By Chad Carr
President, Rainmaker Consulting
Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part installment. In Part 1, Carr explains paradigm shifts brought on by the Internet. In Part 2, he addresses the need for retail operations to recapture prospects lost to the Internet. In this installment, Carr addresses the issue of making sure people can find you online.
The first step in any marketing program is to let people know you exist. You can’t build a relationship with a potential buyer until they first know about you and your company.
Traditionally, retailers would use advertising such as television, radio and newspapers to reach out to the consumer with a message about their products. Once people knew about you, those who were interested in your RVs could call or visit your sales center.
Today, 84 percent of your potential buyers are using the Internet to search for their RV and they are much more likely to visit your website than they are to visit your sales center. As a result, if you want to generate prospects, you have to learn how to get people to find your website when they start looking for information on RVs.
Unfortunately, very few of the old methods of reaching out to customers are going to work online. You will need to learn new ways to get your message out to your prospects. In this article, we are going to explore seven different methods that you can use to help your prospects find you online.
Search Engine Optimization
Very few people will find your website by actually typing in your web address. Instead, they will type some key words into a search engine and rely on the results from that search to guide them to a relevant website. Almost all of these searches are done using one of the two big search engines, Google or Yahoo.
Ideally, when a customer types in words like, “RVs for Sale” or “RV Dealers” your company would come up near the top of the list and they would then click on your website. In the real world, it is very unlikely your company is going to be anywhere near the top when a customer searches on these generic terms.
A recent Google search on “RV Dealers” resulted in over 7.5 Million results. The odds of your company being in the top 10 of those millions of results are very slim. The companies that are at the top spend a lot of time and money getting there (I know of one that spends about $70,000 per month).
Most customers will visit a few of these first listings, but if they don’t find something relevant quickly, they will do a search with more words to narrow down the results. Searches such as “RV Dealers Nashville” are called “long-tail searches” and they will return fewer results.
You can certainly find a combination of words in a long tail search that will result in your company showing up near the top of the search engine. For example, if you search for “Chad Carr Rainmaker Software Davenport IA” I will look like the most famous guy on the Internet. Unfortunately, most of your customers aren’t going to know the exact combination of words you want them to type.
You can spend a ton of money on search engine optimization (SEO), and still never make it to the top of the list. There will almost always be someone who will do a better job than you. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make your site look good to the search engines. Here are the basic things you should always be working on to make yourself more attractive and therefore easier to find:
Have lots of high quality, relevant content. The search engines want to see your website talking about the things the customer is searching for. Don’t just have the name “RV” in your title, but actually talk about RVs and specific types of RVs on your pages — a lot. Remember to use the words your customer is likely to use. You may like “folding camper,” but if your customers use “pop-ups” you need to use that language on your site.
Try to have lots of people link to your site. The search engines like to see other people linking to your site. You can do this by having reciprocal agreements with your vendors, getting your name on industry listings, and having your manufacturer’s and associations list your site on their web pages. You can also get your name in the news with links to your site, sending out press releases or writing a column for the local paper will get your name out there on the Internet. You also want to have your site mentioned on blogs and in social media postings.
Get people talking about you online. Every time your site is referenced by other people online, it will help the search engines to think you are popular and that will increase your ranking. When you post something online, make sure your mention your website, but also try to find ways for other people to do the same. Give people something to talk about and share with their friends. As information is passed around the Internet, it will help your site become easier to find.
In most areas, if you do a search that includes the name of your city, you will see a listing of “Local Business results for _________” with the blank being the key words you typed into the search. These listing are posted by the people who sell yellow pages advertising and really are one of the last remaining benefits yellow page sales people have to sell.
These directory listings are a very good way for your business to be found online because the people at the yellow pages put their expertise and money behind getting these listings high in the results.
The next time you talk to your Yellow Pages salesperson, talk about their online directory listing and find out how to get listed. Make sure you understand what key word combinations will bring up your company in the listings. They should at the very least be the same as the headings you are under in the phone book. Also, make sure the link they post goes to your actual web-page and not some generic page they have designed for you.
Ad Words & Sponsored Links
When you do a Google Search you will see listings at the top and side of the results which are called “Sponsored Links.” You can buy this placement through an online bidding process called “AdWords.”
