using various promotional tools and techniques to enhance the online experience.
The challenge in getting customers to visit your site and return in the future is a reflection of the competitive nature of the online environment. Not only do online businesses have to compete against thousands of new companies that go online every day, but they must also consider the increased buying and decision-making power of consumers, who have a variety of options at their fingertips. If you want to stand out from the endless stream of online businesses and gain the attention of customers, you need to promote your site, and you need to do it well.
There are a number of ways you can promote your online site. You can use your own site as a vehicle to drive your objectives forward using various online tools, or you can implement a number of online and offline promotional techniques.
Online Promotional Tools:
Feedback Forms – What better way to find out what people think of your company than to solicit their opinion. Using customer feedback you can improve your site and provide better service to your customers. Using feedback forms also shows your customers that you are interested in what they have to say, and provides an opportunity to build relationships with them. For instance, you may send out an email thanking a particular customer for bringing an issue to your attention and follow-up with a coupon to show your appreciation. The disadvantage with a feedback form is the type of information people provide or the questions they may ask. If customers cannot find answers on your site, they may resort to using the feedback form. To receive targeted feedback, it is useful to develop an online form for customers to complete that leads them through the feedback process.
Bookmarking – A good way to encourage customers to visit your site is to ask them to bookmark it. Through bookmarking, they have easy access to your site and do not have to remember your site’s exact URL to visit. Bookmarking a site is particularly beneficial for web surfers who like to follow links. It enables them to go back and take a more in-depth look at what you have to offer when they need to.
Content – Content is a strong driver for encouraging repeat visits by customers, particularly when it is fresh, timely, and gives customers a reason to visit regularly. For example, perhaps you have a ‘Tip of the Day’ or a regular visit by an ‘expert’ well-known in your field of business who provides online advice. Content that is useful for your visitors and will enable them to leave with new knowledge will attract them to your site, and encourage them to check back regularly.
Daily Give-Away/Coupons/Contests – Sites that offer regular promotions such as a ‘give-away’, coupons and contests are in a solid position to capture a regular audience. While the promotion acts as the driver that attracts customers to visit initially, it provides an opportunity to showcase new products and services, and deliver important news about your company. For instance, you may initiate a ‘give-away’ that is a printer, but also take the opportunity to tell your customers about a printer sale next week. Your promotional tool has not only lured customers to your site, but it has also increased the likelihood of getting a sale. Offering various promotions also enables you to obtain customer information that you can use in future marketing campaigns.
Surveys – Surveys provide an effective avenue through which to gather important customer data that will help you to improve your business and plan for the future. To encourage visitors to complete the survey, you can provide an incentive such as an opportunity to win a prize.
Awards/Testimonials – Including awards and testimonials on your site will provide credibility to your business. They will also provide a foundation for you to build rapport and trust with your customers, who will be more willing to visit a site they can trust.
Online Chat – Online chat mechanisms provide a forum where customers can come together and share their experiences with each other and you. This interactive tool allows you direct access to customer opinions where you can gauge trends and determine their views on the industry.
Tours – Online tours provide you with an opportunity to showcase particular products and services, and highlight their key benefits. For instance, you may have a CRM product that you would like to promote. What better way to show how it works than to provide a tour of the product – making what could be a potentially complex product look simple and easy to use.