It's almost 2010, onlyfive more years until we are in the time equivalent of Back to the Future Part II with hover boards, flying cars, and food hydrators. One thing they did not highlight in BTTF II is the Web. So let's get back to the fact that it is 2010, and lets face it, if you don't have a website as a business you are hurting for dozens if not thousands of potential leads. So where does your website stand on the chronological equivalent of keeping up with the times?

  • Business w/ No Website = Beginning of Time
  • Business w/ Just a basic website = Early 20th Century
  • Business w/ a Website that works for them (aka a web marketing tool) = 2010 and beyond.
What is a website that works FOR you? Let's first change our nomenclature. A website that works for you is a web marketing tool or web application, a website that doesn't is just a website. So now let's talk about web applications. How does one make a website become a web marketing tool? This actually takes quite a bit of intellectual thought, especially for some businesses that don't have the capabilities to sell their product online, or so they think. My goal today is to provide some thought provoking questions so one can assess where a particular business might stand on the pillar of web application or just a website.

1. Can the product or service be purchased directly online?

If yes, then great, this is now the easiest path to make your web application work for you. If not currently today, is their a way for you to? I have had the luxury and the opportunity to work with a few clients that were looking for creative ways to turn their product into an online sales mechanism...and it does work! The hard part is now your ability to direct traffic. This is certainly an effort that takes a lot of ground work to get started, but once you build a solid foundation through some good PPC and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), the rewards will be online sales while you are counting sheep. PPC and SEM are about 983 blog posts themselves to try and educate even the average savvy user. With that being said you have 3 options: hire a professional (hey, lifeBLUE does that), do it yourself (not a bad way to get started when you are cash conscious, but very time consuming), or don't do it all and just let your site sit there in the vast junkyard of ROI-less websites (I may be biased but I don't recommend the last one).2. Can your website obtain leads directly online?

Whether you are consumer direct or B2B, is it feasible for visitors to submit their information to you via some type of contact form, chat system, or call back function? This is probably the category where most businesses go wrong. You have seen the sites w/ Home, About, Services, Contact Us. There is nothing wrong with the actual navigation per se, short, direct...sweet. However, most websites don't use dynamic contact and multiple connection points to integrate their website into a working web application. A few things you should think about and/or check for in this category:

  • How often are you updating your content and is it relevant? Or does it just look like the site was built 3 years ago and the HTML dust is so thick you can barely see your monitor? Having a tool that allows you to keep your content fresh and current gives users the satisfaction that there actually is a man behind the curtain and serves as credibility. News updates, blog posts, or any other ideas that give chronological relevancy to your business is key. Make sure your content is attractive and shows the value of conducting business with you. Think of it as if you had 30 seconds to gain someone's attention (and its not even that long) what would you say knowing you would not have any opportunity for a rebuttal?
  • How are you attracting potential leads? Does your site have conversion points on every page that funnel your traffic to the desired goal? Are you using a variety of methods such as short forms, live person technology, brochure requests, call requests, and a plethora of other metrics to ensure that you have done everything possible to attract their attention and give them the opportunity to do business with you? The answers to these questions speak for themselves.
3. Your company doesn't sell directly to end customers and there aren't really leads to be attracted online.

This category is a catchall that regardless of what category, a business can gain some benefit from these ideas. At the LB we occasionally come across a business that only has 2 or 3 large clients and aren't necessarily seeking new business but would welcome it if the right client came along. Regardless there are many ways to make your website work for you that is not necessarily sales or web based, or even if it is, you can still profit by providing value added services by making it a web application. You can save costs, man/woman hours, and headaches by using a variety or all of just a handful of the following ideas:

  • Online support system for current clients.
  • Login functions where clients can manage their account information and communicate w/ customer service.
  • A way for clients to login and obtain information only suitable for clients.
  • Create a network for your customer base to communicate and interact with each other (Very good for nicheindustries).
  • A login control where customers can actually manage their product, shipments, and other details.
  • I could go on and on...have more ideas, call us or comment!
Hopefully this post has electrified some light bulbs or at least gave you some thinking material for your next restroom break. The bottom line is that everyone with a website or a web application has the opportunity to expand their product, service, lead generation, or value added services online, the possibilities are limitless.