With a Google AdWords account, you can select key words you think your customers will use to find you and then bid on how much you will pay if someone clicks on your listing. Those people who bid the highest will get listed at the top and while they don’t pay just to be listed, they do pay every time someone clicks through to their website.
Ad Words scare a lot of people because they might have to bid pretty high to get listed near the top. It will cost you at least one dollar per click to be listed near the top for the search term “RV dealers,” for example. However, you can control how much you want to spend and when you hit that limit your listings will stop appearing so you can control your costs.
The vast majority of people do not click on these sponsored links. Instead, four out of five people click on the “organic” search results listed below the sponsored links. However, being listed on the sponsored links gets your name in front of customers who will see your “ad” and your web address.
As a result, AdWords can be an inexpensive way for you to get your website in front of people because you only pay if they click through. So don’t be afraid of AdWords. You can sign up and experiment with these for very little money and with some trial and error you should be able to increase your presence online.
Managed Ad Word Accounts
There are several companies who will promise to get you listed at the top of Google and Yahoo. These companies are essentially promising to manage your AdWords for you for a flat fee every month to make sure you are always at the top of the sponsored links.
In theory there is nothing wrong with this. The problem is that most of these companies will lie to you about what they are doing. They will tell you they have some special relationship with Google or that their volume helps get them listed at the top. They will also tell you it is not pay per click advertising. None of these things are true.
What these companies are doing is estimating how much they will have to spend on AdWords to keep you at the top of the sponsored links, marking that estimate up (usually a lot) and telling you they will do it for a fixed fee. Because very few people click on these links, they get to keep most of the money they collect.
To their credit, they will deliver what they say they will deliver — you will be listed at the top of the sponsored links if you sign up with them. But you can do this yourself for a fraction of the cost if you are willing to do just a little bit of work to manage your own AdWords.
Third Party Leads
The biggest problem with all of the methods I have listed above is not that they are expensive or time consuming (although they can be both), but that there are no guaranteed results.
You could have thousands of people find you in a search, hundreds of people click through to your website and dozens of people spend time on your site and still end up with no leads. There are several companies who will take the risk out of this equation by providing you with leads they gather on the Internet.
These companies do all the work to get listed near the top of the search engines, they buy the key words and place the advertisements and you don’t have to pay for any of that. You only pay when they deliver a lead to you.
This happens when a customer clicks onto their site (remember they tend to be at the top of the search results so they get a lot of clicks), and then requests information from a local dealer. The customer enters their contact information such as their name, phone number, e-mail, etc., and then the company sends that information to you.
Your salespeople then contact that lead (this is not a cold call, the lead has asked for someone to contact them) and starts trying to build a relationship with that prospect.
I am a very big fan of this approach. I have many clients who have sold a lot of RVs to leads they got through these third party companies and I have seen these leads close at the same or higher ratios than the leads that walk into sales centers. I am not in business with any of these folks, but I have clients who work with them, so if you need help finding someone good to work with, give me a call at 800.336.0339 or send me an e-mail at chad@GetRain.com.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are the fastest growing segment of the Internet. Facebook, for example, has already added more than 400 million users. There is an entire generation of people who are growing up thinking that Facebook and the Internet are the same thing and I recently saw an article titled “Is Facebook the new Internet?”
Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook; however, there are millions of people who use it as their primary Internet experience. Many of these people are your potential customers.
Social media can work for you in several important ways:
- Your social media postings can help increase the number of times your website is found by the search engines which will increase your rankings.
- People will pass your name along their social “network” introducing you to more potential buyers.
- Many people search Facebook and other sites instead of searching through Google.
- Social Media provides a way for you to stay in touch with those prospects you have met online so you can increase your visibility to them when they are ready to buy
In my next (and final) installment of these series, we will explore in more detail how you can use social media to keep connected with your customers. If you can’t wait another month to get started, contact me to ask about our free webinar – Unlocking the Secrets of the Internet.
Chad Carr is the president of Rainmaker Consulting, a second-generation family business that provides retail management software and consulting services for the RV, trailer and housing markets.
Rainmaker works with dealers ranging in size from five to six people up to some of the biggest and most well recognized names in the industry. To register for their free newsletter, click here.