Ask These Questions or Risk Getting the Wrong Website

The economy is looking good. Wood products manufacturers have told us they’re busier now than they’ve been in years.

With all this positive business growth, you might be ready to invest in a new and improved website to help you reach new customers and pave the way toward future sales.

Before you hire a web development company, be sure you ask these questions so you know exactly what you’re getting.

1. Will your website be responsive?

Responsive sites adjust automatically to fit mobile phones, tablets and desktops. Websites that are not responsive are penalized by Google, which could harm your search rankings.

2. Will you be able to update your site yourself?

Don’t get stuck with a website that you can’t update yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend money on a web designer each time you want to make a change.

3. Will your site be a template, semi-custom or custom site?

This impacts your cost and how much control you have over the look and functionality of your site. Template sites cost less, but severely limit your options for customization. Semi-custom sites offer many more features and greater design choices. Custom sites, which offer the greatest flexibility, are designed and built to your requirements.

4. Does your web developer have industry knowledge?

Working with a web developer who understands the wood products industry makes the entire process go more smoothly and ensures that you’ll get a website tailored to the specific needs of your business and your customers.

5. Is your web developer using SEO tools?

Make sure your web developer has knowledge of SEO (search engine optimization) and uses SEO best practices. This is critical to your website’s search rankings.

6. Are you dealing with a web designer or a web developer?

This distinction is important if you have specific technical requirements or need a website with customized features and functionality. Web developers have programming and coding skills that most web designers don’t have. Make sure your web professional has the technical skills necessary to execute your project.

7. Are there monthly fees after your site is launched?

Some web companies charge you for creating your website and also charge you an ongoing monthly fee afterwards. Find out exactly what that fee is for and how long you’re going to be paying it.

8. Do you have a written contract?

This is important for your protection as well as the web developer’s. Be sure the scope of work and payment terms are spelled out completely and clearly so there are no surprises or misunderstandings.

9. Is your web developer using too many technical terms?

Beware of jargon. Your web developer should be explaining technical things in plain English. Ask questions if you don’t understand. And keep asking if you need to.


Why you need a product-intensive website. Read more.


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4 reasons why you still need a company brochure

woman-brochureThough marketing efforts in recent years have been focused online, professionally designed and printed brochures still play a vital role in engaging prospects, nurturing leads, and closing sales.

Here are four key reasons you should have a high-quality printed brochure:

1. Brochures are a great sales tool.

A well-designed print brochure is a valuable leave-behind after a sales meeting. It gives prospects information they can refer back to long after the face-to-face meeting is over. In addition, when your brochure is picked up at a trade show, it can be shared with others, which increases engagement and keeps your company top-of-mind.

2. Brochures get noticed in empty mailboxes.

Because marketing has moved to digital over print, there’s less clutter in physical mailboxes. A brochure gets your message literally into the hands of decision makers. Prospects often hold on to printed materials, and they continue to engage with them over a much longer period of time than they would with an email or social media post.

3. Brochures support purchases.

Your company brochure is a high-value takeaway for a buyer in the evaluation stage of the purchase process. Buyers want and need a brochure to support their purchasing decisions. A professionally designed and printed brochure instills trust in your company and its products.

4. Brochures drive traffic to your website.

A brochure isn’t a product encyclopedia, that’s what your website is for. A well designed brochure gives enough information to entice prospects to visit your website where they can learn more about your company and products.

What’s the takeaway here?

No matter how important digital marketing becomes, company brochures can still have a significant impact on your sales and marketing. Take advantage of this now underused medium to stand out from the crowd.


Think of your website as your top salesperson. Read more.


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Uncover the hidden profitability of your indirect customers

You may not realize it, but marketing to your indirect customer may have a significant impact on the purchasing decisions of your direct customer. Whether you’re a cabinetmaker, millworker, furniture maker, or lumber company, you may have indirect customers who can help increase your sales.

Let’s start by defining direct and indirect customers:

  • Direct customers are those who actually purchase your products.
  • Indirect customers don’t purchase your products, but they can have an outsized influence on those who do.

Once you have identified your indirect customers and figured out how to communicate with them, you can begin to leverage them to grow your business.

