Step #2: Standing Out in a Field of So Many – Build Your Brand
One of the most important things you can do to distinguish your company from the competition is to establish a recognizable identity for your business: your brand. No matter how small or large your business may be, it’s always a good idea for customers – and, more importantly, potential customers – to recognize your business and the services that you specialize in. How about starting with a catchy tagline or slogan?
Consider, for a moment, some of the slogans used by insurance companies:
“You’re in good hands with Allstate.”
“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
“Let Prudential be your rock.”
“Nationwide is on your side.”
While it’s true that these slogans are designed for large-scale insurance companies trying to appeal to the mass public, a catchy slogan that describes your business or how you want your customers to feel about your business can be just as effective. Slogans are important for increasing retention rate and desire. It should be concise and memorable.
Whatever you do, don’t use “throw-away generic marketing” words like “scalability,” “flexibility” and “security” in your slogan. Instead, use words that trigger strong emotion and feelings.
Step #3: Fine Tune Your Web Site
Now that you’ve identified your company’s greatest strengths and took steps to establish a strong identity for your company, it’s time to craft what will undoubtedly be your greatest marketing tool – your company Web site. It goes without saying that you’ll want to incorporate your company’s unique identity into your site – whether that’s a company slogan, logo or both — so that current and potential customers can readily recognize the site as belonging to your company. But what else should you include in order to create the most effective Web site possible?
Before making that decision, it’s helpful to return once again to the insurance industry. One of the first things that’s obvious with insurance company sites is how they cater to their target audience. Take, for example, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. While the company offers a variety of plans for both individuals and employers, their emphasis on the home page appeals to individuals and families. This is obvious by the photos they use, as well as the easy-to-follow overall format for this main site. Other companies – The Hartford, for example – may tailor their site to appeal more to businesses looking for coverage.
Appealing to your target audience is crucial, but there are other important measures you can take to make your Web site as appealing and user friendly as possible:
- Use visuals to your advantage. Approximately 65% of people are visual learners. In fact, most of the time we filter out 99% of sensory data, and the 1% remaining is visual. When it comes to choosing images for your Web site, they should be relevant and easy for your customers to identify with. Some experts believe you have only 8 seconds to capture the attention of a site visitor. The easiest way to do that is with visuals. The insurance industry provides some excellent examples of effective use of visuals, including Liberty Mutual, American Income Life and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.
- Keep text to a minimum. It’s estimated that people typically scan text, actually reading only about 20% of the words on any given Web page. If your site is text heavy, chances are that visitors will skip it entirely and move on to another site – most likely another competitor’s site – with appealing visuals and minimal text. Whatever text you do use should be interesting, relevant, well written and error free. Only include information that you know will be important to your customers.
Consider the insurance industry, which is just as complex – if not more so – than the hosting business. It would be all too easy to overwhelm site visitors with too much text, especially considering how much there is to explain. But companies with effective Web sites do just the opposite, such as Nationwide or Geico.
- Decrease your bounce rate. In other words, reduce the number of people who just look at one page of your site – typically your home page – and move on to some other site altogether. One of the ways you can do this is by creating multiple landing pages on your site, each with unique keywords. Make the site as easy as possible to use: contrasting colors, bulleted lists, standout headlines, larger fonts and strategically placed white space. The site should be organized in a logical manner, so that different topics that might be of interest to customers are easy to find. Just look at the Farmers Insurance home page for an excellent example of a standout headline, effective use of large fonts and an easy-to-use design.
- Increase page-loading speed. If customers have to wait too long, some will simply move on to another hosting company’s site. The insurance industry has understood this for years. When was the last time you had to wait any length of time for a major insurance company’s home page to load?
If you have any doubt whatsoever about the importance of an effective Web site, just remember how competitive the hosting industry is. With thousands upon thousands of other companies’ Web sites to choose from, your customers can and will move on if you don’t capture their attention in that critical first 8 seconds.
Step #4: Use Customer-Appropriate Advertising
You may be surprised to learn how much the hosting industry has in common with the insurance business when it comes to advertising. Although the insurance business still relies to a certain extent on some more traditional methods – such as TV ads, emergency wallet cards and even door hangers – an increasingly larger percentage of potential insurance customers are finding their preferred company online. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of insurance consumers now shop online for those services.* Many of the same online advertising methods used by insurance companies can also be extremely effective for the hosting industry. Companies such as Geico, Progressive, State Farm, Allstate and others are devoting an ever-increasing portion of their marketing budgets toward online advertising. Two of the most popular methods are:
- Display advertising – Online display advertising includes banner ads, or those large banners that are “draped” across the top of Web sites, as well as along the sides or across the bottoms of Web pages. These ads sometimes display special “bargain” prices on certain services. But more times than not, they simply point out the company’s specialty areas or strengths in order to remind customers why they should choose that insurance company. Banner ads don’t have to be complicated in order to be effective. In fact, sometimes the simpler they are, the better they work. Just look at some of these banner ads used in the insurance industry:
- PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads – One of the most popular online advertising techniques for insurance companies are pay-per-click ads. Because a larger and larger percentage of people now shop for insurance online – just as they shop for a hosting provider online – pay-per-click ads are an effective means of immediately grabbing the attention of insurance shoppers who have entered keywords into a search engine without having any preconceived notion of which insurance company they will choose. You can see the evidence for yourself of how popular PPC ads are in the insurance industry by typing insurance-related keywords in your own search engine and seeing how many insurance companies’ PPC ads appear.
- Online video – Another area of online advertising that is gaining in popularity in the insurance industry is online video advertising. More and more insurance companies are understanding just how effective online video can be. Consider some of the advantages, all of which apply just as much to the hosting industry as the insurance business:
- Studies have shown that an increasing number of people actually spend more time online than they do watching TV.**
- Approximately 60% of all new content uploaded on the Internet is video.
- People remember information they view in a video much more than information they read.**
- Although TV advertising continues to be a popular means of advertising for the insurance industry, online videos are much less expensive and can be viewed by potential customers anytime.**
- Videos, generally speaking, are much more engaging than other types of visuals or simple text on a Web site. Allstate for example, allows people to choose from several of their “Mayhem” videos to view online at their convenience.
Online videos could be particularly effective in the hosting industry, whether you choose to create a video with testimonials of satisfied customers, profiles of your management personnel or actual video advertisements.
Succeeding in a Competitive Industry
Because there are so many similarities, hosting providers can learn a lot from insurance companies. Becoming successful in an industry as competitive as the hosting business may seem like a huge challenge, but by taking the steps outlined here and learning some of the lessons taught us by the insurance industry, your company can and will succeed.
What do you think? Do you think we these marketing strategies for hosting companies were useful? We’d love to hear your feedback!
**Source: RKS Marketing White Paper, “Online Video in the Insurance Industry: The Importance of Video as a Marketing Tool.”