Make Your Website an Advocacy Toolkit

 Follow me here, because this is important.

 Follow me here, because this is important. How do you use the Web to buy stuff? Before you answer, consider these four basic rules that define the basis of all online research behaviors to support a purchasing decision:

Need. Maybe something broke, maybe it never worked well, maybe you’ve recognized a potentially better market/opportunity/technology, or maybe a supplier has changed the way it does business, or failed. It all starts with the idea that you need something.

Forage. Your search begins. You’re laser focused on finding solutions, like an animal searching for food. No matter what media or channel you use, now’s the time to assemble your options. You overlook whatever doesn’t fit your needs, and gravitate toward what appears to.

Select. You assess and choose the most acceptable solutions to your need, based on the quality of the information you find. The rest you throw away.

Contact. Now armed with your “short list,” you move to the engagement and collaborative stages. You’ll now dig deeper into the solutions you’ve found to select the best of breed for your needs.

Think about this carefully: Personal habits and quirks aside, these are the steps that everyone goes through when seeking information important to their business.

Do you ever get frustrated—ever find yourself searching high and low for specifics, technologies, equipment, services, or answers, and you either can’t find squat, or what you can find is insufficient? It stinks, doesn’t it? Is it possible that your own website’s likely doing the same thing to the people that are looking for you?

Once a prospect is on your site, they are looking for justification to present to their bosses, supervisors or to satisfy their own demands. They want good reasons to justify picking your company as a supplier. But maybe you don’t give them one.

As a manufacturer with a single opportunity to influence a prospect visiting your website right now, you have to start thinking of it as an advocacy toolkit—one that offers prospects in the industries you serve good reasons to pick you as a partner or supplier and share that information with others.

Here are some ideas on how to capitalize on these behaviors:

Present brief, easy-to-read explanations of projects, processes and products you’ve made better or improved. Remember: the people you want to talk to don’t go to the Web to read—they go to the Web to work. They want brief explanations of the value you’ve brought to others and are likely to bring to them.

Provide detailed descriptions of services and logistical support aside from the actual parts or products your company offers and examples of how they’ve translated to success or unexpected value for your customers. Present your creativity to solve problems.

Include all contact information for your company on each page and in each section. (Many people still like to print pages or copy info into a report—make it easy for them to contact you offline or pass that along to others).

Imagine your prospects assembling reports to justify selecting your company as a partner or supplier. Now, imagine the information they would see on your website, next to that of your competitors’. Do you really think all it takes to convince them of your value or satisfy their need for a solution is an equipment list?

Think about how you use the Web to support technical research and purchases for your company, and what you look for. Think about what job your prospects are doing when you most want to talk to them and use your website to show them.
It’s 2012. We’re long past the days of questioning if our prospects are using the Web—including your site—to research viable manufacturing options and alternatives. They are.
Think of ways to use your site to arm these visitors as ambassadors for your business within their own, to give them information that is useful for them to make sound decisions about you, to make your prospects your company’s advocates.
It’s time to begin enabling your prospects and customers, not just informing them.