Organizations are increasingly channeling the power of the web to advance their marketing strategies. Even in these times, customer acquisition remains top-of-mind for key managers, but it should never be the sole business objective or the basis for a long-term strategy. Frost & Sullivan has seen that a majority of companies fail to plan beyond customer acquisition when designing their web strategies.
Keep in mind the three elements of the web-based marketing cycle:
- The ability to acquire customers
- Serve them well
- Leverage their continued engagement as a foundation upon which to grow
This acquire-serve-grow cycle enables an organization the ability to provide customers with welcoming, informative and positive user experiences in an online environment. As customers spend more time on the web, it is critical to understand this life cycle as it relates to online experiences.
Defining Strategies Based on Business Goals and Maturity Level Assessment
It is essential for companies to know where they are now, where they want to be and what steps they need to take to get there. No two businesses, even within the same industry, have the same resources and market goals. Companies that can take an honest look at the current status of their websites in terms of design, function and effectiveness and can see a direct correlation between proposed actions and expected results will approach the enhancement and evolution of their web properties most effectively.
Web strategies should be considered strategic priorities and viewed as key corporate investments; no matter where a company is along the maturity spectrum, building and improving upon the success of a company's web properties should be a competitive and strategic business imperative.
Throughout this series, the Frost & Sullivan digital media team will look at how companies can evolve their web-based marketing strategies to fuel continuous growth and exceed their own expectations. This paper will explore the first level of maturity in online marketing, focusing on the engagement level of effective web-based marketing strategies.
Acquire: The Foundation for Your Web Strategy
Customer acquisition should be a key strategic objective instead of a one-off tactic. A calculated customer acquisition strategy is the first move organizations need to consider when implementing a web-based marketing strategy that will deliver both near-term success and enable future growth. A company also needs to choose the right strategies, tools and solutions to allow for future evolution and sophistication.
Web Experience Management (WEM) solutions currently offer a range of tools to help companies implement their web-based marketing strategies and acquire new customers. These include search engine optimization (SEO), brand management solutions, content development and management and web analytics tools.
SEO efforts are critical in enabling effective search engine results. There are standard structural criteria companies employ within their website designs to improve the positioning of their online properties in search returns. Simple elements such as short, memorable domain names (web addresses), keyword or select phrasing, meta-tagging or paid placement may improve search or page rankings.
In recent years, more sophisticated SEO tools have been developed that more accurately reflect both the content of the website and reduce the likelihood of deceptive redirection practices. Companies can employ specific and targeted content taxonomy and metadata to ensure inclusion in specific search results, increase page rank relevance and provide more qualified hits. Further, popular sites to which many other sites actively link and that include high incidence of common keywords will raise overall page rankings.
Frost & Sullivan has found cases in which companies have used advanced search engine optimization techniques to build page traffic and have grown their site hits from 2,000 to 30,000 within a year's time. Also, click-through and usage pattern tracking can lead organizations to gain additional insight on user navigation practices. Page optimization can generate more direct click-throughs, providing organizations a greater opportunity to generate a successful customer outcome.
Building brand equity and consistency through an online strategy further strengthens marketing campaigns and fortifies positive brand perception among online visitors. By ensuring that consistent brand management is a central tenet of a web strategy, companies can deliver a unified message without increasing management overhead.
For instance, organizations that maintain multiple websites for international or regional offices, different product lines or subsidiaries or distinct market segment messaging have found that WEM programs paired with effective web strategies can ensure worldwide message consistency, brand protection and cost savings. For example, Frost & Sullivan has analyzed the web strategies of a large, 200-year-old pharmaceutical company that had operations in 18 global markets. Its implementation of a WEM solution enabled the reuse of content across myriad web properties and resulted in uniform market messaging throughout its numerous web holdings and product launches, yielding a 38% reduction in time-to-market.
Personal, engaging and interactive content on a company's website is central to capturing attention and retaining visitors. It is essential for companies to evaluate what message they're trying to get across to the visitor, what data, imagery and functions are necessary and what can be considered a distraction. Flashy, colorful and busy websites may grab attention, but if the site is not welcoming, intuitive or informative, the whole effort can be lost. Contrastingly, clean, uncluttered and easy-to-navigate landing pages guide visitors directly to the information or products they seek, show what actions they should take and create positive visitor experiences. Consistent and relevant content, tabs, links and graphics can go a long way to keep customers engaged, particularly so for first-time visitors.
Companies should be aware that content can come from all manner of users and span many content types, such as text, images and rich media. Key stakeholders across a company should therefore participate actively on design teams, collaborating on ideas and helping to ensure the website meets its full operational potential.
Real-world examples include sites like Amazon.com and ebay.com, which began as engaging websites with compelling content and simple ease-of-use designs and ideas. Each built upon their market success, customer loyalty and consistency to build ever more personalized, functional and lucrative web properties and are today among the most popular sites online. Similarly, it is not unusual for corporate and other non-traditionally media-intensive companies to build enticing and welcoming websites that include video or active graphics and that adapt to, capture and store individual visitor preferences. All of these create compelling, informative and user-friendly web experiences that enhance customer engagement and long-term loyalty.
The importance of using web analytics tools cannot be stressed enough. Web optimization tools, often available through WEM solution packages, apply real-time analyses to determine which design, features and functionality are most effective at attracting and keeping visitors, and web analytics analyze site traffic patterns, typical visitor activity and behavior and help companies gauge what aspects of their sites are working and which are not.
Such web analytics tools are integral to improving website performance and building upon existing success. The best solutions not only provide the tools to build the most appropriate analyses, they also include direction on how best to translate the results and implement the best design and performance changes to ensure a stronger long-term web strategy. The data gleaned from analytics tools are critical for companies to assess how visitors are interacting with the site and use that information to constantly refine the experience.
Part 2, to be released later this month, analyzes the next two steps: serving customers by engaging customer dynamics and growing the client/customer relationship via service, support and said dynamics.
Mukul Krishna is global director, Digital Media Practice, at Frost & Sullivan. Visit www.frost.com for more information.