Shortcuts you can’t take

We’re always looking for quicker and easier ways to drive traffic to our websites and increase our revenue. But, this is not a process that should include shortcuts and quick steps. Sage Business Expert Tom Darlow, founder of Demo and This Is That, gives a few key points to remember for online marketing and website content.

Picture the scene: I’m heading into a kick off meeting with a new client and just as I pull up my chair, team marketing pipes up:

  • “how do we get more online conversions?”
  • “we need better search engine positions, do you know anything about that?”
  • “we need our customers to engage with our website”
  • “how do we get more traffic?”
  • “we need to ramp up the amount of ‘targeted’ traffic to our website”

And understandably so. These are important KPIs for most private sector outfits.

In this post, we’re going to zero-in on just a few shortcuts you can’t take to reach these goals. Hammering home each point, we’ll draw on cases from a handful of my highest performing client websites. Marketing websites no less.

And just so we’re on the same page:

Marketing is the process of creating, communicating and delivering value to customers.

Don’t shortcut on content

Belt Up School of Motoring was my first (and is my longest standing) client. They rank first or


second on high traffic searches for driving lessons Bath, have an active and well liked Facebook page, as well as a popular blog which generates a substantial amount of new customers for them each month. Around 60% of customers are converted through their website, which has helped them mature from being a one man show, to a 10 car (and growing) franchise.

I sense an eager how !?

In a word: content.

The team at Belt Up are consistently producing and sharing great content for their target market. A quick glance at their blog and you’ll see captivating topics such as:

  • “Sarah failed her driving test earlier today; here’s how you can avoid her mistakes” [If my driving test is anytime soon, I’ll be reading this]
  • “The driving school hall of fame” [If I’ve just been added to the hall of fame, I’ll be sharing this on my Facebook and Twitter]
  • “How-to videos and highlights from our young driver days” [If I don’t have time to read any of the articles, I’ll watch these instead]

So what does this mean? In short, it means Belt Up have turned their website into a destination. It means people join the Belt Up Facebook page to stay up to date. It means Google rank their website higher than their competition because of the continuity of original and useful content. And as a result, they benefit from a consistent stream of targeted web traffic which have a probable chance of converting into real, paying customers.

Don’t shortcut on design or customer research

Powell Commercial sell insurance into a number key sectors.

From our short / simple / inexpensive design research exercise [namely speaking to their existing customers] we were able to turn their website into an effective marketing effort. Here’s Powell Commercial’s senior broker, Warren Bidwell:

“By speaking to some of our customers, we were able identify common themes within the sectors we serve. This meant we could quickly engage and establish a rapport with prospects visiting our website by detailing some of the ‘common problems’ in their respective sector in combination with our solutions.”

In short, their research helps them sell the problem which:

  • Demonstrates their understanding of the unique demands of this sector
  • Means they can create effective website content which quickly resonates and engages with their prospective customers
  • Enables them to sell their solution

Two birds, one stone…

Research also outlined that not all prospects had purchasing intent when visiting the website, yet some knew they had upcoming renewals. From this nugget, we nearly doubled the amount of online enquiries by building a ‘contact me on renewal’ feature. This doubled-up as useful renewal reminder for prospects (receiving an email), while placing Powell Commercial in a favourable position to sell their insurance products.

Don’t shortcut on investment

By far the highest performing website is another long standing client, Ford Fuel Oils. As one of the UK’s largest distributor of fuels, oils and lubricants, their website is tasked with marketing their broad range of products and services, as well as helping customers open accounts and pay their bills online.

With volumes of traffic, Ford Fuel Oils acknowledge that their website is their most effective 24 hour marketing effort. Instead of cutting corners, they invest in their website. Broadly, investment means:

  • They can capitalise on the ballooning amount of mobile and tablet users with their newly launched responsive website.
  • Provides them, as a client services company, with enough time to review and interpret their website analytics to learn things like; many of their customers live in remote, countryside locations and are restricted by slow internet connections. This meant they could make the most effective design and technical decisions for these users.
  • Ensures the website works hard in pursuit of their customers’ and business goals by providing useful features which augment their customers’ experience such as pay your bill online.

Wrapping up: do, do things properly

For an effective marketing website that works hard in pursuit of your goals, start by avoiding the shortcuts. Don’t skip research; listen to your customers. Don’t skip the content; create, communicate and deliver added value.

Most importantly, remember to put your customers and prospectives smack-bang in the centre of your content, design and investment decisions. To help you along, try shifting your perspective by borrowing techniques from the some of the greatest like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: Pull up an empty chair in every website meeting and envisage a customer sitting there. Ask yourself; would that customer value this content, blog post or new feature?

Start answering those questions honestly and you’ll be on the right road to maximising your online potential.

Tom Darlow

Tom Darlow

A graduate from the University of Liverpool, Tom is a hard-working designer who shares a simple and focused approach. By concentrating on the essence, Tom demonstrates how website design can work hard in pursuit of business and customers' goals. Notable clients include Forever Friends, Ford Fuel Oils, the National Council for Entrepreneurship and more recently, the exciting University of Manchester spin out, Dwelltime. Outside of client projects Tom is a panelist for PC World's Generation Y Campaign, a co-founder of the popular Demo event. He occasionally writes about design, marketing and the world wide web over on his notebook and portfolio website