Access to the Internet started to become widely available in the mid-1990s. Now, almost 25 years later, the scope of what can be accomplished online bears little resemblance to those early days as the underlying technology continues to advance rapidly. There are more than 1.3 billion websites, and it has become difficult to imagine any business operating without one.
So far in this series, we've explained the importance of the need for independent resellers to close the technology gap, the potential role of aftermarket replacement cartridges in improving their value proposition, and the barriers that have historically prevented them from doing so.
Part of the return on any investment made to help break down these barriers depends on the reseller's willingness to deploy a website capable of becoming the foundation for its online presence. Unfortunately, resellers have not performed well in this area and generally have inadequate websites and a modest to non-existent online presence.
By default, we assume traffic to be a universally desirable goal on the basis that visitors to a website are no different to visitors that used to travel to a brick and mortar store. Without these visitors, ultimately there will be no business.
Most web traffic goes to a relatively small number of sites, with large corporations dominating activity and many smaller businesses struggling to establish their online presence.
First and foremost, unless there is a good reason for visitors to visit a website, they will not do so. The "good reason" may be based on the following;
1. Relevant, high-quality educational material.
2. A compelling value proposition.
3. A combination of both.
When content is developed with the specific purpose of educating visitors about a compelling value proposition, it can form part of a winning strategy in terms of developing leads, a portion of which may subsequently be converted to customers.
There should be no misunderstanding; deploying a "rule-conforming" website is only the foundation for a solution, not the solution itself. A passive website (rule-conforming or not) will fail to attract traffic unless consistent updates contain relevant and helpful content. Furthermore, this content component must be combined with an understanding of and determination to sustain the ongoing traffic development work necessary to build an online presence.
In the old days, large companies with the most significant resources built the biggest stores, placed them in the best geographical locations, advertised, and established powerful brands. It was difficult for smaller businesses to compete effectively because of the capital resources required to match the efforts of their larger competitors. These circumstances consigned them to a lesser role dictated by their local footprints and relationships in those local markets.
These days, think about significant and small company websites. There's no reason why a small company's website cannot technically and visually match that of a large company.
The website is the 21st-century storefront and it provides an opportunity for a small business to level the playing field in a manner that has not previously been possible.
If you're a small business with a brick-and-mortar presence in a local community and your store is not maintained - the windows and floor are messy, and the product on the shelves is covered in dust, prospective customers will not buy from you. Business owners know they must offer a product or service there's a demand for, they know they must keep their store clean, they know the products must be well-presented and organized, and they know they must make it easy for customers to find what they're looking for.
These basic requirements are no different for a website. If it doesn't provide a value proposition there's a demand for, if it's not well designed, intuitive to navigate, informative, and helpful, then why would anyone stop by?
The so-called "rules" form the first major roadblock that typically faces the reseller community for office products, business equipment, and supplies. Existing websites generally don't perform well because they don't conform to the "rules" that help determine where they appear in search results.
The second major roadblock is the scale of the internet and its 1.3 billion-plus websites.
1. Some businesses still put up their site and assume traffic will automatically arrive but are quickly disappointed because they failed to understand the scale issue.
2. As can be better appreciated once it's understood the competition for traffic is with 1.3 billion other sites, relevant, organic traffic doesn't occur without much hard work.
3. There will be no traffic even if the time and effort invested in developing a site that conforms to the "rules" because the chances of attracting relevant traffic without deploying a proven traffic development strategy are close to zero.
Developing web traffic requires a lot of hard work, so there's no point in developing traffic to a site that doesn't conform to the "rules." Logically, therefore, the first step that must be taken is to improve the quality of the website so it does work. Only once this has been accomplished should the investments in a traffic development strategy occur.
Traffic development is not easy and certainly doesn't develop overnight - especially not in a mature industry such as office products and business equipment. However, for motivation, resellers should keep in mind there's a $20 billion-dollar growth opportunity under-pinning a $150-200 billion industry. This is a big industry, with millions of individual buying decisions taking place, and where over 70% of buyers are now conducting their research online before engaging with a salesperson or making their buying decisions.
The Researching Buyer's
Perhaps those researching buyers are not happy with their "big-box" solutions (Office Depot and Staples), the smattering of high-priced aftermarket products, and the broad array of OEM products they're currently offered, or, worse still, they don't know any better.
Perhaps they'd be interested to learn more about lower-priced alternatives from reputable suppliers. While they may be aware of cartridges available from Amazon for 1/10th of the OEM price, they don't trust the marketplace, and its unknown suppliers, to do their business in that environment.
However, if or when they search for alternatives, there's little to be found in terms of high-quality material created to educate buyers because the barriers [we explained previously] mean the resellers who may want to incorporate these products into their value proposition cannot do so. Until these barriers are removed, there's little chance of resellers adopting an educational content strategy (even if they knew how) to help build awareness for high-quality, lower-cost alternatives.
As we know, deciding to switch from a trusted OEM brand to an unknown aftermarket brand may not be an easy one for a buyer to make, particularly when bombarded with the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) campaigns aggressively conducted by the OEMs to help protect their market share.
Content must be explicitly created for that purpose to educate researching buyers and build the trust and confidence necessary to consider conversion.
The strategy for developing web traffic must include a combination of "content art" and the "search engine science" before the reseller's content will be placed higher in the search results.
Significant roadblocks combine to make traffic development a challenge for even the most determined marketers. Consistent, ongoing, properly targeted content optimized for search engines is not a one-time effort and, to achieve its goal, must be a sustained and strategic initiative.