Sometimes there is a short way to achieve a great result. For instance, you may not need a website packed with pages of content and landing pages hanging off every navigation bar.

Success could be achieved with just one or two well written pages, a mean way of attracting prospect-laden traffic, and you are done. Situations that suit this minimalist approach are usually those in which you are trying to attract prospects who are making quick-fire decisions about who to choose. In this case, it’s all about ensuring you are easy to find and meet the minimum level of standards they have. Achieve these criteria, and things can come together quite quickly and quite nicely, thank you very much.

In this month’s client reviews I came across a range of success stories from people achieving great results in situations just like these. Each is “kicking butt” against their competitors in such a comprehensive way that they are struggling to keep up.

Anyway, when I looked deeper at how they got to where they are now I could see four smart moves they all made that had a big effect on their success. But before I share these four nuggets of success, here are a few short notes on each business.

Note to Factory: Please Send More Containers – FAST

The first is a home equipment distributor who operates in both NZ and Australia. They represent a high-end European manufacturer whose competitors are 30% cheaper but, fortunately,
come with a similar reduction in product quality.

They started with a limited budget, so decided on marketing just one product from the many on offer from the factory. For this product they settled on a customer niche for whom this was an ideal solution. And when I say niche, don’t think 10 or 50 possible installations – there are thousands of people in Australia who qualify as valid customers.

So, rather than try to spread their limited online marketing money across every product on offer, they focused on just the one and the particular juicy benefits it could offer for those hunting it out. Carrying on with this theme of “focus”, they contracted us to create a website just for this product. One page was all we started with – later we added a blog
to bolster up the site’s content. But responsibility for all the “selling” fell to a single page of HTML.

Now, most would load up this page with a barrage of alternative product pictures, add in some pricing and a means of contact and be done with it. But not in this case. First, we sat down and worked through the particular problems that ideal prospects would be facing and kicked off the page with a headline that spoke to this position.

Fortunately, these marketers were also very smart when it came to gathering customer testimonials. So, a few lines below the headline and introduction copy we added a section on customer stories.

Their market segment to product match was spot on. Those who bought the product were raving about how much safer it was compared with what they had used before. Customers made videos showing them using the product, complete with happy, smiling faces. It was a pleasure to see. Every time a new testimonial came in we added it to the page and conversion rates nudged up a bit further.

And the upshot of all this? Well, the last two containers of product shipped in from Europe are now all pre-sold and the task has moved from generating leads to having to negotiate with the manufacturers to get more in the next shipment. Quite a nice problem to have.

When all Work is Not Good Work

Our second story is closer to home and in a completely different market – professional services. This client came to us wanting more leads from their website – no surprises there. But in this case it wasn’t that they had no business leads coming through their site, it was just that the nature of the work this led to was wrong.

Yes, it paid the bills but it also came with a great deal of administration headache, which made it barely profitable to retain. But, as it was the only type of business that their existing lead generation could provide, they took it. However, it wasn’t the right mix of work to build the business in the direction they wanted, so they needed things to change.

Like most customers that come our way, they already had a website that required some renovation rather than replacement. We tweaked some pages, altered the structure of its navigation, and put more emphasis on places we thought prospects would find more interesting than others.

As was the case with the previous example, this client had gone through some market segmentation work themselves and knew exactly what type of customer they were looking for. We optimised the site for a range of search terms that Google’s keyword research told us suited this profile and we were away.

A few weeks later, and leads began to flow in from people looking for the type of work this client wanted. Things were looking good, so we decided to grab even more traffic for this market with a highly segmented Google AdWords campaign and the lead count bumped up even higher. All this started mid last year and in late January we all sat down to review progress. Good website marketing strategy paid off and it was all good news.

The low-margin work that used to fill up their workload now represented a minority of their work and was steadily shrinking even more. Replacing it were the high-margin engagements they had been wanting. The business had grown to a size they were happy with and now they had the luxury of becoming even more fussy about the type of engagements they accepted.

