Your Web Site and the Power of the Internet

Small- to medium-sized businesses have the same needs as large corporations – they have to move product and market themselves. But many entrepreneurs don’t think the same way as large corporate executives. Many use seat-of-the-pants thinking – reacting, rather than anticipating and acting. Many believe marketing is something that “our sales people take care of” – and that’s a mistake.
This month, in the second of a multi-part series on marketing, I look at the power of the Internet and its capability to enhance your marketing strategies.

Power of the Internet

The Internet is where your customers are going to find information. Whether looking for books or games or trying to find information on food safety by accessing a produce company Web site, people are using the Internet more and more. Last November, the number of Internet sites passed the 100 million mark. Ten years ago, there were 14,000 sites.

If you do not have an active, and updated, Web site, you are falling off the radar. We make it a habit to visit dozens of produce sites each week. Some have not been updated in more than two years. Internet experts agree that for the search bots (automatic robot software continuously scanning Web sites for keyword information) to find you, regular updates are necessary.

Search Engines

Your home page should be a synopsis of your company. This is where your keywords are important, since the search bots generally find the home pages first. Your company name and what you do need to be all over this page. Your Web designer should know all the tricks to writing code that will enable your site to be found. And don’t worry if it takes time. Sites that have been around a long time are going to be higher on a search engine list than a new one, simply because of longevity.

On our own site, www.edithgarrett.com, we constantly make changes in order to catch the search bots’ attention. New articles are put up on regularly. Information on our services is updated often. As new clients are added or speaking engagements are booked, we put the information on the site. We are not seeking consumers, so our information is business-specific.
Another way the search engines find your site is based on how many links there are to other sites. We, for instance, are linked to Fresh Cut magazine’s Web site (www.freshcut.com), as well as several produce companies and trade associations. The more links you have, the higher you rank with the search engines.

Today’s Marketplace

If you market produce, your company should be educating consumers as well as your customers. A pure business site will not attract consumers. If, however, you combine your business information with consumer information (talk about the healthy benefits of the products you are selling, for instance), you will appeal to a wide audience. There are several outstanding produce company sites you can visit to see what I mean.

Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co.’s site, www.sweetpotatoes.com, provides great information on the history of sweet potatoes, offers photos of many varieties and talks about the nutritional aspects of the sweet potato. This company happened to grab the best domain name possible well before it had an active site up on the Internet. This site also has a business side to it that provides customers with information and, according to company owner George Wooten, in the future they will be adding a secured order processing option for their customers to make doing business with Wayne E. Bailey even easier.

For berries, Driscoll Strawberry Associates’ site, www.driscolls.com, offers a world of information for the consumer. The business side offers virtual tours that both consumers and clients can see. Information on pesticide use and growing berries is available for those interested.

Your Web Site

Think about your own Web site. How long has it been up? When did you last make a change to it?

Do you know how many people are visiting your site? Do you know how many pages they are looking at on your site? Do you know how people are finding your site? What keywords are you using – and which ones are working? We use proprietary software to track all kinds of information about our clients’ Web site activity.

I strongly urge you to take a look at your site and think about how it could be improved to give you more marketing opportunities. Building an active Web site is essential in today’s business environment.

Marty Nicholson is a partner with Edith Garrett & Associates, a consulting firm that helps the produce industry with third-party food safety audit preparation, supplier certification, fresh-cut product development, market research, marketing and advertising strategies, Web site design and copywriting. For more information, call (616) 784-2728 or visit www.edithgarrett.com.


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