One of the things I, and so many other IMARK and LPG members, vendors and service providers, appreciate about Ted Havel is his resourcefulness. In all of my interactions with Ted over the past bunch of years as a service provider for IMARK and LPG, Ted’s top priority has always been to serve our industry and the people who make it so wonderful in the most practical way so that every member gets world-class results in all they’re doing to scale growth, operate more efficiently, make more confident and insightful decisions and measure all of their business development results in as systematic of a way as possible.
Several years ago, Ted asked my business partner Austin Pike (a 30 Under 30 Alum for the National Kitchen & Bath Association and top internet sales consultant in the plumbing industry) and I to publish a State of the Industry type of article that would provide proven profitable, how-to strategies for winning more market share and generating more revenue through the internet channel.
The goal of Ted asking me to author this piece was to help plumbing wholesalers and decorative showrooms of all shapes, sizes and structures succeed in mastering and perfecting their company’s recipe for bringing as many high-probability buyers “through the internet” as possible to inquire and buy from them—as effortlessly as possible. Although it was exciting to be asked to submit that article many years ago, it is wonderful to know that many of the strategies shared in that piece have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for folks just like you who still employ those strategies and systems in their business today!
Fast Forward to 2022…
from Feeling Frustrated to Finding Freedom
Just recently, Ted reached out to me again to submit an article for IMARK Plumbing Now. Ted asked me to supply some information for the following. “John, I am seeking an article for the summer issue of IMARK Plumbing Now that provides members with insight and best practices on the following:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)/search engine marketing (SEM) and business profile for better website traffic and visibility. FYI, based on a recent member survey, (for members with websites) 68% of the responses indicated that members are not utilizing SEO/SEM to improve the visibility of their website. Within your article can you touch on the importance of SEO/SEM and provide guidelines on how members can best use SEO/SEM to improve their website traffic?
- General tips/best practices on how members can improve their websites. In the same survey, we asked members to indicate top capabilities that could be an area of interest or a priority for improvement. Close to 50% of the respondents indicated they wish to increase their overall company sales on their company webstore.
First, let’s be clear: There is no shortage of places online and business development initiatives with which your company can get involved. However, knowing which method or program is best and what will yield you the largest return on your investment is another story.
The answer to this is not to just “throw more money” at something and see if it sticks. The answer is to partner with an initiative that measures, monitors, adjusts and controls Every outcome that matters to your company. Most companies we connect with these days want to know how much revenue they should expect to come back from their business development initiatives through the internet channel. #ShowMeTheMoney, in other words.
In Q4 of 2021 and Q1 of 2022, our company, ShowroomMarketing.com, tracked, recorded and measured more than 27,000 inquiries from the internet channel that came through our client’s online infrastructure. These inquiries were from web searchers who reached out by phone, filled-out a contact form, submitted a wish list, asked a “live chat bot” a question, clicked on directions to find a physical location from Google Maps or who purchased from a client’s webstore.
After analyzing each inquiry line-by-line, we found 92% of the inquiries originated from a Google property. That’s from an organic search (i.e., somebody who clicked a free listing located on the first page of Google). A searcher who clicked on a Google ad (i.e., someone who was searching from a specific zip code and submitted a search query to Google that included terminology about finding a physical location to get their questions answered or to see and touch a product, to find out more about a product category or brand or to find an alternative to one of their competitors). A third inquiry type came from searchers who clicked to get directions so they could walk into a physical business via a Google Maps page.
Other inquiries originated from Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, YouTube, TikTok, Houzz, other search engines like Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo, dealer locator features from a manufacturer’s website and from direct mail campaigns that are being tracked.
Not All Website Visitors are Created Equal
According to Distribution Strategy Group, digital commerce now represents more than 10% of total revenue for half of all wholesale distributors and decorative showrooms with an e-commerce site. Over the past several weeks, I have personally interviewed several experts in our industry in the e-commerce field who have shared that the No. 1 trend occurring in our industry is to “convert” revenue that was once generated through a sales associate, account manager or in a physical store to revenue that is now being collected through a reordering platform—also known as business-to-business e-commerce.
Those who do not have an e-commerce site but want to find success “through” and “on” the internet channel (yes, there is a difference), should be focused on controlling as much web traffic as possible that will help generate revenue that was not going to be seen on your P&L from searchers in your local market or nationally who are searching “bath or kitchen showroom near me,” “plumbing supply store,” “kitchen design center” or any of the product categories or brands that you have listed on your website. One additional way to control more market share and get high probability buyers to act on your offerings is by paying Google to have your ad “show up” when a search is done for one of your competitors online.
In short, if you want to make money through your website and on your webstore, you’re going to have to understand that the customer who you serve at your brick-and-mortar may not be the same customer you are fulfilling orders from your webstore. They have different buying and search preferences, and they interact with web infrastructure in an entirely different way.
So, What is SEO Anyway?
SEO, in simple terms, means the process of improving your website to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing and other search engines. The better visibility your pages and web content have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.
We all know the power of how “Googling” something brings us solutions. In the plumbing industry, there is lots of Googling going on these days, and it’s imperative that your business shows up at the exact time a solution is being requested.
