“Wrong,” you say. “We’ve got hundreds of varieties of, well … heuchera!” But for most customers, a heuchera is just another plant with a name they can’t pronounce. However, it becomes more than just a name when you tell the story. They become meaningful when you explain, teach and inform. So if you are still selling plants, you are missing the bigger picture.
One of the main reasons people come to you is (I know, you’ve heard it before) to either solve a problem or to seek escape (a more beautiful life). Either way, they need your help. Your help is the years of experience, plant knowledge and design ideas that make you different from your competition.
Share Your Experience
The experience you possess doesn’t amount to anything unless you are able to share it. However, years of patterned behavior have put too great a distance between you and your customers. You see, advertising and marketing is the process of telling your story. I know, we all get caught up in the “story” part, but the “story” is an encapsulation of what your business is all about. Unless you are encouraging a response from your customer (what ad does that?), you are just talking to yourself. This type of monologue has been going on for years, or at least since the 1970s.
But it isn’t the ’70s, is it? There are better ways to connect with retailers and consumers. Web sites are one of those rare opportunities to create a marketing message that “interacts” with the audience. You publish information on your Web site and people can point and click, mouse and move, e-mail and, better yet, even buy stuff. So if your Web site is still being managed by that friend of a friend, buddy, best customer or whoever, it is time for you to get involved. What separates a good Web site from a so-so one? You guessed it — content!
Concentrate On Content
When you take a close look at your Web site, there are a few points to concentrate on:
– Content. The reason people will come (and come back) to a Web site is fresh content. Is your site current? Up to date? Does it have information or access to information that might be helpful?
Your Web site is a great way to establish yourself as the expert. Think about contributing an article or editorial to your site. Look at it this way: You can talk to one person at a time, or you can put it out there for tens of thousands to read.
Does your Web site create opportunities for visitors to interact with you? Can they ask questions? Get directions? Make it easy for people to contact you. In many respects, you are your business. Initiate an “Ask The Expert (you)” section. Respond quickly to questions. Add a sign-up form for follow-up e-mails.
– Images. Let’s face it, a picture is worth a thousand words, but a great image is priceless. Web sites need a careful blend of information and eye candy. People are inspired by beautiful photos of beautiful gardens. Where do you find them? With the number of stock photo Web sites, it is easier than ever to get access to great imagery and graphics. Digital cameras are great, but you might want to get a few pointers to make sure you are presenting your best self.
– E-Mail Newsletter. A monthly e-mail using a tool such as Constant Contact will keep your customers in the know about your latest business news and will drive traffic to your Web site and blog. Make sure you create as many opportunities for readers to link back to your site.
– Blog. This is one to think about down the road. You see, spam filters are going to continue to impact e-mail deliverability. The answer is RSS (reader subscriber service) feeds. Ultimately, people can subscribe to feeds that will automatically update them when you publish a post to your blog. Of course, you can also post video feeds, audio tracks, etc. When you think about it, you can create your own TV and radio ads directed to your customers. You have to think about building visitors and readership now! This will be the best way to reach your customers in the future (which is not that far off). See the Sunrise Marketing blog at www.sunrisemarketing.com/blog. Blogs are a great way to establish a casual, more comfortable dialogue.
– Speed. People might read blogs, but scan Web sites. They see with their mouse. Use bullet points, bold fonts and color, but be careful with underlining (underlined text can be confused with links). This can help your readers get to the good stuff. Keep your visitor moving; make the navigation simple and easy to understand.
Under The Hood (The Techy Stuff)
– Keywords. Create a list of words and phrases important to your site. The best way to find out which words are important is to take a look at the source code of sites you like (on your browser go to “view,” “page source”). Within the first paragraph or two will be a listing of keywords, descriptions and meta tags. Take your list and then run them through a tool such as WordTracker, the Google keyword tool or Yahoo Overture Keyword Selector Tool to see what the volume of search activity is and find alternative phrasing to add to your list.
– Searchability. Keywords are important in tags, but the important part is to make sure the keywords you select are represented in the content of your page. That means the title of the page, plants.html rather than annuals.html; (nobody searches for “annuals,” they want “plants”). They should also appear in the headlines (specified headlines) of the page, and of course, in the content of the page. You can also increase the relevance to keywords by clearly naming your images — e.g. echinacea_plants.jpg rather than per_18.jpg).
Of course, there are probably a hundred other ideas that you could come up with — one of the benefits of a blog! Read my blog and tell me what you think!