Win big business with a dot com

The web can be a vital marketing tool for your business. Here’s how to do it...

All of your marketing online and offline should be tied to your company website.

All pieces of company literature, including business cards, advertisements,
letterhead, e-mail, company vehicles, packaging, promotional items, employees
outgoing messages, signage around and within buildings, thank you cards, etc.,
should contain your website address.

You do have a website, don’t you?

Online shopping is no longer a novelty you can afford to ignore, for it has
become a mainstream commodity.
You may be tempted to focus on offline ads and leave the online stuff for later.
Resist that impulse.
Every small business needs a website now more than ever, even if it’s
only an interactive business card.
Everyday, more and more consumers are putting
down the Yellow Pages and using the Internet to locate and research the products
and services they want and need to purchase.

Still not convinced?

Another way to think of it is that these educated consumers are interviewing
prospective service providers online. Will they find you or will they find your
competitor? No question about it if you have a business, you should have a website.
It doesn’t matter if you are a one-man show, a family-run business, a
multi-truck operation or a building service contractor; if you don’t have
a website you are losing money to your competitors that do.

Exude professionalism Simply having a webpage is not enough.
A professional looking site is an absolute necessity. It is important that your
business is portrayed in a manner that appropriately reflects the quality of
service you provide. A well-designed, professional looking website will project
the image and professionalism necessary in today’s business market. A
poorly designed website could potentially hurt the success of your company.
Good or bad, your site speaks volumes about your company and is often your first
impression for a potential customer.

Getting your company online offers a great opportunity to provide information,
making your website your extended staff. Your company website is there to answer
questions any time, day or night, and can fill in the additional information
that your print ad couldn’t cover, your sales letter didn’t have
room for, or that you forgot to mention in your telephone conversation.

Mandatory website material
Content is the single most important part of your website. Post quality information
related to your services. This positions you as a knowledgeable leader in the
industry and creates an incentive to revisit the site.

Inform visitors about the structure of your company, your community involvement,
awards, certifications, and even employment opportunities. Educate your customers
before you sell. Your target market needs to learn how you provide value in
a way that will make them want to pay a premium for your services. You simply
can’t do this in a 3 by 4 ad. Your ad needs to get them to ask for more
information & then you can proceed to selling. Consumers have more confidence
in and prefer doing business with companies that they know something about.

Contact info and service area
No one should have to search to find your service area or phone numbers and
other contact information. Display it prominently.

Be sure to include your photo, company photos, and family photos. Why?

Most people don’t buy because they don’t feel comfortable they
don’t quite trust you yet. Set people at ease by putting your smiling
photo on your site. If you’re a family-run operation, include those photos.
Get the customers to relate to you. Don’t just tell potential customers
about your services show them. Adding before and after photos of your work is
a powerful marketing tool. Remember, it is very important when using images
that they are cropped or scaled to an appropriate size for use on a given page.
The more images you use, the longer a person must wait to view your page. Images
enhance web pages, but must be used with skill and caution to avoid problems.

Nothing builds trust with customers and prospects like good words about you
from people who know you and have done business with you. Testimonials build

Newsletter sign-up Writing a newsletter on a regular
basis is a great way to keep people returning to your website (and a great way
to build trust in you and your business). Include a link to your current newsletter,
and a spot where visitors can submit their e-mail address to receive it.

Forms A feedback form can benefit your performance
in the future, as a cleaning company and as an e-marketer. It can improve the
chances of a future visit, strengthen an existing relationship, survey visitors,
or be used to collect testimonials.

A price-quote request form allows potential customers to inquire
about a price and provide you with qualified leads.

A frequently asked questions (FAQ) section answers the most commonly asked questions
and can even include ways for the visitor to ask questions not listed.
If you build it, will they come?

OK, so you have your website now what? It’s all about marketing after
your website is built.

The single biggest mistake made by most website owners is that too little marketing
is done to create awareness and generate enough interest to see the benefits
a website can provide. Simply creating a website will not generate mobs of traffic
and will not cause your website to be immediately listed in all the search engines.
Having a website is meaningless if no one knows about it, yet many businesses
spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars building their website and then
sit back and wait for the business to come rolling in. It just isn’t going
to happen. Don’t expect it and you won’t be disappointed. Building
a website is only one step in an overall marketing plan.

Website promotion
Promotion of your website is an ongoing process. You should make your URL (website
address) known to the public by using as many methods as possible.

The options listed here aren’t the only ones available, and regardless
of which methods you use, remember that there are many ways to increase your
website traffic, but traffic really is not the key. The key factor is trying
to get qualified sales leads and customers. I would rather get 25 people who

are actually looking to purchase than 2,500 people who are not.

Search engines Search engines are becoming the online equivalent
of printed business directories, such as the Yellow Pages. It is important that
you optimize your website for listing its details with search engines otherwise,
you may be missing potential customer leads. Search engines want to deliver
the most relevant pages at the top, so they use highly sophisticated and complex
algorithms to rank websites.