How targeting indirect customers grew my business

Here’s an example from my days as a business owner in the wood products industry. In those days, I sold mouldings, doors, and millwork. My direct customers were building contractors – residential, commercial, and institutional. While I did market to contractors, I found that they were not the best target for my efforts. I discovered that marketing to my indirect customers – architects – proved far more profitable. Why? Because when architects specified my products in their blueprints, contractors were more likely to buy from me.

By marketing to my indirect customers, I also gained four unexpected and valuable benefits:

  1. Enhanced credibility
    Having my company and products named in blueprints gave me legitimacy. My company was associated with some very well-known architects, and their trust in my products increased my credibility.
  2. Market expansion
    My products were appearing in projects in many other states. Suddenly I had sales in markets that would have been difficult to capture otherwise.
  3. Greater visibility
    Every blueprint specification increased awareness of my company with contractors to whom I was previously unknown.
  4. Increased sales
    Being specified in blueprints resulted in getting a higher percentage of those jobs. Builders know that top architects don’t want their product choices changed.

Big brands market to indirect customers

Most large national wood products companies like Andersen, TruStile, or Merillat market to both their direct and indirect customers. One smart way they reach their indirect customers is by devoting entire sections of their websites to helping them with their specific needs:

  • Homeowners find help with design, planning, and inspiration.
  • Contractors find detailed product information, installation guides, and care and maintenance instructions.
  • Designers find design tools, product documentation, and customization information.

These companies know that every marketing interaction with indirect customers will strengthen the connection to their company, build product loyalty, and influence the purchasing decisions of their direct customers.

How to find your indirect customers

Identifying your indirect customers may not be easy or obvious. Don’t just look in your core market or industry; consider opportunities in other segments and industries. Brainstorm, be creative, and look for tangential relationships.

A good starting point would be your customer’s customer. If your customer is a builder, a homeowner would be their customer. Homeowners hold a lot of sway with their preferences, and builders will find it hard to go against their wishes.

You might find indirect customers in other trades, even in other industries. An architectural ironworker, for example, could make a strong recommendation for you to a general contractor needing to source a specialized product, like Ipe, for their project.

And think about design professionals like architects, kitchen planners, and interior designers who may be good indirect customers. Their confidence in your company and products carries considerable clout.

Capture profits through your indirect customers

Don’t underestimate your indirect customers’ ability to positively impact your sales. They can play an important role in influencing the purchasing decisions of your direct customers. When it comes to marketing, sometimes your indirect customers are your most profitable targets. When you tap into the power of your indirect customers, you can expand into new markets, gain credibility, increase your sales, and grow your business.


Connect to your customers through content marketing. Read more.


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Manufacturer websites need to be product intensive – that means YOU, wood products guys

I’m willing to bet that everyone who has used the internet to research products has had this frustrating experience. You go to a company’s website looking for specific product information, and you can’t find it. They talk about how wonderful they are, how many awards they’ve won, and how customer-focused they are. But nowhere on their site do they provide detailed information about the products they make. If they don’t have information about their products, who will?

Your customers need details

lawn-mower-1593883_1280Imagine you wanted to buy a lawnmower and you wanted to compare models from three different manufacturers.

  • Company A’s website shows an image of a lawnmower and lists models by cutting width.
  • Company B’s website has images of every lawnmower they sell, and they have specifications for their models like: horsepower, cutting width, adjustable wheels, self-propelled, etc.
  • Company C’s website has multiple images for each of their models, including close-ups of key features. They have a complete list of specifications and features, including optional accessories. They have videos demonstrating the use and maintenance of their product, and they offer printable PDFs for each model with all of the specifications and images.

Which of the three manufacturers serves their customers’ needs the best? Which website is most helpful? Obviously, the answer is Company C, because they provide a wealth of product information on their site. And detailed product information is what customers use to make decisions.

Why you should love CAD files

Here’s a real-world, industry example from a couple of years ago. An architect called me looking for advice and suggestions for interior details for a project. He was up against a deadline and he had to complete his drawings the next day. I sent him to my website and suggested several products for his consideration. Once there, he could see large images and dimensions for every product I offered. Plus, he was able to download the CAD files for each product he wanted – which helped him with his drawings. He specified my product in his blueprints, and I got the job. And he was so grateful for my help, he recommended me to a friend at another firm.

