Making Marketing Work for You — Sherburne
In my last column, I wrote about adding a multichannel communications element to your marketing efforts. By marketing your own business via multiple media, including print, you can show customers how print plays an important role in a multichannel communications strategy.
One element of a multichannel marketing strategy that is often overlooked and not well understood by many in our industry is the use of search engine optimization to make it easier for buyers to find you on the Internet.
You might wonder why that is important. Increasingly, the geographic boundaries once keeping print a relatively localized business are being smashed, thanks to the Internet becoming an integral part of the buying process for almost everyone. I am sure all of you have experiences with losing business to Internet-based companies, companies from other areas of the country, and even overseas companies.
The purpose of search engine optimization is to make your company more visible to not only help you retain existing customers, but to assist with customer acquisition as well. Managed correctly, this approach will also expand your geographic boundaries and can be the basis of a growth engine for your business.
Believe me, decision makers and buyers of print are busy using the Internet to find the best resources. Research conducted by market research firm IDC recently focused on the technology buying habits of small- and medium-sized businesses and highlights the extent to which executives in these businesses use the Internet.
Executives in small- and medium-sized businesses frequently wear many hats and are often involved in buying decisions for print, as well as buying decisions for technology.
The study found that executives and other personnel within small- and medium-sized businesses are on the Web for information gathering and research purposes for an average of 110 minutes per day, consulting the Internet more than they consult TV, radio, magazines or newspapers. In fact, according to the study, 34 percent visit technology vendor Websites every day and 59 percent use search engines on a daily basis. Thus, the Internet has become a critical customer acquisition tool whose value should not be underestimated. There are several ways to improve your visibility in Internet search results.
Search engines like Yahoo! and Google are constantly cataloging the vast amount of information contained on the World Wide Web. Searches can be very general or very specific, as you will know if you have ever “Googled” anything. And searches can yield tens of thousands of results. For a given keyword, the more frequently it appears on a particular Web page, the more likely it is that that page will appear earlier in the results.
Let’s face it, if your company shows up as number 5,433 in a search for business cards, few buyers will get that far. This type of search is called natural search. In addition to increasing the frequency of particular keywords that are relevant to your business within your Website content, it is also possible to embed a list of keywords in the site’s HTML coding that helps the search engines in their cataloging process and increases your chances of landing higher in the list. When someone finds your site through a natural search and clicks through, there are no incremental costs incurred.
You can also purchase banner ads on Websites that are likely to be visited by your target market, or a general site such as Verizon SuperPages. Banner ads generally carry a monthly service charge and an extra charge can be incurred if a visitor clicks through, whether or not they end up purchasing anything.
Finally, you can purchase or sponsor keywords with search sites such as Google or Yahoo! These companies host “keyword auctions” that allow companies to bid on a set of keywords. With the resulting “sponsored link,” you are only charged if someone actually clicks on the link, whether they buy or not. With the billions of searches that are performed each day around the world, you can see that a careful analysis of the return on investment for sponsored keywords is absolutely vital.
Once you acquire the right to use a particular keyword in a sponsored link, you can measure the results, and you can change the text that is associated with that sponsored link as many times as you want in order to increase both your click-through rate and the revenues that are generated as a result.
A number of printing companies have taken advantage of one or more of these approaches, with excellent results. Have you? Here are a couple of examples.
I recently spoke to Tim Simpson, owner of Quick Print Inc., an independent quick printing firm located in Saline, MI. Simpson indicated that while his company had historically served the local market, his vision was to become a national provider of printing services.
He took three important steps to make that vision a reality. First, he upgraded his two-color printing capability to four-color with the acquisition of a four-color press. He chose that route because he planned to focus on short-run color work, and he didn’t want to introduce the complexity of conventional four-color printing into the business. Second, he launched a new Internet-based business called DiggyPOD. And, finally, he invested in the purchase of search engine keywords to drive traffic to his site. His results? He reports that it was like turning on a faucet, and overnight new sales were coming in via the Internet.
Simpson candidly states that it can be a trial and error process to determine which search engines and which keywords work best. And he also found that he could control the volume of work coming in by how much he advertised. This is important, since the last thing you want to do is take in orders that can’t be produced due to utilization issues!
Firing Up the Engines
Another good example of a company that has successfully used search engine optimization and keywords to build its business is PsPrint, located in Oakland, CA. PsPrint is an Internet-only printing company that acquires customers through word of mouth and the results of Internet searches.
PsPrint not only purchases search engine keywords to increase its visibility on the Internet, but the company also does extensive analysis on the results it achieves from those keywords. PsPrint’s President Frank Young can tell you how many click-throughs he gets on each keyword, how likely it is that that click-through will result in an order, what the value of the order is likely to be and what the lifetime value of that customer is likely to be.
With this type of data at his disposal, he can make better decisions about his search engine keyword investments. He knows exactly what his ROI is for each and every keyword purchase.
Consider incorporating search engine optimization and keyword sponsorships into your marketing activities. The beauty of the Internet is that it offers you the opportunity to start small, and to change your methods and messaging at will until you find a formula that works. Then sit back and watch your business grow!
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known journalist, author and strategic marketing consultant working primarily with the printing and publishing industry. She is a frequent speaker at industry events, a regular contributor to industry publications and has written three books, available through the National Association for Printing Leadership (www.napl.org). Sherburne can be reached at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.