First Auckland, then Sydney and then the World

The last story is one of my favourites as it shows the global marketing opportunity available to some of us when things go well. This company operates in the home services market and originally came to us wanting help to grow the lead volume for just the Auckland business. Like the last two examples, they had settled on a particular market niche they were going after. In this case they didn’t have a website or any copy so, like the first example, we helped them here. It all started with just a few pages and a form. Nothing too extravagant.

The first few iterations of selling words were OK but not that amazing. So some market research was conducted and, within a month or two of the research feedback, we better understood the needs and desires of the market. With this new-found knowledge we altered the words on the site and the conversion rates started to rise.

The business grew and the client was able to collect a good selection of customer testimonials. These were sprinkled around the sales copy and conversion rates nudged even higher. Within a few months the lead flow from the site had reached a promising level – enough to support the needs of the Auckland operation.

Now that we were confident of our lead conversion capability we turned Google AdWords on – still just for this one region – and a tide of new traffic and new conversions started to come in. Now the wider growth plan started to roll out. Other New Zealand regions were established, each with their own new business, new website and new Google AdWords campaign. Other than a few regional tweaks, these were extensively copies of the original content. The success found with Auckland’s website marketing strategy seemed to transfer nicely into these new regions and leads flowed and the regions grew.

Australia was the next target. And guess what, the same process that made Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch a success was rolled out across cities like Sydney and Perth. Would the copy that talked to the needs and problems of New Zealanders transfer successfully across the Tasman?

Yes, was the resounding answer that the first month of conversion data revealed. The only difference was the volume – there was a ton more than we had originally envisaged.

So, what are the common themes of success that these stories demonstrate?

    I see four of particular note:

  • Define your niche.
  • Market to the needs of the audience it contains.
  • Serve your sales copy with good dollops of social proof.
  • Make yourself easily found.

Define your niche. The speed at which prospects browse the Internet makes it a ruthless place to market within. Present a “me too” product and/or service and you can expect prospects to click that “back” button in a nano-second. You can avoid falling into this trap by picking a niche and creating a website with the sole task of attracting and
converting people within this space.

So naturally, when you attract this market segment to your site, they will experience a message tailored just for them – a striking difference to competitor sites that are struggling to appeal to everyone and by doing so appealing to no one. (Following this strategy also makes the process of optimising your site for a smattering of keywords so much easier when you know the specific types of prospects you are after and their possible search terms.)

Market to the needs of the audience. It’s not what your product is that matters – its what it does. And what it “does” is usually purchased because it solves a particular problem your prospect has. In most cases they are looking to solve a problem – which they have been forced into translating in their own mind as requiring a product they are now looking for.

By talking to the problems your product/service helps to solve, you in effect remove this “translation” step and, by doing so, leave them the relatively easy task of noting if the problems you mention are the same as the ones they have. Which, if you have done your keyword research well enough, should be very likely and therefore should lead to a mutually satisfying ending.

Serve your sales copy with dollops of social proof. A website containing just your copy that says how you solve a certain type of problem is a good step. But supplement this with some customer stories that support this position – now that’s even better. And best of all? A regular stream of recent customer stories that are added into your pages – making your site carry more content from your customers than from yourself. Then things really start to soar.

Make yourself easy to be found. None of these success stories would be on this list if no one had found them in Google. And, yes, Google is still the big Gorilla here and in Australia and in fact across any market you want to promote online. So you need to be found. And not for the name of your business but for the search terms your prospects will use when looking for solutions to their problems. If they are more akin to visiting a website hosted in Australia with an Australian domain name rather than a New Zealand version, then that’s what you need to get ranked well for.

So IF you have a prospect audience that makes quick-fast decisions like these, then why not take these points as a simple summary of things you need to focus on in your online marketing strategy for 2011. If not, then there are other ways to build success – just call and I’ll take you through your road map to achievement.