By Amanda Crangle

A few years ago, a water treatment dealer reached out to me about creating a better, more cost-effective and revenue-producing marketing strategy. He’d been working with a search engine optimization (SEO) company for two years and they were getting all kinds of traffic to their website. Their cost per lead, however, was $300 and their cost per sale was near $1,000. It was eating away at their profit margins and causing them to rethink investing in any digital marketing at all.

When he explained the current strategy of ranking on the first page of Google for every product they offered, it was immediately apparent why his costs were astronomical and leads were slim. He and the SEO company had skipped a few vital steps early on in their planning. What we discussed next were the exact steps we needed to evaluate before we launched a new marketing campaign to ensure success:

  1. Define your goal(s).
  2. Evaluate your reputation.
  3. Implement website basics.
  4. Understand your audience.
  5. Honestly evaluate internal processes.
  6. 80/20 your marketing.

Define your goals 
A mentor of mine starts each of our meetings with a simple question: “What is the goal today?” This process helped me build a habit of defining a goal every time I start something. Identifying the desired outcome seems easy but focusing your attention and efforts on what matters is the cornerstone upon which all else is built. For most businesses’ websites in this industry, the primary goal is to generate leads (for local dealers, OEMs, or suppliers) or drive sales (e-commerce or affiliate marketing). Defining your goal will help steer your strategy as you focus on that as the primary driver.

Evaluate your reputation
We have worked with quite a few startup water treatment companies as well as seasoned water treatment professionals who’ve been in business 40 plus years. We’ve seen brand new businesses with 10 high-quality reviews online do better than some of our established clients who only have three reviews from years before. In a recent article, Review42.com states that 85 percent of consumers believe online reviews older than three months are irrelevant.[1] Statements like ‘Serving Our Town Since 1962’ are no longer compelling differentiators. The proof people need that you’re trustworthy lies in reviews they find on search engines, directories and social media. People buy from people they trust because other people have also trusted them.

According to websitebuilder.org, 97 percent of customers report that the customer reviews they read influence their purchasing decisions and 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends. Moreover, 82 percent of shoppers specifically seek negative reviews and 94 percent of consumers refuse to support a business because of negative reviews they’ve read or heard.[2] Even if you’re getting good reviews coming in, are you responding to each one? Qualtrics.com says that 89 percent of consumers read busi­nesses’ responses to reviews.[3]

Some companies can help you implement review gathering pro­cesses into your business, such as BirdEye.com or SocialClimb.com. You can also use free tools like Google Forms to send a simple follow-up questionnaire post-sale or service. Ask for their feedback and link to your Google Business Page, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other applicable directories.

Without current, relevant, detailed reviews and responses to reviews, any money invested in marketing will likely yield a poor return, no matter how high quality the copywriting, images and video. The more your competitors are focusing on reviews, the more you need to as well. Skipping this step is like baking a cake without the main ingredient.

Implement website basics
How many times has a perfectly good lead come into your office just to have the sales process botched by an employee? It’s happened to all of us and even experienced salespeople some­times have an off day. Most businesses, however, will invest a significant amount of resources in training appointment setters and salespeople, creating scripts, practicing handling objections and answering questions.

Did you know that a growing percentage of people are deciding who they’ll buy from before they ever contact you? How much time and money do you put into making sure your website is an extension of your sales team to help educate them ahead of your conversation?

Humanizing your website can be one of the most critical yet overlooked steps in crafting an effective marketing strategy. Here are a few ways to do this:

  1. Make sure people can easily contact you from every page on your website.
  2. Ask people how easy it was to find what they need as they call in from your site. You can also use a free poll software like HotJar.com to ask if people found what they needed. If they did have trouble, work with your web company to test changes to improve the site’s ease of use.
  3. Use conversational language and for goodness’s sake, please don’t make your site read like a product brochure – even if you’re in the business-to-business market.
  4. Integrate human elements like team pictures, product installs, videos and customer testimonials.
  5. Don’t think about optimizing a website; consider optimizing a thought sequence. What logical path do you want your ideal audience to follow to contact you or buy from you? Are your copywriting, images and video all leading them down that path to a clear call to action?

By understanding basic human psychology and focusing on your goal of driving leads and sales through your site, you can test changes to ensure your website will do its job well.

How do you know your marketing and website are working well? Have the ability to track leads and sales. Web forms should be fed into a lead tracking system and every phone number used online should be a call tracking number. You can also request that your marketing agency use Google Tag Manager or another form of tracking so you will know where each web form submission came from as well as where each call to your office originated from online.

Understand your audience
Every business has at least one target audience – some have several. The more you can clearly define each of these segments and rank them in priority order of both quantity and quality, the better you can tailor your marketing strategy.

Suppose you have a large percentage of customers who are families with school-aged children and they desire to be healthy and active. In this case, you can make sure your marketing strategy highlights pictures of similar people on your site, social media and offline marketing. If you are a supplier to the industry and your primary customers are business owners, then investigate to find out the real problem they’re having that you can solve. While many OEMs tout their exceptional products, perhaps a more urgent issue is supply chain logistics or business operational support. Even when working with other businesses, don’t forget we are all emotional beings who make emotional decisions, which we’ll later attempt to validate with logic and facts.

Understanding your audience will also help identify where to advertise online and offline. The better we know our market, the better we understand where they hang out and how to offer the right message in the right place(s) at the right time.

Honestly evaluate your internal processes before pulling the trigger
One service we offer in my marketing agency is listening to clients’ calls, so we know precisely how many qualified leads are coming through their website each month. Having done this now hundreds of times, we’ve become increasingly aware that very few companies have a clearly defined and well-executed process in place for handling inquiries and nurturing leads.

Before investing in marketing online, you and your team must take an honest look at your customer journey to identify areas for improvement. Once you’ve assessed each step in your mar­keting and sales system, work to fix the most glaring issues with a plan to keep tweaking the less obtrusive areas. This way, your investment online will be well stewarded by a good internal process.

80/20 your marketing
Now it’s time to strategize! The Pareto Principle states that 20 percent of your inputs will generate 80 percent of your outputs. For example, 20 percent of the flooring in your home gets 80 percent of the use. With marketing, we can easily say that 20 percent of our marketing will generate 80 percent of the results. But which 20 percent?

If you don’t already have a baseline for what works to drive revenue, Google Ads is an excellent place to start as it is easy to implement by a professional, can be tracked through to the sale and countless keywords can be tested. This allows you to understand which 20 percent of keywords are driving 80 percent of results to build out an organic ranking strategy around keywords you already know are working to drive sales.

The client mentioned earlier paid an SEO company to rank for all their products without first testing which specific search terms would generate the most sales. The result was that they ranked on the first page for their lowest value product – nationally. As a local water treatment dealer, this was a waste of money and time. The SEO company’s goal was to drive traffic and the client’s goal was to generate leads. Because their goals didn’t align, the site was not built to convert.

All of this resulted in low conversion rates on the site and a high cost per lead. A few of these steps were done well. Just like follow­ing a recipe to bake a cake, however, you can’t skip ingredients and expect a Pinterest-perfect outcome.

 References

  1. Review 42. “Latest Online Reviews Statistics in 2022 – The Impact on Business.” https://review42.com/resources/online-reviews-statistics/
  2. Website Builder. “22 Mind-Boggling Online Review Statistics & Facts for 2022.” https://websitebuilder.org/blog/online-review-statistics/
  3. Qualtrics XM Institute. “Online Review Statistics to Know in 2022.” https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/online-review-stats/

About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager. She and her team are passionate about expanding consumer awareness of water quality issues and providing education on final barrier solutions.

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