Category Archives for "Site Promotion"

Using Your Niche Statement

A client, a voluntary organisation, raised a concern about marketing during their session this week.  Having a clear niche statement about what you are about, a proposition or elevator pitch, doesn’t it conceal information from prospective members or supporters?  I suppose the fear is without the detail, inquirers might feel they have somehow been fooled.

Obviously, it depends on how you handle things.  Marketing is not a value free activity and can be used for dishonest purposes.  The best marketing, however, is educational.  If you are seeking allies or genuinely want to offer help with a particular problem, then you need to set out your stall.  Those who use it to exploit make it more difficult for everybody.

Take the analogy of a shop front. You might have a window display with a written statement to encourage people to enter your shop. Once inside maybe 20 out of every 100 will make a purchase.  I haven’t chosen 20 for any particular reason.  It may be many more in some shops and a lot less when considering, for example, visitors to websites.

Shop Window

These 20 would not have entered the shop had they not seen what’s in the window. They don’t see everything you offer just enough to engage their interest.  You need the other 80 visitors because you don’t know which of the 100 will make a purchase until they enter the shop.

Of the 80, some

  • May return and make a purchase at a later date
  • May pass on the message to others who are interested
  • Satisfy their curiosity but decide it is not for them
  • Be actively disappointed by your offer

Your Website

The same dynamic applies online. Your website home page or social media presence act as a shop front. Other pages on the website explain and educate and make offers. Online the numbers may be somewhat more adverse. Maybe only a few percent will make a purchase or sign up to your email list. These conversions are what you want to increase. Those who sign up are equivalent to those visitors who make a later purchase or refer friends to your shop.

The aim online is to engage interest through your home page or social media, for example, and then draw those who are interested into your site where you can provide more information.  This extra information is important. This morning I looked at a site where I am likely to make a purchase.  I have so far not used their offer because their site lacks the detailed information I need to decide.

It is not easy to provide all the information visitors needs a format that is accessible and usable.  It’s best to make a start and then gradually make improvements as you receive feedback or gain fresh insights.  But you won’t get feedback until people visit your site and so there is no need to fear attracting them with clear statements about what your site is about.  Those who are interested will visit and some of them may stick around.

Your Relationship with Your Subscribers

This is the last in a series of five posts about promoting your website locally.

When people visit your site they will join your email list if they find your site content of  helpful.  So, you need to focus  on your offer to your subscribers.

You can offer additional material through an email sequence, email broadcasts or downloads (perhaps in a password protected part of your site).  Some sites charge and others offer content for free.  Offering free material to subscribers encourages them to join your email list.  This means you can tell them when you add new material to your site.

If visitors can comment then it is worth notifying your email list when there is something new to share.  Other reasons may be you want to recruit visitors to a cause or sell them a product or service.

Good content is also a reason for other sites to link to yours.  If people link their site to yours, this increases its chances of showing up in a search.  Links to pages and blog posts increase the online presence or authority of your site.  As more people visit your site, they are likely to sign up to your list.

Resist the temptation to link back to these sites unless you really want to recommend their content.  Reciprocal links have a mutual advantage as both sites experience increased traffic.  However there are two disadvantages to reciprocal links.  First, search engines ignore them because closely related sites often have this arrangement.  Also, if you have many miscellaneous links for no reason other than misguided politeness your site will become cluttered.

Take a back-link to your site as a complement, by all means acknowledge it and thank the people  who set it up but only return the favour where it will really help.

That completes my suggestions for now about increasing local traffic to your website.  There are more ways than the ones I’ve touched upon and I’ll return to the topic from time to time.  If you have any ideas, do share them in the comments.  This is a fascinating area and it would be good to build up a resource of ideas, especially ones that can be shown to work!

Manage your email list

This is the fourth in a series of five posts about promoting your website locally.

Lots of organisations have email lists and in the community sector they’re often kept in a spreadsheet or distribution list.

This is not sustainable.  As your list grows in size, your Internet Service Provider will think you’re spamming because you’re sending a few hundred emails at once.   Also if you are going to send a lot of emails, recipients should be able to unsubscribe.

So, you need to manage your list!  The big advantage is that once you have a list, you can grow your followers.  As people sign up to your site, you can alert them to new material as you put it on the site, remind them about events and offer them products or services.  This blog has an email service and if you look at the right hand column, you will see a sign-up form that links directly to an email service.  I don’t need to think about it, as the service does everything for me.  Sign up to see how it works.  You receive a weekly summary of this blog and an email sequence about community development.

You can do this through an email subscription service, where you can manage more than one list, whilst confident you are fulfilling the requirements of the law and etiquette.

If your organisation has a limited budget there is a good deal with MailChimp.  They allow you can have up to 2000 subscribers free of charge and you can send a maximum of 12 000 emails per month.  However, you can’t sequence your emails with the free offer and once you go over the limits it is marginally more expensive than other similar services.  So, go for this if you expect to stay small and just want to send newsletters and occasional emails.

AWeber charge from the start but they’re a little cheaper than MailChimp and include email sequences from the lowest prices.  This is probably the best service for medium to large lists, particularly if you expect to expand your activities.

Both services provide loads of guidelines about how to get the best out of them.  They generally simplify your lists and so they are worth exploring.

There are other email list services and you might want to check them out before you make a final decision.

Do you use an email service in the voluntary or community sector?  What offers do you make to your subscribers?

Find out What your Followers Want

This is the second of a series of five posts about promoting your website.  It may seem obvious and  few organisations do it.   Find out what your followers want.  We easily convince ourselves that we know what our followers want and it happens to be what we can provide!

