Turning to the Internet for success during a recession – Part 1 – Your Website

This is a cross-blog post from Network Solution’s Solutions Are Power website that I guest wrote. Originally posted on SolutionsArePower.com on April 15, 2009.

Timing seems to be everything these days. Just released on eMarketer.com was a report that indicated that with the economy the way it is, the best way small businesses are making do with less is to push their efforts online to make it last longer and have greater reach. And rather than simply blindly following the blind, these small businesses are choosing to be more selective in their online marketing programs, which is not surprising. According to the eMarketer study:

  • 17% of those asked said they would increase online activities for greater impact with less budget risk.
  • 15% said that they would change their marketing approach to be more focused and targeted.
  • 11% would conduct segmentation research to better target.
  • 9% would increase their lead generation activities & follow-up.
  • 7% would do more with less budget.
  • 4% would be more efficient, effective, and streamlined.

This study is really good news as businesses should not be spending their money on traditional means. Yes, we are in a recession and all budgets are tight so the goal is to maximize your reach while spending less but being effective. So let’s examine what possible roles the web can play for a small business.

Revisit your website. If you’re going to advertise your product to your customers, you obviously cannot put everything on the ad or list every other piece of information you want. You need to be clear and succinct in your messaging. Plus if you have multiple products, how exactly are you going to share them with your customers? Through a website, of course! During times of budgetary constraints, the best thing to do is to re-examine your website and make sure that it is optimized to achieve what you want. Graphic appeal is a big thing to get people to stay on your site, but perhaps most importantly is the functionality. If your intent is to have people come to your site and book a trip, buy your product, enter a sweepstake or to drop their name into your database so they can get more information about a certain topic or news, then you need to make sure that it functions how your customers want it to.

Don’t think that just because you have the functionality in place that it will work perfectly. Chances are it won’t. That’s what user testing is for. Yes, this type of additional testing is necessary but could exceed your budget. So rather than spending that money now (which I suggest would help in the long-run), you might consider crowdsourcing it – that is, have your customers offer you feedback and then you act on it. Don’t brush it off, but acknowledge the feedback and if it’s something plausible, then act. Otherwise, their feedback is pointless & you get negative credibility.

Integration of all your products, promotions, tools is highly critical. While I’m going to show you how to effectively incorporate the different web avenues like email marketing, social media, online advertising, etc, you’ll need to find a way to make it all have the end result of bringing people to your website and also pushing them to take advantage of these other tools.

Don’t be afraid to partner up with third-party vendors to make sure that your content is displayed how you want – it’s not necessarily an endorsement of their product, but it serves two purposes: you get the functionality that you want (whether it’s posting a presentation online in an interactive format or uploading a video of your product, etc.) and it’s also shareable, or viral. I’ll get more into that when we start talking about social media but you want to make sure that the information you share is portable. Remember, in this stage of the game, it’s not about emails and photos that can be spread faster than the speed of light. Practically anything you post online can be virally spread across the wonderful thing we’ve come to know as the World Wide Web.

Remember: everything comes back full circle to your website. Whether you’re promoting or communicating in social media, mobile, email, or through online banners & advertisements. In the end, your website will be the representative of your brand and company. Take pride in it. It will be your greatest asset to promote your products and increase your business.

NEXT TIME:

We’ll look at how targeted email marketing can be and how you can make the most out of the engagement. Email marketing is probably one of the most common form of communication these days and can have a lasting effect on your brand. Cheap to send, but important in making or breaking your budget. Don’t dismiss it. It can help generate big results and rewards for your bottom line.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."