A few weeks ago, we proposed this model of internet marketing:
You serve; your website closes.
What did we mean? In sum: as manager, you are a servant leader to your customers, employees, and community. You make an impact by engaging your surroundings. While you are engaging in local PR, you design your website to always be closing, to always be selling, to always be calling customers to action. In short, your internet marketing strategy is sell as you serve.
Now, we want to revisit this idea. What is an ABC website? An ABC website does four things: (1) treats customers right, (2) tells your business’s story, (3) presents itself in a clear and clean way, and (4) involves the customers.
1. ABC selling: Treat Customers Right
Let’s start with the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross. These salesmen are forced into an ABC mentality. And they turn out bad. They are swindlers, cheaters, liars. Moss and Aaronow break into the office, steal the leads, and sell them to Graff. Then, they let Levene take the blame. Roma lies to Lingk, and Levene bribes Williamson to give Levene good leads. They are scared of getting fired, anxious to sell, desperate for sales.
And this is the logical conclusion of the ABC mentality. It consumes your mind. Impersonal sales become the object of your intentions. And, clearly, you will cheat someone for these sales.
But, as we concluded in the last article, internet marketing has changed the playing field. An ABC salesman may have to act immoral to get his sale. But a website doesn’t. An ABC salesman may have to swindle to get his free El Dorado. But a website doesn’t care about El Dorados.
Despite this, you must be careful. You must not engage in unethical internet marketing.
Do not let your website slip into dishonesty. Be cautious of promising subjective things, like a “good experience” or “best tasting salmon in town” or “best service around!” The second you fail an expectation is the second you temporarily harm your image.
This is especially relevant to franchises with multiple locations. Your franchise may have one central website. You may display your product, show your service, promise a good experience, pledge a certain price. When you make this promise, you are promising this experience at all your franchised sites.
To lessen this problem, allow franchisees to have local sites. A good way to create an ABC website is to make that site as local as possible.
You want videos of familiar faces voicing their opinions about the business. You want a Twitter feed that shows real people tweeting what they ate, what they bought, what they encountered at that particular franchise. You want the community to honor you, to accept you, to trust you. Which leads us to our next ABC trait: narrating.
2. Internet Marketing with a Story
Nobody is going to buy nothing from some suspicious somebody selling something. You must build trust. You must have a story. And it needs to be good. Every sale starts with the story, and every close confirms the story’s veracity.
The best internet marketing strategies involve a good story. But telling your story is not just narrating the growth of your business.
Consider this quote by Norman Wirzba, professor of theology at Duke Divinity: “For the food to be good, the story of food must be good.” It’s the cooks who made your hamburger, the waiters who took your order, the place where the burger was cooked. It’s the ingredients inside the burger, the way those ingredients were handled, the delivery, the execution, the care. That’s what gives your burger quality. And that’s what makes it good.
Telling your story, then, is not just your history; it’s what you do behind the scenes, what you do to improve your product and service, what you do to create memorable moments for your customers.
Your website should be your best narrator. Internet users say just about anything, no matter how false the information. What happens when customers are suspicious of your ingredients, your staff, your safety? “I wonder if this food is processed. Do they pay their staff? Did that person really find fingers in her french fries?”
People will talk. They’ll complain. They’ll Yelp it, Tweet it, text it. They will tell your story. And it may not be true. A poor customer review, a guest having a bad day, a hungry diner unable to cope with your system crash. All of these have a skewed picture of your business. And their story will conflict with and ruin yours.
An ABC website, then, tells the best version of your story.
You are the authority on your business. Answer the unsatisfied customer. Respond to the poor customer review. Don’t be overly defensively, but don’t be passive either. A good storyteller answers objections. The best storytellers win the skeptics over.
If you’re website tells your story, then it’s closing. Like a good sales pitch, your story tells what you do, how you do it, and how you will do it for me, the customer.
3. Windex Your Website, but Keep it Interesting
Storytelling, however, is an art. As such, it’s often done carelessly. Thousands of good stories are lost because bad websites tangle the story in webs of confusion. Unsure of what a website wants to say, customers leave. In fact, studies have proven that customers drop a slow loading or crappy website after 10 seconds. If they can’t discern what you’re trying to sell, they will leave.
You have 10 seconds to convince a user to stay on your page. Your website, then, needs to be polished. It needs to be clean.
But there’s more to storytelling than just appearance. In addition to cleanliness, your website needs to be simple.
The best stories are the simplest to grasp. Just think of the great American novelists of the 20th century. We drop names like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Orwell, and Steinbeck, not because they wrote long, complicated narratives. Rather, the opposite: all these writers are admired for their clear, simple styles. Each employs clean, focused sentences. Each tells memorable stories with short words and clear language.
Many people have tried to imitate these authors. However, they often sound elementary, as though a middle schooler strung together a few simple sentences. The simple style of Hemingway is much more complicated than you expect.
Why? Hemingway’s sentences are not simple for the sake of simplicity: he had deep, complex ideas to express, and simple language was the medium to do that. He had depth behind his words, meaning behind his sentences, truth behind his books.
And that’s what most people: complexity. Their websites may be clean. But they’re lacking content. They may be white-washed. But they’re boring. They may look easy to navigate. But there’s nothing interesting to navigate to.
An ABC website, then, is clean, simple, and interesting. Presentation is important. If you have a good story, if you have something to say, something to sell, something to give, present it well.
A good salesman always gets clients to listen. As your salesman, your website should convince visitors to stay. Then, it should persuade them to listen.
4. Keep the Customer Inside: Internet Marketing with Customers
Think about the metaphor of closing. When you hear the word, “close,” you probably attach “the deal,” or “the sale,” or its equivalent. But think about what we’re saying. When you close a door, you create a wall. And if you close the door on someone, you separate yourself from them. Is this really a good metaphor for internet marketing?
No way. You never want to close the door on a customer. You want the customer inside. Then you can close. In this way, the customer stays inside your business, even after the sale is made.
And that’s the point of good internet marketing: to ensure the customer stays with your business. A customer can easily open the door and leave. Your goal, then, is to maintain communication and keep the customer inside.
Internet marketing is quickly shifting to inbound marketing. Inbound marketing uses blogs, videos, and other free materials to educate customers. With free educational material, customers feel less suspicious of your intentions.
Consider a business like IKEA. To keep customers inside, this business could offer how-to-videos to demonstrate how an expert constructs the furniture. Although manuals usually do this, a how-to-video can easily complement the text.
Restaurants, ice cream shops, coffee houses, and smoothie franchises can inbound market, too.
According to a recent report by Franchise Direct, sales of organic and natural foods/beverages will reach $80 billion in 2015. In short, Americans still value a healthy lifestyle.
Food franchises, then, should consider Calorie counters, healthy meal recipes, exercise guides, and even joint-advertising with gyms for their websites.
However you decide to inbound market, creating sustainable relationships with customers will ensure future closing.
“They’re out there waiting for you!”
So there you go, four main components on an ABC website: (1) ethics, (2) narrative, (3) clarity, and (4) dynamics. Of course, there are several other components we could elaborate. But we want to hear your thoughts, your suggestions, your visions. We want you to evaluate your website in light of our suggestions. Is your website always closing? What can you do to improve your site? If it is closing, what’s working for you? What’s not working?