Chris Rand of Business Marketing On-Line and former industrial trade magazine editor, wrote a recent blog where he argued that the company web site should be viewed as a member of the team. The argument went thus: suppose a colleague rings in sick, it’s inconvenient but you can probably share out the work, re-prioritise and find work-arounds. Now suppose the web site goes down, for perhaps just a few hours. This often causes panic, especially if the website is taking orders directly but also because the web site is for most business a vital showcase to the world and acknowledged as the route by which many, if not most, customers will find you.
Chris goes on to ask an important and obvious question. Why then do so many such businesses devote such miserly resources to the design, development and regular refreshment of their web site? How often is the web site as important as a chief officer to the company, but budgeted at the level of the most junior staff member?
In his blog Chris has simply highlighted the central role and value of owned media in business today. Via a web site, every business owns a significant media channel through which they can publish and broadcast material it owns and controls, without moderation by external editors. Websites are not the only owned media, there is: Video creating unlimited possibilities to produce content for your own web site and for commercial outlets such as YouTube, Vimeo and others. Key staff interviews can signpost your direction and highlight your achievements. ‘How to’ product demonstrations, unboxings, events, installations, time-lapses – the possibilities are varied. As a rule, keep it simple, keep it short, stick to a single subject and make it lively.
- E-newsletters are a good way of updating your existing customer base. Done properly they are an ideal medium to inform, educate and engage with customers drawing them into the business with additional content of greater depth and higher value. Data quality is an important consideration here – ensure your e-mail targets have opted-in to received your newsletter.
- E-books/white papers are ideal for in-depth showcasing of expertise. If you are thought leaders in your field, then document this expertise and share it with your community. This builds confidence and credibility, essential factors in distinguishing your business from its competitors to win higher value business and build strong and enduring business relationships.
- Webinars are a great way of focussing attention on a current hot issue by creating a media event. They convey information with authority, allow you to align your expertise with that of complimentary partners. They create engagement.
- Forums provide a means for you to become the discussion leader and moderator. So much B2B marketing is a contest of ideas – is this process or material better than the alternative to achieve a particular goal? With forums you can set out your case and involve others to build a tribe or a movement. This process of engagement can lead to new insight about how others are thinking and much closer working relationships.
These processes are most potent when used in combination. Post event your video can be re-edited specifically for your web site, video shorts can be combined to make useful crowd pullers for exhibitions. Your e-book may be the subject of a newsletter and offered on other channels. Material can be diced into smaller digestible bite sized pieces for serving up through your social media platforms.
Few industrial companies provide hardware alone, most are knowledge driven. You need to engage and communicate with your customers continuously, right through the buying cycle and beyond. Owned media is the way to do this. They help you to capture an audience. They help you to engage and develop dialogue. They help you provide service and information. They help you research new opportunities. They add significant value to your business.
So if your web site is in need of some TLC, think about what it does for you – 24/7. No member of staff works like that – surely that deserves a decent budget, not just a few blurred iPhone pics and some text from an old brochure, cobbled together on a bland WordPress template and then forgotten about!
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