With a Grey Cup behind us, Canadian football fans are once again forced to turn our attention south. That means late-season NFL football, or the part of the year when most teams in the league are either making a push for the playoffs or figuring out how to start over next season.
Believe it or not, this late-season flurry of action and anticipation holds some lessons for business web design and Internet marketing. That's because, just as some teams will make the playoffs and some won’t, there are some websites that draw lots of attention and many others who struggle to attract visitors, much less sales.
The reasons are usually fairly obvious. When you see a football team that can’t block, pass, or run the ball, you know that they are going to be in trouble every quarter. In the same way, a website that is poorly designed, has a terrible navigation structure, or tries to invite sales with poor copywriting will essentially "turn the ball over" to competitors on a regular basis.
Things are different for the winning teams, though, and for the business websites that have strong designs and solid marketing plans behind them. Once they reach that level, customers start to pay closer attention. Just like the playoffs come down to the finer points of the game, there are a few key features that separate the more profitable websites from the ones who don't rack up as many sales:
The best business websites present highly valued offers.
This is obvious, but it's also worth mentioning. No amount of great design, search engine optimization, or web programming can help you overcome a poor business model… at least not for very long. What a great business website can do, however, is help you emphasize your competitive strengths and express them to customers in a way that makes them want to take action.
Successful online marketers leverage a strong reputation.
This is becoming more and more important, as buyers are turning to Google, social sites, and online forums to find out how well your products hold up, whether you have treated other customers fairly in the past, and if what you're selling offers real value. If you build the right kind of reputation over the Internet, they can help you overcome differences with pricing, product features, and other details.
Great businesses win repeat customers.
Just as some football teams are perennial favorites, successful online marketing campaigns are the ones that can win back the same groups of buyers time and time again. Repeat visitors don't just place larger orders, but also tend to cost a lot less in the long run. Given that, it's a mystery why some businesses don't place more of a priority on making offers to existing customers on a regular basis.
Great marketers get creative.
Although football coaches don't like to rely on trick plays and complicated schemes, they know that every tool has its place, and going against the conventional wisdom is sometimes the best way to reach a goal. You should approach your Internet marketing campaign the same way – with a heavy emphasis on proven, high-ROI strategies, but a little bit of creativity and risk-taking thrown in from time to time. You never know exactly what will work until you give it a try.
While none of these factors is what you would consider a secret, that doesn't diminish their importance. After all, great football teams know what it takes to win, but that doesn't make it a simple task to execute more consistently than their opponents.