Use your email list to invite comments or suggestions, eg to suggest products and services.   If you do this, be sure you sign people up to your list with their consent; if you collect email addresses for some other purpose and then sign them up, they have every reason to be upset.  When you ask for their email address, be clear about what you will do with it.

Finding Followers’ Views in Real Life

In a real-life business, followers can respond either online or in real life.  If they respond in real life, eg through a questionnaire, ask them to leave their email address to join your email list.

So, if you are a baker you might find out which types of loaf are popular, whether they would like recipes or how they would like you to extend your business, eg by adding a coffee shop.

You can ask people to discuss issues outside your business.  So, perhaps a community group wants to canvass opinions in the area.  The baker’s might offer to ask their followers for their views.  In return, the community group might have a list they can contact on the baker’s behalf?

The ground rules are:

  • At the very least acknowledge all serious contributions.  (A questionnaire in the shop may result in a brief report on a leaflet or poster; this could summarise both online and real life responses.)
  • If you pick up an idea, discuss it with the people who suggest it; acknowledge them in some way.
  • Use your list to help other organisations in your area, in return for their support promoting yours.  There is every reason for a local business to be supportive of local activities.

Charging for services is not always necessary; when it is, you can use your email list.  Don’t be afraid of people falling out with you if you make them an offer.  It isn’t compulsory to buy from you and whilst many on your list might not respond, if you build on the trust you’ve already generated, then it might work for you.   Those who are really upset can unsubscribe.

We need to be much more inventive about using online media locally.  The private sector is often distanced from community activities.  Do you have examples of how small businesses have participated in community activities?

Promoting Your Website Locally

You have a website and you want to promote it.  Simply putting good content up is little use if no-one sees it.

If you are a local group or business, you have a several advantages.  Organisations with a national or global reach are solely dependent upon online techniques to promote their site.

Locally you have a geographically constrained market and so should be able to reach a high proportion of it.

If you serve 20 000 people, your appeal should be to those people.  An email list of 2 000 people should be possible, with focused effort.  If the quality of what you’re offering is high, word of mouth should help you build your list further, that is people will forward information online and talk about it locally.  Even a smaller list might have significant penetration into your community depending on your offer and willingness of your followers to pass on your communications.

Here are some ways to invite people to visit your site.  At every opportunity:

  • Publish your url.  Business cards are always helpful and if you have a base or shop window, use posters and flyers.  These can be left in public places and promoted by partner organisations.
  • Ask for email addresses.  If you hold meetings ask people to leave their email addresses.  You must explain the addresses will be added to an email list.  This is a very effective way of ensuring people hear about your activities.
  • Ask subscribers to forward your emails or pass on your url.  If they like what you’re doing they may still need to be prompted to pass on information.  Often people who can’t support you by taking up your main offer, eg they can’t afford it, are happy to help in some other way.
  • Give stuff away online.  It should be informative and entertaining.  The aim is to build a relationship with your subscribers so they are likely to respond to your requests for support or offers of products and services.  Tie your online offer into your business, eg recipes with a special offer on the ingredients.  The recipe could also be given away in your shop, so people can buy a pack with the ingredients at a special rate.
  • Consider giving real life stuff away.  Invite people to sign up and receive special offers from your business.  For example, if you run a café, offer a free cup of tea with a sandwich.  This will need careful planning.  Be clear exactly what your offer is and how people will qualify to claim it.  You can of course use your list to tell subscribers about offers open to the public.
  • Promote someone else’s business.  If there is another local business and think they have a good offer, consider promoting them on your email list.  So, if you are a hairdresser, you might offer a 10% discount to your list for the local café.  The café would cover the cost of the discount.  You need to be clear whether the discount is for people on your list or your active customers.  Your customers will be grateful for the discount and the café might promote your service to their list in return (if they have one!)

If you are not a business, it may be interesting to find out whether local businesses would be willing to promote your cause.  Would your members support a café that publicised your cause to their customers?  Has anyone tried this?

So, there’s a few ideas.  Have you tried or thought of trying other approaches?  Has anyone got a list that’s large and very local?  How did you do it?

What Makes Content Compelling?

Of the many things you must consider to be successful in your marketplace online, perhaps the most important is good content.  Scratch that – the most important thing is excellent content!

If your content is excellent, you need not worry so much about search engine optimisation (seo) because people will find their way to your site.  OK you may need to do some seo and conversion testing, that depends on what you’re aiming to do but with good content you’re almost there.

That’s the claim and we need to question it!

It’s certainly true if your content is compelling then you have the foundation you need for your site.  People will recommend your site, place links on their site to your site and so help you build your following.  This is a long haul strategy; you may have to post regularly for as long as 2 or 3 years to build up the site authority you need!

So, simply posting good content is unlikely to be enough.  It’s foundational but it’s worth considering what you can do to promote your content.  With some of the following you need to have made a start and have something for people to read.  They are strategies for the long haul but remember every organisation is different and sometimes there are opportunities to do things quicker!

  1. Find out what your market wants and meet their wishes on and off site.
  2. If your site is local then promote your site offline and locally.
  3. Collect contacts’ email addresses and build an email list.
  4. Encourage visitors to your site to join your email list.  Offer some good reasons to join it.
  5. Encourage your subscribers to link to your site and recommend your activities.

In future posts I’ll address each of these in turn.  And I shall write about the content itself in the fullness of time.  Please share your ideas and examples of good content in the comments.