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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Traffic, conversions and meaningful business

When someone asks me: "How can I get more traffic to my architectural, engineering or construction blog or website?", I'm tempted to throw out an answer: "Does it really matter?

Isn't what you really want are real clients who will purchase or use your products or services?"

This is especially the case if you are following the Marketing 101 principal and focusing on a specific niche. Since niches are either generally geographically or specialty focused and the Internet covers the whole world, you probably don't want "everyone" visiting your site and responding to you.

But the word "niche" also suggests quality is much more important than quantity -- you want to be top place within your community/space but ideally (from a marketing perspective) want to be nearly invisible to everyone else.

How important is this specialization?

Say you are a "management consultant". You might be great, and capable of working in all industries and sectors, for businesses of many different sizes. And theoretically, your world is the universe, since you can provide consulting services over the phone and by video link anywhere, any time.

But how are you (a) going to get any attention out of the clutter and crowd and (b) have enough credibility to truly be successful in presenting your generalist services to people who don't already know you.

Now, when you say you are a "management consultant to general contractors which are family owned businesses in North America", you have a better chance of success -- but even better might be "Safety consultant to contractors in Toronto, Ontario."

Next, once you have your niche, you need to go the next step, and build your reputation.

Here is where content really works wonders. I share several others' belief that you lose very little by being totally open about your ideas and insights, without worrying about giving away your "secrets". (Obviously I'm not talking about processes or technologies you are about to patent!) Seth Holdren makes the reasoning clear in his blog.

By posting articles, insights, and information on your website, starting a blog and updating it with content, and generally sharing your soul, you'll attain some authority and reputation, and begin "owning" your niche. (And yes, your search engine rankings will rise, and this will increase qualified traffic further.)

There is a final element to this problem, however, and frankly I haven't solved it yet. Say you have a niche, obtain lots of traffic, and can build a list of great names of potential clients. How do you convert these initial contacts, inquiries and interest into real business?

Sure, this blog has generated some business for my companies, but the revenue from it and the related newsletter tracks to less than 10 oer cent of our total annual earnings. (This is helpful, but can we improve the results?)

More challenging, of 1,000 people who put their names down on the list for more information or the free Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter, only one or two ultimately buy anything from us.

Of course, part of the reason is that I may have found a niche, but don't have the product or service its members require (except if you are at present in Ontario or North Carolina).

Does "Construction Marketing" require hands-on locally based consultations, or advertising in relevant media that we don't provide?

Do we have the credibility and proof that we can deliver more expensive services, for a fee, because of this blog?

Whenever I've overtly tried to sell anything through this blog or the newsletter, I usually achieve nothing but negative backlash.

Do you have ideas or suggestions of your own to solve this challenge?

Maybe you can help me solve this marketing puzzle.

2 comments:

Duane said...

Like you, Mark, I have thoughtfully considered this internet blog puzzle as I am sure millions of minds more powerful than mine have as well. Somehow it must come down to product and market but the connections are so hazy it's a very difficult thing to figure out. I get a lot of traffic related to a single post on hard hat colors. Go figure. I guess if I hooked up with a seller of hard hats and put their add on the page it might send some traffic to them, result in sales, and I'd get a cut. But that would only happen if the visitors to the hard hat page were looking to buy hardhats. Many, or maybe most, are just trying to answer a question that popped into their mind as they were driving past a construction site and saw two people with different colored hard hats on. So, what are they going to buy? Well, I guess if the desire is strong enough to find out what all the various hard hat colors mean then they might pay 10 cents to read the post. Otherwise, they'll probably move on the another search. In the end it just may be that the product is the writing, and rising to the point where people are willing to pay for your writing is the challenge.

Mark Buckshon said...

Duane, thanks for your observations.
I sense increasingly that if you are trying to link blogging or other online activities to direct sales, in most cases, you will find the experience frustrating and dissapointing (despite the scams out there promoting easy money on the web).
However, when you do your thing, and do it well, you achieve business results -- almost without effort.
In other words, it is perhaps like dating and personal relationships. If you really have to 'work' to make it happen, it doesn't. But if it doesn't seem like work, and it comes naturally, (even if it takes a long time), then the bonds form and the relationship builds.