August 9, 2020

Using PR to boost online leads

At a time when construction businesses need every possible competitive advantage they can get, Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director of Energy PR, looks at how companies can boost traffic to their websites.


With so much face to face communication not possible, exhibitions and conferences postponed, site visits limited, and many people not reachable via their regular office numbers, key traditional sales routes are severely inhibited. This has prompted many companies to focus instead on their online sales channels in the hope it will plug the gap. But what does this mean for your PR? What should this function be doing to help drive online leads and enquiries? 

First, fix the holes in your bucket

If companies are looking to boost the amount of business they generate online, the first thing they should do is check that their site is communicating effectively. Just as you’d never attempt to fill a bucket without fixing the holes in it first. Similarly, before you attempt to drive more leads and traffic to your site, you should make sure the site is performing as well as it should. Check the journey through it. Does your site explain things properly? Is it complicated to navigate? Does it support the online sales process? For instance, if someone is having to buy/enquire online they are inhibited; they can’t see things in person, so perhaps you need short video demos of equipment or Q&As and case studies. You need to be clear about things like warranties, delivery costs and so forth.  Nasty surprises can massively undermine the online order process because online buying is so dependent on trust.  So be clear.

Also look at your bounce rate. If this is high it suggests people are coming to your site, not really finding what they’re after and are quickly heading off again. It could be you’re attracting the wrong people in the first place, or the site you have is not properly catering for the visitors you want. So, take a look and see what needs fixing.

In addition to checking the way your site communicates, you should ensure you are giving yourself the opportunity to data-capture people.  I don’t mean inserting irritating pop-ups the minute someone lands on your site. However, once they have been on your site a while, or looked at certain content, offer them something really valuable – a guide, an expert report – whatever will be useful to them.  This high value content is offered in exchange for name and email details. By capturing such details, you can start marketing to them, and driving them to your site, rather than hoping they will one day return!

Email marketing

If you are capturing emails you need to be prepared to market to them.  A 2018 study by Emarsys showed roughly 80% of businesses rely on email as their primary channel for customer acquisition and retention. Email marketing is relatively unique in its ability to drive the first sale as well as unlock more revenue from your most valuable customers.  So, focus some time on getting it right.

Have a smart email marketing programme in place.  Be systematic, measure open rates and click throughs. Depending on someone’s behaviour, where they are from and what they look at, put them into different streams of activity, so that each recipient is taken towards your sales funnel in a way that is appropriate for them.

Media

Once your site is working well and you have some data-capture, you can drive more inbound enquires. Media relations will play an important role in this.  If carefully planned and executed, online media coverage will not only get your products or brand in front of readers, but it will also boost your website’s own search engine optimisation; your site will appear higher in the search rankings for key phrases or terms. Many PR people don’t fully appreciate this fact. So let me quickly explain why this is the case.

Quality online media titles are respected by Google and the other search engines. If your company is featured in an article on a relevant topic in a good, pertinent media title and that article then links through to your website, Google’s algorithm notes it. It recognises that, for that subject, a respected website (the media) directs people to your site. If this is repeated on many media sites consistently, Google will conclude that yours is a good site to point people to for that topic. So it will place you higher in the search rankings when people search for it.

With some careful consideration for the key phrases/topics people might search for when it comes to your products and services, you can use online media relations to dramatically boost your web traffic.  For instance, we’ve helped one company more than double its already good web traffic figures in a year, through highly tactical media work designed to boost its search engine optimisation.

Obviously this isn’t a quick fix, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will make a difference. So work with your web team to develop a keyword/topic strategy and focus your media activity on supporting this.

Brand building opportunities

Another reason why companies should be focusing on the media at the moment is that there are real opportunities there. We conducted a survey among 137 of our media contacts. Over half told us that companies have cut their activity back. Furloughing has left 38% of the journalists we spoke to with fewer companies to approach and 56% are struggling to get hold of spokespeople or marketing teams.

This is a real opportunity to plug this gap, boost your media profile and leapfrog the competition by building your brand. This is important as people searching online and faced with an array of options are much more likely to select a company they’ve heard of. And don’t forget, with face to face meetings limited and no events to attend, decisionmakers are relying on the media more than ever for their information. Having your expertise, products and case studies featured on the editorial pages of leading media titles is a very smart move.

Social media’s role

When people think of generating online business, many think social media is the answer.  While it’s true that social media can be a fantastic tool for getting your brand in front of your online audience, it’s not the perfect tool for delivering web traffic, and therefore web enquiries.  For instance, JCB got just 1.81% of its web traffic from social channels in May (source SimilarWeb) and the vast bulk of this (71%) from YouTube, where the company has lots of videos demoing its kit. 

Such videos will certainly support the online sales/enquiry process; as already mentioned, online demos of kit, or ‘how tos’ will be useful to the online sales process. But suddenly focusing your efforts on social media activity is not going to deliver a major surge in traffic/web leads. And remember, not every channel will be right for your business!  Know your customer, know the channels they use and how they use them.  Focus your efforts on these.

Customers

Certainly don’t prioritise social media over your current customers.  In a typical e-commerce business, repeat customers account for 8% of the customer base but 40% of revenue.  So, if you are looking to boost your web enquiries harness those repeat customers.  Offer them new products/services but do more than this. Ask them for recommendations, and reviews.  Engage them in your marketing activity in ways which will boost your online presence and reach.

Partnerships

It can be very hard work trying to drive web traffic and leads to your site on your own. So also consider partnering with a non-competing complementary company or brand. Could you do a joint initiative which you both promote, and which can generate email contacts, social media activity or brand exposure for you both? Can you guest blog on each other’s sites or promote your offerings in each other’s e-newsletters? Can you host a joint webinar or produce a shared download which you both promote? We helped one brand increase its email database by over 8,000 highly targeted names, (all GDPR compliant) by jointly working with another company which was targeting the same type of audience. They pooled resources and both benefited.

Use the tools & focus

This is just a flavour of the many communications related things a construction sector company can do to build its online business. My final piece of advice is not to reinvent the wheel. Use tools and resources such as Similarweb to identify how other highly successful e-commerce businesses in your sector get their traffic. Google Trends will help you identify effective keywords and phrases your site and media relations should be focusing on. Whilst your Google Analytics will show you what’s working on your site. Remember you won’t be able to do it all. So do a few key things well to start with and progress from there.

Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director of Energy PR

To arrange a tailored discussion on how PR can boost your online enquiries and sales email [email protected].