Throughout the past 20 years, there have been various algorithm updates that have been implemented to change the way Google displays what they deem “relevant” for a searcher on their search engine. The biggest takeaway I’d like you to have about SEO in the plumbing industry is that wishing, hoping and praying that the perfect person “stumbles” across your site and has a “coming-to-Earth moment” while browsing your message or website is no longer the top strategy you should be relying on to grow sales online.
Without getting too in-depth or emotional, I would view SEO this way if I were you: if your business development initiatives cannot be measured right down to the search volume numbers or cost-per-lead, WE DO NOT suggest that you do that advertising strategy in abundance.
What is SEM?
SEM is the process of gaining traffic and visibility from search engines through both paid and unpaid efforts. And whether you have personnel to enhance the web experience (such a web coders, product content managers or graphic designers) and to improve the results you’re getting (such as content creators, paid ad account managers or a director of marketing) in-house or if you prefer to partner with a marketing agency or business development firm (yes, there is a difference) to do this on your behalf, you will need to understand the fancies of SEM in the plumbing industry to generate new streams of predictable revenue, improve your website’s performance and to help you be more high tech and high touch in all of your communications with leads, customers and associates.
Top 10 Strategies for Generating More Revenue from the Internet
Does my eye-phone look like your website is performing these days?
According to an article published by the North American Hardware and Paint Association shared by Jeff MacDowell, executive director of the Luxury Products Group during a recent presentation to the group, “A consumer is seven times more likely to buy from a local business than from an online retailer like Amazon or Build when presented the opportunity.” So, what does presented the opportunity actually mean? To me, it means that a business must “show up” in a meaningful way at the very second a consumer is looking to execute a purchase.
These 10 strategies will help you turn web browsers into buyers and online insights into more income in the most measurable, systematic, predicable and scalable ways.
how many contact form fill-outs and live chat requests are being submitted, how many website visitors viewed the Contact Page of your website, how many people are clicking to get directions from your Google Maps page to find a brick and mortar location and how many orders are coming in through your website and from which source the leads or sales are coming from.
- Make sure the metadata (i.e., page titles, page descriptions, H1 and H2 tags, and image alt tags) on the backend of your website are optimized for the search terms that your ideal B2B clients and B2C customers are using when searching online.
- Make sure Google Analytics is properly installed on your site and that the most impactful goals are being accounted for. The top goals being measured should include, but not be limited to, tracking how many phone calls you’re receiving,
- Make sure you are reviewing your Google Analytics information each month with somebody who knows what it all means as well as how to improve your website’s user experience (UX) based on what the data is telling you. If bettering your bottom line is truly a goal, adding heat mapping software (such as Lucky Orange) to your site would be a wonderful idea.
- Make sure the product data on your site is updated, accurate, includes colorful product images, specifications, features and benefits, pricing and supplemental documents. Also, sharing inspiration galleries with your products segmented by category and brand works wonderfully. Aside from web browsers being able to see your products being used in application, there are also SEO benefits that come with giving Google what it wants: relevant, optimized, easy-to-view content for the visitors to browse.
- Make sure you are sharing customer testimonials and reviews. We have found web searchers engage with reviews best when they are screenshots from the actual review engines themselves. Google reviews, Yelp reviews, Facebook reviews and Houzz reviews (preferably with images of the people and/or the towns in which they live or company for which they work) get the best interaction rates. If you’re using a service to automate the process of getting reviews, be careful that the same review isn’t being shared on each review site. Here is an example of how, fellow IMARK member ProSource Supply showcases many of their five-star reviews on their website.
- Make sure you have location landing pages for each physical location fully built-out on your website. Several years ago, Google made a decision to reward the most local, optimized listing when a searcher was browsing for a solution. This was the birth of the “Near Me” modifier being put into search results when something was being Googled.
- Make sure you are showcasing your involvement at local associations and trade shows, how you’re supporting continuing education at your company and what you’re doing differently than the other options in your market that sell what you do so potential and current clients select your business as their vendor or choice over the competition. The top ways to share this information are by blogging about it, creating e-newsletters that go out monthly or at least quarterly, on social media or by using press releases.
- Make sure you are implementing video into your messaging and marketing mix. You may want to showcase your staff through “Meet the Team Mondays,” with “sizzle reels” of your company’s value-add or with a 360-degree video tour of your showroom or supply house. There has been a massive migration toward shorter video clips (30 seconds or less) on Instagram reels, Facebook stories, TikTok and YouTube shorts, but we have found the best way to leverage these on-the-rise messaging mechanisms is to have them posted to your site and LinkedIn, so that website visitors know you’re tuned with the times. As for the ROI here, it shows up when you track things properly!
- Make sure you are talking about the work your leadership team and company as a whole is doing in the community and for charity. As a company who does this internally and for our clients, it is no longer acceptable to solely be high tech (meaning, you’re showing up online), if you aren’t partnering this will “how much you care” as well.
- Make sure you are analyzing what your service area’s search market looks like as well as studying your competitor’s advertising footprint. Doing this on a quarterly basis will keep you abreast of where the market is heading. However, the key to having this data is to put processes in place to capture their web traffic on your company’s website.
If you need assistance in going about implementing any of these strategies into your business, I would consult an expert or firm who a) understands the do’s and don’ts of our industry, b) has a track-record of success with businesses like yours, or c) is generating an hearty ROI for clients.
It’s safe to say, the time is right now to make disciplined, data-driven decisions so that your business is being responsible when it comes to generating revenue from the internet channel.