Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where Are All My Customers? - Finding Qualified Prospects and Driving Them to Your Site

by Will Moore

The most difficult thing about starting a website is driving qualified prospects to your door. Many sites have died just because of not understanding a few simple techniques that will let people know who you are, where you are and what you have to offer. To attract these visitors, you need to go where they are and show them that you have what they are looking for. In other words, you need to be seen and be seen everywhere. That is what we will try to do here today.

But before you can find potential customers, you need to know who or what you are looking for. That is, you need to know your target audience. Try to visualize and then identify your perfect target customer. Is it a business, a particular group such as students, self-employed, the elderly or some other? Knowing as much detail as possible will help define how you want to design and target your marketing efforts.

Match your target audience to your products, or the other way around: match your products to the audience. This will determine how you design your presentation, ads and website, or at least the relevant landing pages. Don't try to use one page to cover many products or services. If your audience doesn't find exactly what they are looking for right away, their next click will be their last. Well, at least on your site.

Don't try to sell to everyone. If you do sell something for everyone, break up your product lines to appeal to certain segments. Then go after these segments as though they were separate products/services. Visitors like to know that you are a specialist in exactly what they need. If you offer too many choices, confusion sets in and they are gone.

If you don't know who you are selling to, you can't talk to them one to one. And everyone wants to be treated as though they were special, because they are. Your primary goal is to solve their problems. Do that and the money will follow.

OK, now that you have a target audience defined, where do you find them? The first place to look is on your competitors' websites! Competitors are easy to find, they are all over the web. This is also a good time to test your keywords and search terms.

Start by doing a search with your primary keyword or phrase. Simply searching your selected product name or type would be a good start. You will get a list of competitors, probably more than you ever wanted to see. Determine that they are indeed your competitors by checking out their sites. This is important, because if you are not getting listings of sites you know to be direct competitors, you are targeting the wrong keywords.

Once you get a list of competitors, look at their keywords. This will supply you with more ideas to narrow your target audience. You can find their keywords by right-clicking on the page (not on an image) and selecting 'View Source' from the list that appears. Near the top of the web page is a 'meta' tag showing the keywords defined for the web page. Bear in mind that this type of keyword is fading away. Most keywords are now determined by the content of the page, at least for Google. You may find sites that have no keywords listed at all. Don't worry about this, use the ones you do find.

Next, you want to look at the sites that are linking to your competitors. You can do this by going to the search engines and typing 'links:www.competitorsitename.com'. You will be given a list of websites, blogs, forums, directories and articles that refer customers to them. These places are where you want to be seen also. Locate the link pointing to the competitor's website or examine the link subject matter to determine what keywords to use.

Also search blogs, forums and articles about your or similar products. Blogs and forums are especially good because they give you insight into what people are thinking and saying about your type of products as well as telling you about your competition. You might even find comments about your site and products. If some of these are negative, you have learned a great deal about what needs to be fixed on your site.

Add your comments to forums, being sure to have a profile with a link pointing to your site. Do the same with blogs, articles and ads. Be where your competition is. Get seen and heard. Clients will soon be knocking on your door. A warning about using forums and blogs: Do not under any circumstances advertise or mention your own products. That will get you banned and certainly turn off any potential customers. By contributing in a professional way, you will build a reputation over time as an expert in your field. This will draw interest to your site and your products.

There are other methods that can be used, but these have proven to be some of the best and the cheapest. Not necessarily the easiest and certainly not the fastest, but you will find that the customers that arrive at your site because of these methods are pre-qualified and motivated to buy. They will return a high conversion rate for you and in turn drive even more customers to your door. This in turn will raise your position with the search engines and make your next marketing efforts easier.

Once you have traffic, the next step is properly marketing to them. Your site and presentation will either drive them away or have them returning again and again because they have found the solution to their problems. We will cover increasing marketing effectiveness in a future article.

In future articles, we will discuss more strategies for finding customers for free, including RSS, Syndication, Articles and even using Google tools (without having to pay for anything).

Happy hunting.

About the Author

Will Moore is Marketing Effectiveness Specialist at Web Stats Gold , a Marketing Effectiveness and e-business development firm. You may contact him at Web Stats Gold Marketing