Don’t Sell to Visitors From Corporate HQ

Are you trying to sell to your customers from your headquarters? If so, you’re shortchanging your customers — and yourself.

Imagine you, a potential consumer of products or services from the Gap, GE, Citigroup, and Verizon, walked into the headquarters of each firm. Your experience would be vastly different from that provided by a selling environment painstakingly designed to cater to your needs while moving you toward eventual purchase. If such environments are well-designed, they’ll offer just the right amount of information in both retail and B2B (define) touch points.

Yet many SEMs (define) use their existing sites to sell to searchers along with everyone else. Each searcher has a unique set of needs, but receives an identical user experiences. This approach may not seem bad for, which is first and foremost an online store. But if your site has evolved from static brochureware, it’s difficult to shake off the trappings of those original sites, particularly when a Web presence has to serve multiple constituents.

Your site may have been originally designed (and perhaps redesigned several times) to address the information needs of prospects, returning customers, the press, analysts (investment or industry), your reseller, the distributor channel, your in-house staff (as a resource), investors (if public), and perhaps influencers (who don’t purchase, but can influence the sale).

Search is critically important for most businesses, because people are increasingly using search engines at every stage of the buying cycle. If search is important for your business, you should probably stop selling to your search visitors from your headquarters. Start thinking like them, and design a user experience that balances your need to sell against their desires to select the best solution for their needs.

While nearly every marketer understands the strength of my argument, internal obstacles often conspire to prevent them from taking appropriate action. Many protest that their IT departments and tech teams are resource-constrained and that it might take years to add additional pages to their sites. Fortunately, microsites allow you to provide a more personalized user experience without imposing any real burden on your internal operations.

The Microsite Solution

A microsite is a search-specific Web presence that includes features and functionality appropriate for targeting searchers. It’s highly likely that you’ve seen some microsites yourself, particularly if you’ve searched within education, credit card, mortgage, cable/satellite, or cell phone markets. B2B and general lead-gen markets are also chock-full of highly focused microsites providing minimal distractions and just enough information to get visitors excited.

Microsites need not involve your IT department at all (assuming you have the latitude to test marketing campaigns without their blessing). Most search marketing agencies have departments, technology, and expertise specifically designed to help marketers develop such microsites. Even if your IT team is fully behind your microsite project, it may still make sense to use the tools and technologies developed by your search agency instead of pulling together what you need from different technology vendors and having your IT team integrate everything together for the first time.

Search marketing agencies aren’t the only players offering expertise in deploying microsites. Performance-based and lead-generation firms have made great strides in developing them. Many affiliate marketers have also become quite accomplished at developing and deploying microsites.

How Your Microsite Can Leverage Search-Specific Selling

Microsites eliminate unnecessary navigation, particularly the kind that threatens transforming your selling/prospect marketing site into your headquarters. You can likely dispense with such content sections as “Press,” “About Us,” “Employment/Jobs,” and other superfluous links and navigation, which your prospects will have little interest in.

You may wonder what makes a search-focused microsite different from a traditional media-focused microsite. After all, the same rationale that’s generally important for a microsite is equally valid for any sales and marketing-focused site. Some factors that are often unique to a search-specific microsite are:

  • Ability to leverage search scent. Searchers are looking for something very specific. A microsite can effectively use customization technology to serve up a landing page that meets the searcher’s specific needs.
  • Engine-specific or geo-specific offers. Knowing the originating engine or geographical location lets you provide an optimized marketing message.
  • Buy-funnel messaging. Searchers in the early, middle, or late stages of the buying funnel use different keywords. Your microsite should be programmed to automatically serve up customized messages to effectively move them through this funnel.

Right now, with the economic climate increasingly uncertain, you can use all the conversion leverage and sales volume you can get. But you may need to invest a bit of time and money to create a PPC (define) search user experience that embraces the searcher’s intent, instead of ignoring it. There’s no better time to marshal your resources (internally and externally) and use a microsite to pump up your conversion rates.

Join us for SES Search Engine Marketing Training Day, September 26 at the Fairmont Dallas.

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Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.