Modern product-based businesses need an online foundation before beginning other marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. These pieces not only allow your customers to purchase from you, but they also help you expand your brand awareness across multiple platforms.
Your website is the hub of all of your marketing and sales efforts, even if you have products placed in other physical and online stores. This is because your website (and your physical store, if you have one) is the only store you own. Third-party sellers and platforms are unlikely to prioritize selling your products, so you must prioritize your website for a quality selling experience.
Note: If your business is not large enough to support a website, you can start by selling through Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Jet, or local brick-and-mortar stores, but we recommend you proceed with caution on these options. They are good options when beginning your business to ensure market fit and aid in brand discovery, but they should not be seen as long-term solutions if you want your business to grow. The reason is, again, you do not own these platforms and it’s hard to control sales on a platform you don’t own. However, these platforms are good options to consider in addition to your website (see Product Placement in Purchasing Opportunities).
Your website must be designed and organized with the customer experience in mind. The goal is to make it easy for your prospects and customers to purchase from you. To do so, you must include clear calls to action on every page. We recommend focusing on one main call to action throughout your website, such as purchasing or learning more about your primary product. Your website must also focus on the benefits of your product as well as the pain points they are resolving for your customers.
Tip: Do not focus on features or the products themselves. Your customers likely do not care about features or your product. They care about what your product can do for them and how it will resolve a pain point of theirs, so promote that. Promote the benefits of your product.
Promote the benefits of your product on your homepage. Make your benefits clear here. Include an image of your product. Better yet, if you can, include a video that teases your product with the primary benefit prominently showcased.
If you have one product, your website will be very simple with only a few pages. If you have multiple products, your website will be a bit more complex, but it still needs to be easy to navigate with clear calls to action or your prospect will get lost and not convert to a paying customer.
If you have multiple products, you will want a product list page before your prospects reach your individual product pages. From there, prospects can review all of your products at a glance before clicking on each individual product page for more details.
Tip: Design all of your pages with mobile in mind. Most customers will view your product on mobile at some point in the buying process, whether they choose to make a purchase on mobile or not, so be sure they can quickly and easily view all product information and your calls to action clearly on every page.
The most important pages of your website are your product pages. Clear the clutter and be sure to have only one product per product page. You can have multiple sizes and color options on one page, but be sure that each product has its own page. This helps your prospects focus on that one product before making a purchase decision.
On each individual product page, you should get down to the nitty-gritty. Include clear product images from all angles, a video of the product (if you have one), reviews of the product (if you have any), product specifications (make sure they make sense to your audience, not just your product development team), product benefits, helpful product descriptions, clear pricing, and a clear call to action to purchase. Be sure there is plenty of white space around the product photos so your prospects can focus on the products themselves.
Tip: Use your product images with transparent backgrounds so your product pages have a lot of white space. (Remember, transparent background = white background on your website.) You can also showcase images with backgrounds and models, and we encourage that you do that, too, but make your featured (i.e. first) product images have clear backgrounds so your prospects can view the products alone before they see the products in real life.
Overall, you want to create an easy buying experience throughout your website. So design it with your audience in mind and have many people test it before you launch.
ONLINE REPUTATION STRATEGY
Customer reviews can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This customer-generated content can change the opinions of prospective customers because customers trust other customers the most. This is why product-based businesses need to not only request reviews, but they also need to manage their online reputation.
While anyone can review your business on your social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your products or were really upset with your products. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
- A way to ask your customers to review your business
- A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you can automate this process via email automation or text messaging. We recommend sending this request between 7 and 30 days after the purchase. Give your customers time to receive and use the product before you ask them to review it.
Tip: Once you have a few customer reviews, list them on your website. There are many plugin options that streamline this process for you.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
ORM generally starts with your social media pages. Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take it off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on your social media pages, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create an alert for your business name and services names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
Tip: ORM and Google Alerts can help you find potential influencers. If a customer is already raving about your products, recognize them by asking them to be an influencer (see Social Media Influencer in Lead Nurturing).
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and community have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion on your business, which means not enough people know about it yet. If your sentiment is positive, keep up the great work, but don’t stop managing ORM as sentiment can change.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your social media program, so start there to improve it by sharing quality content that your audience cares about.
Our team works as a fluid extension of each of our member’s businesses by developing strategies and executing projects in whatever capacity is best for their unique needs.