Sales and marketing have been revolutionized by the Internet and the capabilities it provides. Traditional values such as quality customer service and an emphasis on relationships are still important for any building service contractor to practice, but knowing how to use online resources to invigorate sales and marketing efforts has become paramount for those who want to keep and grow their customer base.

Businesses are increasingly accessible online, and the average consumer is therefore becoming savvier about using Web sites to get the information needed to make decisions about products and services.

BSCs large and small can benefit from integrating e-marketing techniques into their regular sales communications and marketing campaigns. A content-based approach to a company Web site is one of the most popular sales and marketing tools recommended by experts, and there are plenty of additional ways to use the Internet to drive interested traffic to a site.

“As buyers become more informed, with more options for where and how to buy, it’s hard to win a customer who spends in average only 68 seconds on the Web page while browsing online,” says Katya Akkanen, business relationship manager for Spicore LLC, based in San Diego.

Scott Buresh, CEO of Atlanta-based search engine optimization and e-marketing consultancy Medium Blue, agrees.

“On the Internet, you only have about 5 seconds to get someone’s attention and give them a reason to stay on your site, because the back button is so easy,” he says.

Information hub

A lot of BSCs offer the basics on their Web sites: contact information, a list of services offered, customer testimonials. But these days, one of the best ways to get visitors to stay at a site for longer is to offer detailed information.

“Most people say, ‘I don’t want to have a resource section on my site. I don’t want to teach people. I want to sell to them,’” says Buresh. “But studies have shown that a majority of Web searchers are actually looking for information, so you have to lure them in with informational content and you reach people in all stages of the buying cycle. Somebody might be trying to learn about green cleaning today because they’re considering it for way down the line. Let them learn about it on your Web site.”

E-newsletters are one way to keep a business on the customer’s mind. Those on a newsletter subscription list are in all stages of the buying cycle and had enough interest to sign up — so keep them interested by building trust and brand awareness, Buresh says.

Another aspect of Internet marketing that’s often overlooked is visitor conversion, he adds. Businesses know they want site visitors, but they don’t often know what they want their traffic to do from there.

“Your Web site shouldn’t just be a static brochure proclaiming, ‘I’m open for business.’ It should entice someone to take an action that gets them into your sales pipeline somehow, whether it’s downloading a demo, getting on your newsletter list, filling out a contact form or downloading a white paper,” he says.

BSCs should know what it is they want a site visitor to do, and to make that call to action clear and easy to accomplish.

Most businesses that approach Spicore for services are looking for a way to create an effective Web presence, leverage the Internet to create sales, increase productivity, improve client satisfaction and reduce operational costs. Making a site visible to customers and turning clicks into customers top the list of customer concerns, Akkanen says.

It’s critical when offering information that depth and quality be prioritized, she says, as that is the surest route to creating credibility with customers. Keeping a site fresh and up-to-date is a big component of that as well.

Other methods

Content development in the form of blogs and news releases can also pay off. Blogs, or Web logs, are postings written in an online journal format. They can be updated on a regular basis and site visitors tend to be curious about them. Also, creating news releases highlighting what a company is doing to keep up with a trend, such as green cleaning, is a great way to get more exposure. Releases can be sent to media outlets and posted on the Web site for anyone’s reference. Other e-marketing methods include search engine optimization and pay-per-click management.

“Search engine optimization, at it’s core, is the art and science of applying changes to a Web site so that it ranks highly for certain phrases related to the business in search engines,” Buresh says.

There are many ways to do that, but a content-driven approach is valuable because that’s what search engines know people are looking for. Experts point out the difference between organic search engine results, or the ones that show up on the left side of the page, and pay-per-click advertising, often found on the right-hand side of a search page. A ranking in these ads is determined by how much a company has bid for a particular search word compared to other businesses.

“This can be a cost-effective way to get targeted traffic, since you can specify the geographic area and you only pay when someone actually clicks on the link,” Akkanen says.

Backing up a great Web site with great customer service is the other part of the equation, establishing the human contact that will produce an offline business result.

Even those who cannot afford to hire a professional to design a site can establish an online presence. With a bit of research and a commitment to developing and maintaining a Web site, Buresh says, an individual within the company can host a successful site. Plenty of resources are available online for those looking into creating or improving Web sites.

A vast majority of businesses want to use their Web sites to garner sales leads, and a site that does that can be a BSC’s most valuable business tool. They should put effort into making a site user-friendly and intuitive, Buresh says, in order to get the results they want.

“When leads are potentially worth $100,000 a year to a janitorial service, isn’t it important enough to look at what your Web site is asking you to do, and to see if people are abandoning certain things?” Buresh asks. “That could have been the CEO of some huge building downtown that’s looking to replace their janitorial staff because he’s just had it that day. And you’re not making it easy for him.”