Canadian Vending

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Dispensing Strategies: Are Your Customers Online Or In Line?

Are Your Customers Online Or In Line?


June 13, 2008
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

If you’ve attended any vending conferences lately, chances are you’ve
heard the sermon from the mount “an online presence is no longer a nice
to have – it’s a must-have.” You probably sense that you need a website
to support your business, but you may not be sure where to begin.

If you’ve attended any vending conferences lately, chances are you’ve heard the sermon from the mount “an online presence is no longer a nice to have – it’s a must-have.” You probably sense that you need a website to support your business, but you may not be sure where to begin.
 
Electronic marketing or e-marketing, as it’s called, is a key marketing tool for several reasons: it’s cost-effective, flexible, measurable and most importantly – it’s where your customers are!

According to Digital Dialup, Canada has one of the highest rates of Internet usage in the world. Canadians are heavy users, with around 90 per cent of users using e-mail at least weekly. In fact, 63 per cent of Canadian households are now on the Internet (49 per cent broadband, 14 per cent dial-up) versus 57 per cent of American households (34 per cent broadband, 23 per cent dial-up).
 
People used to proudly indicate on their resumes that they were “adept at Word, Excel and Power Point.” Now that statement is akin to announcing you know how to use a pen. People are buying everything from music to real estate electronically and there’s no going back, now that the genie is out of the bottle.
 
If you don’t have a website yet, then don’t bite off more than you can chew. Executing a full e-commerce strategy is best done in steps. You probably didn’t start your business with hundreds of employees – you probably started small. Take the same approach when starting your e-strategy.
   
Rule number one is to remember that your website is a marketing tool. It’s there to convert potential customers into paying customers, not just to relay information. Understanding its positioning will allow you to target your site more effectively. What is this website going to do for your business?  How will you measure success? Jot these points down into a briefing for your web developer.
 
Start with the end in mind.  Who will you target? Who are your best (most profitable) customers? What do they want to know about your products and services?
Find a reputable webmaster who is able to understand your objectives and to provide the technology to support them. It’s easy to get swept up in all of the cool bells and whistles available to us.  Be careful though – you have to deliver what you promise online.
 
Will you be able to respond to e-mails several times per day?  Will you be able to keep the site fresh and populated with new information?  For the first phase of your online strategy, your website will probably be a virtual brochure.  Make sure you have somebody experienced in writing web copy to do your home page intro text. This is your chance to give each visitor “the ninety-second elevator speech,” and convince them to keep clicking. There’s gold in those clicks, because as visitors navigate your site, you can start to track their interaction with the information you’ve provided.
   
It’s imperative that your website development include some sort of package to measure web stats.  E-marketing is great because it’s cost-effective and measurable. A good web stat package will give you reports confirming how many visitors you have per day, how many are new to the site, how many pages they view, where visitors land, what terms they are putting into the search engine. This information will allow you to evolve your website to better target your desired audience. If you know 50 per cent of visitors type “vending maintenance” into to a search engine prior to landing on your site, then you’ll want to look at buying ad space on other websites that specialize in this area.
 
Make sure you have a place where visitors can leave their e-mail address with express consent to receive updates and information about your products and services. With the new privacy legislation you need express consent to send marketing information to them. You can use this later on for an electronic newsletter.
 
Last but not least – test, test, test.  Have your web developer design two or three different home pages. He or she can set it up so the home page each visitor sees rotates in sequence. After a couple of weeks, you’ll know which home page layout succeeded in getting the most visitors to click through to other pages. You’ll also want to have some “regular people” navigate your site just as a potential customer would. They can tell you what’s confusing or too cumbersome. All of this information will ensure that your site is as effective as it can be.

Once the website is developed and you’re comfortable that there are no glitches, it’s time to officially launch it. Include a link to your website at the bottom of all outgoing e-mail messages. It’s an easy tactic to promote your site and cost-free. Have your web address printed on all packaging materials, letterhead, business cards and signage. You can use different web addresses for different campaigns.

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Perhaps greatvending.ca would work to promote a launch of your new machines. Check out register.com to see if the address you want to use is already owned. By using a unique web address for specific campaigns you can accurately measure how many visitors come to your site because of the campaign. It’s a great way to determine your ROM (return on marketing).

After your site is launched, build it into your marketing plan on an ongoing basis.  Keep it fresh because visitors will stop coming if it’s the same, stale stuff day after day.  Think of it as a “virtual sales associate” available to your customers 24/7.  The best part is – no sick days and it will never resign.