By Daniel Prins
Last week, I told you how to expand your Web presence into an entire Web universe. By creating satellites to your main consulting site, you can draw in targeted traffic, thereby growing your potential customer base.
Once your satellite Web sites are in place, you should concentrate on developing promotional support programs within your Web universe. This article presents six steps that will help you make the most of your Web universe by attracting the maximum number of visitors—and potential customers.
Step 1: Follow up with your contacts immediately and automatically
An automatic e-mail response system is a must for keeping contact with your customers. Any incoming message to your Web site(s) will be responded to with a prewritten response message—and some systems also allow for a series of additional, automatic follow-up messages.
Most clients or customers need several follow-up prompts before reaching a buying decision, and an auto-response system will handle this process without taxing your staff. (To see an example of this type of system, visit AWeber Communications’ site. By providing your name and e-mail address, you can take AWeber’s follow-up system for a “test drive.”)
Step 2: Create an industry directory
In order to increase the number of visitors who will register their contact information at your site, you may want to offer a database of information. For example, see HometownSponsors.com, a site promoted by marketing communications company Allen Consulting. The site invites event coordinators to advertise their event to prospective sponsors by adding it to the HometownSponsors’ event directory. (Click Advertise Your Event at the top of the home page.) By offering an appealing—and free—opportunity for event coordinators to advertise their event, Allen Consulting is growing its list of possible clients.
“This has been a wonderful program that has helped us generate an enormous number of leads for our products and services,” said Sylvia Allen, president of Allen Consulting. “With this lead generation system, our salespeople no longer spend time ‘cold calling’ and working one-to-one. A recent article in Sales and Marketing Management emphasized that your [best] salespeople should be following up on leads, not doing lead generation. This program allows our [best] salespeople to do this.”
Step 3: Publish your own IT newsletter
Take the initiative to create and distribute your company or industry IT newsletter. The contacts you’ve gathered with your “industry directory” may serve as your initial subscriber base.
“Start by clearly identifying your objectives for your newsletter—will it be strictly informational to build your brand, or [will it be] a sales-generation tool? Your objectives will dictate the content and tone for your newsletter,” said Gail Goodman, chief executive officer of Roving Software, a B2B e-marketing services company that provides permission-based e-mail marketing products and services to small and medium businesses.
“Before you send out your first newsletter,” Goodman added, “make a commitment to respect the privilege of communicating with those who have given you permission to contact them by e-mail [by providing] an ‘unsubscribe’ [mechanism].”
As you build your Web universe, vendors and customers will contribute to your publication and post articles and questions. Subsequently, your newsletter becomes another source to develop new business initiatives and opportunities.
Step 4: Offer a free e-book
An e-book is a downloadable document containing educational information of interest to your customers or clients. Your e-book may comprise articles written by vendors, consultants, your industry association, etc. Before they download your e-book, have customers complete a simple online form, which will allow you the opportunity for telephone follow-up. The e-book itself can be presented as an MS Word or Adobe download file (if you include illustrations). All of this gives you the opportunity to distribute your message without the additional costs associated with printing, postage, etc.
For a good example of this technique, see Consulting For You.com. The site offers information about advertising on a “shoestring,” as well as a list of free e-books with titles like “Idiot’s Guide to Internet Marketing,” “On-line Stealth Marketing,” and “Web site and E-zine Promotion Made Easy.” All that is required to gain these valuable resources is—you guessed it—your e-mail address.
Step 5: Ask for online referrals
The main source of new business for many companies is referrals from satisfied customers. To expand this concept electronically, add a referral button to your Web sites. Visitors can then easily refer your site’s articles or information to their friends and colleagues with just the push of a button.
Ewomp.com, a proprietary word-of-mouth marketing platform, offers one example of online referral technology. "Our referral technology platform combines the credibility of word-of-mouth marketing with customized incentive programs to help our clients increase traffic and profitability at a fraction of their previous acquisition costs,” said Ewomp’s Jordan Wallach.
Step 6: Create an online affiliate program
Your customers, business allies, and online contacts can become your online reps with the help of an affiliate program. Participants in such a program are compensated for click-throughs to your Web site(s), referrals, or commissions on a per-sale basis. An affiliate program will not only generate leads but will also generate substantial new revenue.
“Affiliate marketing allows online merchants to extend their reach, build their brand, drive sales, and lower customer-acquisition costs—all on a pay-for-performance basis,” said Lex Sisney, CEO of Commission Junction, an application service provider (ASP) of affiliate marketing solutions. “It enables you to turn the Web sites of thousands of affiliates into online partners.”
Is online marketing a worthwhile strategy for consulting firms? What percentage of your clients do you glean from online registrations and other contact mechanisms? Tell us what you think in an e-mail or post your comments below.