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The Soft Sell that Works Hard

Posted on 29th March 2009 in Insight
Written by: Andy Wickes

Successful B2B websites are as much about creating audience allegiance, as they are about communicating products and services.

These allegiances are hard won, admittedly, but they prove invaluable in the long run. It is about being front of mind when someone needs information online; that your site is the one to visit. Too often foodservice sites are sales driven, neglecting the huge audience of casual visitors who might not be customers now, but soon could be.

The key to building these allegiances online lies in understanding the way in which people interact with websites compared with traditional media. We have a degree of control over the way people receive and digest our direct mail, in that we know that we are posting it to their home or business address. We control the message, and to an extent the way that they respond to it. The same is true of print advertising. We know exactly where, and mostly when it is read. The same cannot be said however for online.

Our online presence is 24/7, accessed from anywhere in the world, and by anyone. We have no control over who visits it, and how often, whether they are prospects or not.E-Marketing such as HTML broadcasts and pay per click and the like are proven to boost online traffic hugely, but statistics also show that a sizeable proportion of traffic happens out of office hours and at the weekend. Who then, are these visitors to our site? What do they want, and how can we convert them to customers?

The key to this is added-value content. Content which goes above and beyond your core products and services, but which has a real value to your audience. We must learn a hard lesson from sites like Orange and Tiscali, who accept that whilst fashion advice, movie trailers and entertainment news aren’t the reason they are in business, it is a strong reason for why they remain in business. Everyone likes something for nothing.

Thinking about foodservice for a moment, consider of all the sites you visit because they are a valuable resource for research, statistics, industry papers, data, events calendars and the like. TUCO, The Out of Home Group, LACA and CatererSearch are all examples of a commitment to providing information, for the sake of information. This is the matter which creates audience allegiance.

Follow this continuous approach throughout your online marketing and the results will be even more profound. Announce your added-value content in your e-newsletters. This will keep un-subscribes to a minimum. Manage your data capture so that you target certain subscribers with information relevant to their sector. Commit to keep your site regularly updated with breaking news, events and relevant research. Offer a members login to your most valuable data, exchanging a little personal information for the chance to access your most useful and enlightening material. It is amazing how willing we are to submit personal information when we are receiving real value in return. Keep it up to the minute, and vitally keep it regular.
And all this is not at the expense of the hard sell in online marketing. It is the spoonful of sugar that helps the sales pitch go down.

And it’s not just industry organisations that are doing it either. Manufacturers and big name brands are seeing the value of converting casual traffic to serious brand allegiance by making their online experience as immersive and useful as possible. Tilda rice has a huge online recipe bank for chefs to browse. Nestle keeps an up to date library of promotions, research and trends, while Moy Park Foodservice offers a unique online menu creation package.

These lessons, when applied, will create allegiances to your brand or service such that when your audience is in a position to purchase, your company will be front of mind. The perception of your business will be one of professionalism, dedication, and of having benefited me with your intelligence and expertise for years, without costing me anything.

Be sure that if it isn’t you providing this material on your site, someone else is.

And they are only a Google search away.

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