When distributors invest in something, they expect a return, particularly in terms of revenue. But the return on e-commerce requires patience and additional work. "Building and launching a site does not automatically translate into success," Real Results Marketing's Dean Mueller and Jonathan Bein write in the 2017 State of E-Commerce in Distribution: How Marketing Guides Performance.
In the six years that MDM has partnered with Real Results Marketing on the annual State of E-Commerce in Distribution survey, we've been able to see the channel advance toward maturity. And each year we hear that many distributors are looking for ways to reduce the timeframe for achieving it.
Ask yourself: How are you driving customers to your site? Most distributor respondents indicated that they were still relying on field sales reps to drive demand to their e-commerce option, but more are also investing in search engine optimization (SEO) and in improving results from organic search. Distributors ranked SEO/organic search as the second most effective channel for driving demand in this year's survey, up from No. 4 last year.
Search engine optimization is the process of improving your website in ways that make it more visible and attractive to online search engines, such as Google and Bing. And "it requires an ongoing, consistent effort to achieve results," notes Bob DeStefano in Old Dog, New Clicks: Online Industrial and B2B Marketing Know-How for the 21st Century.
Start by understanding what your customers want. Get your team together and ask them:
- What problems are our customers trying to solve?
- How would we describe what we provide to a novice in our industry?
- What do customers do with our products?
- How do they look for those solutions? What words or phrases do they use?
Once you have a list, visit Google and see where you rank in the results when you search for the words or phrases. If you're not on the first page, chances are you won't be seen. In fact, if you're not in the top half of the first page, your odds of being found diminish greatly.
It pays to invest in SEO to improve how customers find you, but it also pays to invest in the internal search function on your site. Your customers are busy; they want to be able to find what they're looking for quickly.
Get more tips for improving your online marketing strategy in Old Dog, New Clicks: Online Industrial and B2B Marketing Know-How for the 21st Century.
Read more on the results from this year's distribution e-commerce survey in 2017 State of E-Commerce in Distribution: How Marketing Guides Performance.