In light of the growing reliance on digital tools to engage with customers today, distributors are updating or altogether redoing their websites; many are adding e-commerce functionality for the first time or upgrading the transactional functionality they already have.
It’s wonderful to see the growing focus by distributors of all sizes on the role of their websites in their go-to-market strategy. But what we frequently see is that distributors are often so focused on the aesthetic design of their websites, they forget about what matters most: the content.
Nearly all product searches start online these days, whether on a phone on the way to a jobsite, or a technician searching for a solution to her problem. As a result, your content is critical to drawing prospects to your website, converting prospects into qualified leads, selling more to existing customers, driving sales, establishing expertise and brand trust, and more. Don’t underestimate the importance of the words on your site.
Without effective content — marketing pages, product pages, blogs, case studies, testimonials, video, etc. — and a plan to organize, manage and distribute that content, your website won’t live up to its potential.
Here are three steps to ensure you’re building your website on a solid foundation.
1. Conduct an SEO Audit of Your Existing Website
Many companies are surprised when they see how few keywords they actually rank for on page one of search results. Redesigning your website is a great time to evaluate your current state: your traffic from organic search, keywords you’re ranking for, most popular pages on your site and so on. It’s at this time that you gain a clear view of the potential opportunities you have to improve. Sounds technical, but an SEO audit is simply a look at all the factors that affect your site’s performance on search engines like Google or Bing. An audit is critical to uncovering what may be keeping you from being found online.
Why is this important? If you put together some great resources but no one reads them, they aren’t going to do you a lot of good. You want prospects and customers to find your website when they’re searching for an answer to a problem you solve. Well-optimized content helps you do that.
An SEO audit can also give you a playbook for developing content that is relevant to the prospects you’re trying to reach; more importantly, it gives insight to the language they use in search queries as they seek answers to their most pressing problems.
Successful SEO is also based on a strong technical foundation — i.e.: Is your website fast? Do you have broken links? Is Google confused by your website? If you don’t pay attention to factors like these, all other efforts will not produce the results you’re looking for.
2. Align Your Online Presence with Your Offline Value
Too many distributor websites still represent a brochure rather than serve as a reflection of a distributor’s offline value online.
Some of this involves going back to the core of why you’re in business and why people do business with you. There are a lot of great consultants out there that can help you understand your differentiated value proposition. Then dig into what your customers care about most.
Companies tend to view content too linearly. Instead, shift your thinking to building a library of content and resources on your site that can be interlinked to provide your customers what they need to move forward in making a purchasing decision with you.
To do this, you have to understand who is most likely to be doing the searching — who are the decision-makers and, just as importantly, who are the influencers on the sale? And what do they care about? This is Marketing 101, but going back-to-basics is a powerful way to help you develop and organize the content on your website, including articles, manufacturer resources and benefits around what your target audience thinks about most.
3. Stop Thinking Product First
Take a look at your competitors’ websites. My guess is that a good portion of them have the same approach: Featured brands and product promotions dominate their homepage. It all depends on what the goal of their website is, but for most small and mid-sized distributors, an opportunity exists to break through the traditional marketing approach of Product First.
Your expertise does not lie in moving product (everyone can do that). Your expertise lies in what you know about that product – how it works, how it should be used and how it should be maintained. And you understand the customer: how they work and what their pain points are. Too much of industrial marketing is centered on product features. Think backwards from the point long before the sale and build your plan for your website content around that.
Don’t Put Lipstick on a Pig
Don’t just update your website because you think it looks dated. It may not be ideal, but there’s nothing wrong with an outdated look if the functionality and user experience is there. But the real reason for an update should be when your website is not delivering the results you want it to. If you just take what you currently have and put it in new packaging (something that is very common), you’re not going to get better results in the long run.
You want your website to perform better. To do this, make sure you build a solid foundation on which to base your website redesign decisions.
Lindsay Young is president of 3 Aspens Media, which provides content marketing and strategy services for companies that serve or are in industrial distribution and manufacturing markets. Learn more at 3aspensmedia.com or reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.