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April 2, 2007

The Central Problem in Web Marketing… and Its Solution

The Web is supposed to be a wonderful, powerful, exciting new marketing medium. But many businesses simply do not get the return from their websites that they want. What’s going on?

From every size of company, from downtown corporations to home-based businesses, we hear the questions, “Why don’t we get more visitors to our site?” and “Why don’t more of them buy?” There are many problems, challenges and concerns in web marketing, but there is ONE thread that runs through them all — not enough sales.
A signpost to the cause, and, therefore, to the solution, is indicated by what people say to each other about their websites; “Who designed your site?”, “Do you know a good web designer?”, “I like this design.” and (maybe), “Do you use an open-source CMS?” In other words, most companies, most of the time, are focusing on design and technology.
You rarely hear people say, “Who wrote your site copy?”, “Who helped you decide what information to include?”, or “Who helped you market your site?”
Attractive, professional design and appropriate technology are certainly critical for a successful business site. But not to the extent of investing 95-100 percent of the thought, time and money in only these two aspects of the website’s construction and use!
The potential of a well-developed website is enormous. Indeed, building an effective website may be regarded as much more than simply important; it may very well be essential to the future viability of your business. At the very least, it can be a major marketing channel, bringing you new clients and reinforcing your relationships with current clients.
So what can you do to make your site more effective? The fix is not in design. Nor does it lie in technology. Doing more of the same is not the answer.
To find a more useful direction, consider the critical tasks your site needs to accomplish — bring people to the site, make the sale, and develop relationships with prospective and current clients. When thought of in these terms, it is clear that design and technology do not actually do any of these things. Yes, absolutely they can enhance, but they don’t actually DO.
The solution to lower-than-desired sales is to remember what a business website actually is — a marketing tool. What needs to be improved is marketing. A business website must, therefore, be based upon, permeated by and used according to the most profound and powerful marketing principles. Does that sound like your current site? For the business strength and profitability you want, you may need to improve three areas:

1. Strategic Planning to make every component of the site, and tactic for its use, as powerful as possible, and to integrate the use of the site most effectively within your current business and marketing plan.

2. Content development: Crafting the site as a marketing and service/product delivery tool.

3. Effective promotion to bring high-quality prospects.
So in summary, we have FIVE key components for an effective website: Strategic Planning, Content Development, Design, Technology, and Promotion. Strategic planning is arguably the most “supercharging” component, and is frequently the most neglected. But “strategic” is a word often misused. It is not just a big tactic, or a collection of tactics, or the latest “cool and sexy” tactic. Truly strategic planning can make a difference to the power of everything you do that is like the difference between a handful of flashlights and a laser.
Something I like to remind clients of: You are not WEB marketing; you are MARKETING on the Web. In other words, the key word is not “web”, it’s “marketing”. The effectiveness of almost ANY website will be enormously improved by the inclusion and ongoing implementation of proven, powerful marketing principles. The potential return, in terms of business building and profitability, is staggering.

Author:  Michael Linehan is the founder of Marketing Alchemy. Based in Sooke BC, Marketing Alchemy brings together strategic marketing principles and the power of the Web.