Focus on three key factors to improve your search engine positioning: Highly
targeted keywords, content, and optimized web page code.

Manually submit your website information to each individual search engine regularly.
Automated search engine submission software is not recommended. Most search
engines have a formal, online process for submitting website details, but the
process varies with each search engine. For the majority of search engines,
all you need to do is provide the domain name of your website e.g.,
a short description, and your keywords. You should also resubmit your website
to the search engines after any significant change is made to your website.
Buying keywords and phrases from all the top search engines is also an option
and will ensure excellent search engine results placement. Make a short list
of your most important keywords and phrases, then contact the sales departments
at the major search engines and ask them what it would cost for each one of
your keywords and phrase. The cost will depend on what words you are asking
for and the number of times that they are searched for on that particular engine.

E-mail Targeted, subscription based e-mail can be a very
successful strategy for generating repeat and added sales to existing customers
and interested potential customers. Sent at a reasonable frequency and full
of useful, relevant information such as product recommendations and reviews,
values and discounts, editorial articles, and notifications about website content
updates an e-mail campaign can be a very successful part of your Internet marketing
strategy. But only use true opt-in e-mail lists. Spamming is the most certain
way I know to lose your e-mail account, website, Internet Service Provider (ISP),
and your reputation, both personal and professional. The best way to have a
true opt-in e-mail list is to gather it yourself by asking visitors to your
website to join your mailing list (newsletter). Always make it at least as easy
to unsubscribe from your list as it was to subscribe. Don’t let customers
simply slip away. Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to
retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you
haven’t heard from a customer in awhile, send a personalized e-mail, inquiring
if all is well. You can also utilize the convenience of e-mail to send appointment
reminders and thank you notes. Customers may forget you’re out there unless
you remind them.

Target regionally specific directories These smaller directories
are usually tightly focused on your particular area and customer base. Newspapers,
ISPs, local business magazines, and other regional guides are often popular
with residents because they carry information about local news and entertainment
events. Search online for your local city, town and state. Many have local business
directories that are free to place ads or links on. Write them a short e-mail
and description about your business. Getting your website listed in regionally
specific directories and business listings can allow you to reach your target
market where they visit most. Also, actively monitor and participate in user
groups, mailing lists, and discussion groups. Research active e-mail discussion
lists and online bulletin boards relevant to your business and audience.

Linking Link popularity is an important criterion in most
search engine ranking algorithms. Some use it almost exclusively. Developing
quality inbound links can be critical for high rankings in some results. You
have created great content and offer a superb service and now, you want people
to know about it. To ensure that your website has the visibility it deserves,
you will need other websites to point (link) to yours.

Reciprocal links Reciprocal links form a vital part of any
website promotion effort and while the process of exchanging them is essentially
a simple one, there are various approaches that can be taken in searching out
and requesting links. Reciprocal links generally bring in more qualified visitors
than the search engines. Requesting link exchanges with other websites, although
necessary for good search engine placement, can unfortunately be rather time
consuming. Search for websites that support the professional cleaning industry,
such as trade organizations and suppliers, and write the webmaster a nice letter
or e-mail asking for a reciprocal link to your site. In return, put a link on
your site to theirs.

Customer links Don’t overlook your existing customer
base for link partners. There is a good chance your business clients have established
websites. Ask them for reciprocal links, which can lead to increased traffic
to your site.

Offline marketing Your website is only one tool in your marketing
toolbox, and is most effective when used in conjunction with your other marketing
tools. Whatever you have printed, make sure it has your website address on it,
including letterheads, postcards, brochures, sales letters, invoices, and business
cards. Add it to any advertisements you place in newspapers, magazines, on the
radio or television, or in the Yellow Pages. Include it in any e-mail correspondence,
and be sure to mention it in any conversations you have with potential customers.
Display your website address on all company cars, trucks and vans. Vehicular
advertising is a great method of promotion. This way you can advertise your
website wherever you go even in traffic. Free media promotion Press
releases are excellent for getting the attention of the public.

For example, this may be to announce the opening of your new business where
you will have an excellent opportunity to display your URL. Once your site is
launched, or after a major revision, get out a press release. Almost all e-Zine,
TV, radio, newspaper, and magazine editors accept press releases. Now that most
media sources are online, e-mail is the preferred way for them to receive your
releases. Your release should be one page long and offer valuable information
of interest to publications readers. Editors won’t print a blatant ad
that is not accompanied by newsworthy information. Success
Well-designed, content-rich web pages are imperative if you wish to have success
in marketing your website.

Dedicate yourself and recognize that you will need to spend the time and energy
required promoting your website and services, both online and offline.

This extra work may seem daunting when you are first planning the development
of your website and online marketing strategy, but it is well worth the effort.

Mark Cermak is a cleaning and restoration industry veteran of more than
20 years. He is webmaster of Cleaners Community, a training, consultation, and marketing club for cleaners, and webmaster of, specializing in website design for cleaning service businesses. You can contact him at (440) 257-6705 or

Published in
the February 2006 edition of Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine

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