Back to the website: in other words, how to use the internet to sell pasta

Back to the website: in other words, how to use the internet to sell pasta

23 October 2013 Off By Pastaria

Here’s the second part of the article on the website’s role as an effective company marketing tool.

by Marino Rossi

Experience gained from studying countless websites appears to suggest a need to direct and “channel” the various visitor types directly from the Home Page using one of various methods: a drop-down menu asking questions (for example, “Are you a caterer?”, “Do you work in sales?”), windows containing differing, intuitive text, photos, drawings or images which the user can click on to access pages specifically aimed at different visitor types.

Everything concerning the logical structure for browsing through the website must be divided up beforehand into topics which create uniform blocks of information which can then be inserted in a traditional tree-like structure which, starting from the Home Page, will define the various browsing routes.

Texts must then be prepared, after which the technical partner can create a “branch” and assess the result before proceeding further.

It is a good idea to include a “Contact Us” button and a “Return to Home Page” button on every page of the website. While the Home Page itself should include a “Press Downloads” button.

It is advisable to avoid having more than three branch levels (excluding the home page) for each topic, taking care to enter the reference for the page currently shown.

The same style and graphics must be used for each category of visitor type.

But what if a pasta manufacturer already has his own website?

To check its effectiveness as a marketing tool, simply answer the following questions.

• Address: Is it easy to remember and intuitive? Does any ambiguity arise when it is entered in a search engine? Does it reflect the company image?

• Browsing and technology: Is the website optimized for the most commonly-used browsers and operating systems? Is browsing through the website quick, easy and intuitive? Does it work on smartphones?

• Ease of use: Is the home page clear and well-organized? Does it include a “Contact Us” button, the company name, etc.? Are there too many sublevels

• Graphics: Does the image match the company? Is the website original without being bizarre?  Does it give a professional impression? Can the user quickly decide whether to continue browsing through the site and if so, where to go? Does it stand out from competitors’ websites? Are the concepts clear? Is the text layout easy to read with effective fonts and colours? Are the pages well-spaced and not over-crammed? Are the graphics for each section consistent?

• User statistics: What percentage of visitors goes beyond the home page? How many people contact the company after visiting the website? How many users subscribe to the newsletter (if there is one)? How are contacts divided? By geographical area, days, times of the day?

• Effectiveness: Get different people (preferably volunteer visitor types) to test the website and see if it is functional in real-life situations and how easy it is to find information, contact the company, subscribe to the newsletter, consult the price list, fill in an order form, etc.. How long does each step take? Are operations easy? Is any important information missing? What is the overall impression given by the website? Is the visitor tempted into buying? Is the sales information comprehensive? Are all the contacts easily identifiable?

After careful analysis of the website (we have listed just some aspects) it should be easy to see if any initiatives need to be taken to improve the overall success rate of the company website.

Ultimately, the website must be at the service of what is known as web marketing, in other words a series of initiatives designed to attract customers to the website itself, to allow the company to communicate with the outside world and facilitate interaction and contacts between the company and website visitors.

The aim is to improve your understanding and reputation and then increase sales as a result.

Web marketing has a number of advantages, one of which is the fact that most of it can be done without the need for external consultants, hence costs can be kept very low.

It makes it possible to communicate quickly and cheaply directly with customers (both middlemen and consumers, i.e. the people actually eating the pasta). It allows the company to reach market niches, all over the world, which would otherwise be extremely difficult to contact.

In fact contact is made by the initiative of the person visiting the website, without the need to waste valuable company resources, in this case limited simply to ensuring quick and efficient replies are given to any requests/queries received.

Furthermore, company communication can reach anyone, not just the press as was the case with traditional marketing initiatives.

The disadvantage is mainly the ineffectiveness web marketing obviously has on people who do not use the internet (still about 1/3 of the population in Italy).

A good web marketing plan should include four steps:

• Definition of the aims: blogs or forums to help increase sales? Include pasta dish recipes? etc..

• Statistical analysis: this can be provided by the technical partner (if capable) or by means of services which measure the number of visits paid to a website, such as webalyzer, Google analytics or similar.

• Carrying out web marketing tests restricted to limited targets.

• Assessment of the results and review of the strategy within a short space of time (a few months).

The website is therefore an excellent web marketing tool if it is well designed and created, using appropriate key words, up-to-date contents, interesting and well-written texts and is search engine friendly.

It will be an even better tool if it is not limited only to marketing contents, but also provides useful information for visitors, in the form of articles, studies, videos, podcasts (audio contents) or anything else which can also give it an “educational” factor: for example, information on GMOs, food product traceability, diets and health care, etc..

Of course it is not meant to divulge confidential and sensitive company information, but to provide everything necessary to satisfy the needs of the website visitor, encouraging him to become a customer and consequently someone who in turn may help enhance the company’s reputation.

Another good idea is to activate links to other sites by means of a special selection button on the home page and then asking various types of partners (companies, magazines, authorities, associations and similar organizations) to do the same for you on their website.

An important aspect for making the website even more effective in terms of web marketing concerns search engine friendliness:  to do this it is important to set up the website so that it can be picked up by search engines as quickly and easily as possible, so that it will always appear at the top of the list of results provided by a web search.

Some IT consultants promise the earth and the moon in this aspect, but that is not always the case.

It is advisable, first and foremost, to notify Google of your website, free of charge, by simply using the “add Url” function or by sending in a Sitemap (web page listing all the pages of the website in hierarchal order).

There is nothing to stop you from making use of a technical partner, but always check their reliability and the results achieved in previous projects.

If we take a look at paid web marketing, the most commonly used methods are:

• Banners and pop-ups these are virtual tags and windows, which open up in portals or sites of interest visited by large numbers of users, designed to advertise your website or take users directly to it.• Pay-per-click: these are advertising windows which appear when certain key words are typed into a search engine. The company only pays when someone, upon seeing the window, actually clicks on it to access the advertised website or a special page. You can purchase a given number of key words from Google, Yahoo etc. which may be altered over time should results prove unsatisfactory. It is therefore a very flexible initiative.

Its effectiveness can be measured very quickly and is given by the fact that this advert “reaches” the customer just when he needs pasta, because that is what he is looking for on the internet. The difference compared to traditional advertising is really quite significant.

The only failing (if one can call it that) of this method is the fact that the user is made fully aware that he is looking at advertising and not at a “neutral” result returned by the search engine.

• E-mail marketing: advertising messages can be sent by e-mail. However, this must be done in observance of the relative regulations in force (Privacy laws).

Usually it is a good idea to turn to a specialist company for this service, as always, be sure to check their references and track record beforehand.

Of all the low-cost marketing initiatives available (mainly in terms of company resources) we should, above all, highlight those which aim to stimulate interaction with the users/visitors:

• Blogs: these are websites where the visitor is encouraged to leave comments, ask questions, provide contents, thus strengthening the company’s reputation.

• Forums: these are websites where a discussion group can be created for users sharing a common interest (for example pasta recipes), in order to develop a sense of belonging to a community and a relationship with the company.

Finally, other web marketing tools available include:

• Newsletters: a communication tool which help you to stay in contact with current and potential customers. It tends to be more welcome and credible if it is not limited exclusively to marketing;

• News releases: by subscribing free of charge to a specialized web site, the company can send press statements to whomever is interested, not just to journalists, this option can be entered in the home page of the company’s website.

Being as web marketing is evolving all the time, for example via social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), even small pasta manufacturers can always stay up-to-date and not miss out on opportunities to be competitive.

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