Lesson 6: Creating a 24/7 Sales Machine

What You’ll Learn: Roughly 230 million potential customers in the U.S. use the Internet to make purchasing decisions. Globally, it’s a $4 trillion sales machine. This lesson will show you how easy it is to integrate a website and even e-commerce into your business and marketing strategy.

Creating a 24/7 Sales Machine (continued)

Working With a Designer

Rebuilding your business or starting a new one means you already have a lot of things on your plate. You really don’t want to “build a website” to it. If you have staff, see if someone is web-savvy who can handle the role of project manager. This person will help you create the scope of work that can be sent to contractors to bid on, review the bidder capabilities and proposals, check references and select a partner. Once the firm is under contract, they will be your eyes and ears, guiding the project to completion.

When putting together your project scope, you don’t have to be technical. Instead, you want to explain what you want the final website to look like and how you’d like to manage it going forward to keep it updated in terms of content, search words and lead generation. Plain English is just fine. No need for unnecessary jargon.

Here are the basics your Request for Proposal (RFP) should have in it:

1. Purpose of the site. 1. Explain what do you want it to do – Sell? Inform? Persuade? Generate leads? Etc.

2. New site or redesign? If you have an old site that needs to be updated, use it as a reference point. Explain what works and doesn’t work and give the bidder the web address.

3. Tell them how you want to manage it. Do you want to do the updates in-house or do you want the proposer or a third party to keep it updated?

4. Specify any features you want. At the minimum, you want site security, the ability to login and make updates or additions, automated backups and restoration if something goes wrong. If you want anything else, be sure to outline it, such as real-time customer support, e-commerce, a blog or the ability to subscribe to email updates.

5. Outline the approval process. Include how many review cycles you want to have of the site as it’s developed and who will be responsible for approving the work on your end.

6. Specify how you want to pay for it. Don’t give prospective bidders a dollar figure. If you do, some companies will quote that price right back to you with a few dollars and cents added or subtracted to make it look like they actually did some calculations. The standard payment terms are 50% upfront to start work, 50% on delivery, or a third at the start, a third in the middle of the project and a third upon delivery for larger projects. Never pay for a site upfront. You want to have leverage if something is not up to snuff.

7. Provide a rough timeline for completion. You don’t have to include specific milestones; that’s their job.

8. Recurring role? If you want the bidder to perform some kind of site maintenance, outline what these tasks would be, such as writing content, providing graphics, performing backups and back-office updates, etc. You can ask them to give you a bid in two different ways: a fixed cost monthly fee or an hourly rate. If you plan to do a lot of updates or expand the site’s features and capabilities down the road, you want to ask for a fixed monthly rate with a maximum number of hours. Firms will usually give you a better price if they see you as a long-term customer.

9. Make sure you make it clear who owns what. This can influence the pricing, and you don’t want to discuss this at the end of the project and end up with some unpleasant surprises.

Integrating Your Site

Customers aren’t going to magically find your website, online store or even your brick and mortar. You still need to integrate and connect your website and e-commerce into everything you do. This requires a consistent and deliberate marketing strategy to get customers to come back again and again.

We cover all this in greater detail in our tutorial on marketing your online store. But here are some brief thoughts you can use to get started.

1. Focus on content. First, search engines love good content. Keeping your site up-to-date and relevant can help increase your rankings when people enter a specific keyword to search in Google. Second, people hate going to a website that is nothing but brochureware with outdated information or, worse, has nothing of value that will help them do their research and answer their questions. Content can include periodic blogs offering advice, videos, how-tos, product information, any number of things. If you’re not a writer by nature, you can hire a freelancer to do the writing for you. Or better yet, someone on your team may be able to turn a phrase. You never know where all those English majors are hiding in Corporate America.

2. Get the word out. Social media can be a helpful tool for attracting prospects and customers. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest can connect you to customers. LinkedIn is another possibility if you are in the business-to-business space. Conversations are critical here. Social media requires give and take, not an endless series of one-sided posts about your business or latest promotion. Be sure that you add value to your conversations, offering insights, advice and how-tos. Show some personality in your posts. People buy from people, not businesses.

3. Redo your collateral and signage. As you print business cards, flyers, brochures, etc., be sure to add your web address and email address to them. Add these to your email signature block too. If you have a brick-and-mortar operation, add your web address to both sides of your door (just the domain name, not the www. or http://). If you have a business vehicle, add it to the back window or underneath the business’ logo on the side. It will serve as a rolling billboard as you drive around town on errands and deliveries.

4. Leverage the power of SEO. Outside of your own marketing efforts, search engines are the primary way people will find your business on the Internet. Google’s rankings are affected by the keywords used and the perception that your site provides knowledge and expertise. A plug-in like Yoast SEO can do the heavy lifting here, giving you instant feedback on your use of keywords and search engine-friendly attributes.

5. Email marketing. Acquiring someone’s email address is marketing gold. There are plenty of ways to get these, whether you offer a subscription link on your website, ask for a customer’s email address while ringing up a sale, or saving the email addresses of customers who contact you on your site or place an order. Use this list to build relationships with a built-in audience that is interested in your wares. Offer them specials such as a buy one get one offer, free shipping or a discount on their first order. Better yet, offer them a perk if they refer someone else to your site so you can increase your potential customer base.

6. Experiment. There’s no right or wrong way to market your website and online store. Different marketing strategies work for different customer targets. Include coupons in shipments that offer a discount on your website. Add your website address to your business voicemail. Have staff wear buttons that say, “Shop online with us at _______.” Try something, see if it works. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, try something else.

The possibilities are endless. Just make sure that you don’t fall in love with an idea that isn’t working anymore. You need to be nimble in your thinking. Don’t hesitate to see what others are doing successfully and borrow liberally from their success.

Marketing your online presence is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time to build an audience and a new revenue stream. Success won’t happen overnight, and if it does, well, you have a terrific problem on your hands, one that will drive your customer nuts.