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Thursday, August 14, 2008

 

How to use great content for marketing?



Packaging buyers are becoming increasing comfortable with using the Internet as a tool to find information prior to making a purchasing decision. Companies who provide effective content and interactivity on their site will grab the most eyeballs and, hence, maximize profits.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the manner in which we obtain information and the amount of information that can be accessed. Remember the days when someone in your organization was able to obtain your competitor’s price list or data sheets or organization chart? It would go into a file marked ‘confidential competitor information.’ Now, you can get the same information within seconds. In fact, companies are beginning to compete with each other in how much information they provide on their websites. It is no longer surprising to see customer lists, examples of applications, detailed product literature and an employee directory.

What’s missing?
The Web is essentially the easiest way for a company to connect with the world and turn visitors into customers by creating a pleasant experience. But the packaging industry has yet to take full advantage of all that the Web has to offer. For example:

  1. In an effort to create an online presence, yet with an unavailability of internal web design professionals, companies have essentially taken their brochures and put them on the Web. It is disappointing to see sites that are not updated regularly, sometimes for months.
  2. Another powerful feature of the Internet is its interactive capability. While a company might need to spend enormous resources to speak over the telephone to 100 customers to find out their experience with a new feature on the company’s latest equipment, a poll on the ‘customers-only’ section of the company’s website will provide such feedback at almost no cost.
  3. The Internet also allows companies to inexpensively answer questions from visitors by providing links to appropriate individuals or, in the case of a large organization, have a customer service rep available either to answer questions through a chat session or by calling back the visitor.

I have yet to see all of these features in a single website in the packaging industry. (I would like to know if there are such sites since I have not visited every single one.)

Providing effective content
As the comfort level with the Internet increases, customers are increasingly using it as a tool to find information prior to making a purchasing decision. The analogy that comes to my mind is that of a trade show. I see trade shows as having a three-dimensional role in business: inform, interact and market. Companies go to a trade show to demonstrate their products (inform), have discussions with potential customers (interact) and differentiate themselves from their competitors (market).

This is exactly what needs to be duplicated on the Internet. You should think about providing such powerful content that visitors feel that they can find out practically anything about the product. This will result in a higher comfort level and, as a result, higher sales. An informed customer is more likely to buy. Customers want to learn about existing applications, benefits to current users and how it compares to competitive products.

I believe you should provide a comparative chart so that customers do not need to go to many different sites to develop one on their own. It would be even better if such comparisons were provided by an independent agency to make sure that they create an impression of being unbiased. This will help users make faster and better decisions and develop a sense of trust in you. Remember that customers in the new economy are armed with information, and you cannot mislead them.

Make it interactive
The second feature that you need to include is interactivity. For example, make interactive product data available so that customers can plug in their specific information and see the product performance. If you have product pictures, make sure it is possible to see them from all possible angles by being able to rotate them.

As purchasing and technical managers use the Internet increasingly as a tool to collect information, packaging companies have to start exploiting it is a powerful marketing tool. A website that looks like a brochure gets treated like one — to be seen only when absolutely necessary and just thrown away otherwise.

Packaging products present a great opportunity to be demonstrated on the Internet, and those who exploit this faster than others are more likely to grab a larger share of the eyeballs and, thus, potential profits.

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