The role of the website: how to use the internet to sell pasta9 September 2013
A website may be an effective tool to help boost sales for pasta manufacturers too.
by Marino Rossi
The huge steps forward in the IT and telecommunications sectors have, in this new century, radically changed the concept of marketing and if any small pasta maker still hasn’t fully understood the significant consequences in terms of sales, he would do well to make up for lost time as quickly as possible.
A company website is essential, not because it’s fashionable, an “everyone’s got one” kind of thing, but because it is an effective tool for more and better selling while increasing customer satisfaction.
The website doesn’t have to be (mainly) great to look at: the aim is for it to become one more tool in the competitive arena, in terms of advertising the company and its products, interaction with the sales network and customers, developing business as a result.
The name of the website is given in its address (e.g. www.barillagroup.it is the name of the Barilla Group website).
Of course it is advisable to pick a name which is easily recognizable and not generic: it must, if possible, include the name of the company, integrated with other useful information when appropriate. If, let’s say, the company name were Pastificio Italiano, its geographical location could be incorporated in the name of its website, in other words www.pastificioitalianoparma.it.
This will help Internet users using a search engine who can remember the location but can’t quite remember the name of the company to find it.
The name of the website can, within the limits of good taste and elegance, contain ironical references.
It must not contain hyphens, symbols, strange letters or foreign words, in other words, anything which may make it difficult to remember and write down.
If by any chance the name of the company is already in use (for example by another company of the same name operating in a different sector): such as www.rossimarino.it, be wary of limiting yourself to simply changing the suffix (e.g. www.rossimarino.com, or www.rossimarino.net), as there is still a risk of being mixed up with the other company. It is far better to make use of your imagination to the full and find another name which in some way or another alludes to your company.
The concept of a website must always be linked to other company communication tools (billboards, catalogues, press releases, packaging, etc.) keeping to a single style, design and layout.
You need to take into account any restrictions set down by competitors’ websites, so never imitate their graphics, style of layout, colours, music or allude to them in any way at all.
This of course implies carrying out serious studies beforehand to check out other major websites in the pasta sector.
The website must be recognizable and original, but without exaggerating; trying to stand out from the crowd doesn’t mean you have to shock: always bear in mind who your messages are aimed at.
Given that it is unlikely that a small entrepreneur will be able to set up a website single-handedly, the choice of technological partner is of great importance: someone who doesn’t get to know the company business well, including its other communication strategies and appears completely ignorant of the problems encountered in the pasta sector is probably not the best person for you to be dealing with.
The factors which make up a website are, in order of importance: the content (text, images, etc,), the graphics, (logos, colours, fonts, etc.), the technological aspects (interactivity, compatibility, etc.).
Starting with the tail end of this list, it is advisable to leave the technological aspects to the consultant, unless you happen to have someone in your company who is a master in this field.
The entrepreneur must however check certain aspects:
• ease and speed of browsing through the website;
• an open, dynamic structure which is reasonably easy to modify by the user himself;
• compatibility with major Internet browsers and various other devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.);
• accessibility to all users (disabled, etc.).
With regard to the graphics, it is essential to create a productive interaction which combines the specific style of the company and existing graphic design setup with the experience, professionalism and aestheticism of the technical consultant.
Other general suggestions:
• reduce music and audible effects to a minimum (these have a tendency of creating problems, particularly for anyone visiting your website from his office),
• don’t overdo it with animations, especially not upon entering the website (at this stage your visitor needs to be able to find his way around the website without any distractions or wasted time);
• pages should not be crammed with text (use clear, legible and suitably sized fonts: talking of which, opt for dark fonts on light backgrounds);
• if large amounts of text are necessary, far better to put it all together in a downloadable PDF file;
• choose just a few colours, preferably in line with the colours usually associated with the company, avoid using unnecessary rainbows of colour;
• colours must be coherent with the image you wish to give and with the products;
• avoid putting images on your website which have been downloaded free from online databases (you risk having contents which have been seen all too often before);
• have your consultant give you a trial run through the website so that you can assess the outcome and intervene immediately if necessary.
The content is without doubt the most essential component and this aspect cannot be delegated to the technological partner: in fact the choice of text and everything else which will appear on the website, as well as its overall structure, require an in-depth knowledge of the company, its products, the markets, the business strategies and the aims of the website itself.
Something which only the company itself can expect to have.
This however does not exclude the option, should internal resources be scarce, of turning to an external consultant who is an expert in marketing, communication and so on, for all the support needed for a correct setup of the website and effective layout of the text.
For this purpose a journalist operating in the sector or a university professor would do just fine and can be found relatively easily.
But the company must always stay at the helm, underlining the fact that the aim of the website is to satisfy the objectives specifically laid down: for example, a given increase in sales (global or in a certain sales channel), an increase in exports and so on and so forth.
It is widely accepted that the contents of the website must certainly include both information which potential clients need before they purchase, and information which manages to convince potential clients to actually buy: all this must be conceived and written with an idea as to who will visit your site clearly in mind.
And with this we have the crucial topic to focus on: Who will visit your website? What are his needs and expectations? What will he be looking for?
Only after an in-depth consideration of these aspects is it possible to clarify the contents, the communication strategy, language aspects and style.
The results will make it possible to organize the structure and the browsing logic, write texts and select images.
In other words, to do a good job you need to profile typical visitors, each of which must be analyzed and defined and univocally named (e.g. “Michelin star chef”, “Gourmet”), making every effort to imagine yourself in the shoes of these individuals to try and discover what they want and their every characteristic.
Only after this analytical task has been completed will it be possible to lay out the website in a way that is in tune with the language aspects and needs of each possible typical visitor.
To begin with you need to make a list of all the possible categories of people who may visit your website: from different types of clients (current and potential, direct and indirect, dealers and end consumers) to other visitors (journalists, suppliers, competitors, people looking for work, students and university professors, potential partners and financers, etc.).
The better the segmentation of the typical visitor universe, the more effective (also from a commercial point of view) the website will be, amply repaying all the time and effort which went into it.
In further detail, it is important to understand the language aspects which these different categories of users use, the words and phrases which will help in your communication with them and help the company come up in Internet search engines (Google, etc.).
For this purpose, a number of interviews aimed at different clients may prove useful, together with consultation of magazines and other forms of media they may use (e.g. magazines on cooking and food), watching television programs, blogs and forums which talk about pasta.
In this way it is possible to personalize communication techniques with videos, images, podcasts and any other means which may be most appropriate for each type of visitor.
In general it is advisable to:
• avoid banality and the obvious (our pasta is the best, the company is innovative, etc.);
• keep abbreviations, technical terms and foreign words and expressions to a minimum, using them only when strictly necessary and without filling the text with them just because you think it looks good;
• use a familiar and friendly style which still remains respectful and measured;
• opt for a tone which is in line with the perception and image you are trying to give and which reflects your company (dosing irony and seriousness in the rightful measure);
• always provide all the information which visitors may find useful (such as business purpose and VAT code) on the home page;
• enter the exact location of the company address, for example by inserting a link to Google Maps;
• take great care over any translations into a foreign language; it is all too easy to give a really bad impression, far better to invest a bit more money and make sure any translation work is done by a professional and competent translator.
We will continue this topic in our next issue with a more detailed look at how to turn a good website into an effective marketing tool for pasta manufacturers.
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