Speaking of CAD files, research conducted by ThomasNet has shown that when CAD drawings are specified into a design, the actual product gets purchased 80% of the time. Stop and think about what you just read. If you had any question about the importance of offering CAD files on your website, that should convince you.

Present your product information in the most useful way

empty-menuHere’s another scenario. See the image of the menu at right. Suppose you were looking for a restaurant online and you found this menu. What do you see, or more importantly, what don’t you see? The menu shows broad meal categories, but there are no dishes listed. Very frustrating. How can you possibly judge whether this restaurant is right for you given the complete lack of information about their offerings?

OK, now look at your company website and pretend you’re a customer. What information about your products can you find? If you were to search by product category, would you be able to find everything (or anything) that your company offers? Or does your website look more like that restaurant menu?

What product information is available, and how it’s presented makes a difference. For instance, having a PDF of your print catalog on your website is not a substitute for actual web content. Usability experts Nielsen Norman Group warns that forcing users to browse PDF files on a website makes usability 300% worse. More to the point, a survey conducted by Elsevier found participants preferred the HTML (web) format for learning and discovery, and liked the PDF format for reading and printing. In other words, visitors use your website to browse and evaluate your products, and they download PDFs for in-depth study. Both HTML and PDF have their place and each is necessary, but they support different stages of the sales funnel. Browsing and evaluating are top of funnel; in-depth study comes further down. It’s important that manufacturer websites support all stages of the sales funnel.

What’s the take-away?

Every manufacturer needs to honestly assess how helpful their website is to their customers. Give them the information they need to properly evaluate your products, and make it easy for them to incorporate your products in their specifications. Giving your customers the information they want, when and where they want it, ensures greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, which increases the likelihood of future sales.


Learn how to improve your customer’s website experience. Read more.


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6 reasons why email marketing should top your list

email-tabletIf you’re like most business owners, you’d like to get more sales. You may have heard the saying: “Sales keeps you in business, marketing keeps you in sales,” but you may not even know where to begin with marketing. Especially now, because there are so many competing marketing options: direct mail, search, mobile, event, content, social media, video, webinars, etc., etc. The choices are overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is one very good option, a tried and true performer – email marketing. It’s not the newest “shiny object,” but it has a formidable track record for effectiveness.

In this article, I’ll give you 6 compelling reasons why email marketing should be at the top of your list.

1. Email is how businesses communicate.

Sure, there’s LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but not everyone in business is active on social media. Everyone has an email address though, and that means your prospects and customers are just a click away.

2. Email marketing is measurable.

The old adage about advertising and marketing goes, “I know that half of my budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” There’s not much point in investing in something that doesn’t produce results. With email campaign tracking, you get very accurate information about what works.

Email service providers like Constant Contact and iContact make it easy to see who has opened your email, at what time, which links they clicked, and how many times they viewed your email. This valuable information lets you see what’s working and what isn’t, enabling you to adjust your marketing message as necessary.

3. Email marketing is very inexpensive.

When compared to other marketing options, email marketing is extremely cost effective. With no printing or postage costs, you can send your message to 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 people or more for very little money. With its good R.O.I., it’s no wonder that email marketing has continued to be a top tactic for business-to-business (b2b) marketing.

4. Email marketing is effective.

As you can see from the chart, email marketing is the most effective digital marketing tactic. It’s a great way to maximize your marketing efforts, and is one of the best ways to maintain relationships with existing customers and to build trust with new prospects.
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 4.42.31 PM

5. Email messages can be targeted.

With email marketing, you can target customers by type, location, position, purchases, etc. You can tailor your message, and send information that is meaningful to your target audience. The more you target your message, the more effective it will be.

6. Email is read on mobile devices.

More people are using smartphones and tablets than ever before. In fact, more email is read on mobile devices (55%) than on desktop (19%).(Source: Litmus 2016.) Email marketing can reach customers wherever they are, and that’s important to delivering your message.

If you can do only one thing…

With so many marketing options available today, it can be overwhelming deciding which to use. If you can only handle one tactic, email marketing would be the smart choice. It’s measurable, inexpensive, effective, and it delivers results. It may not be the sexy newcomer, but it’s still a powerful workhorse. Email marketing deserves a top spot in any company’s marketing arsenal.


Connect to your customers through content marketing. Read more.


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What can a bench table saw teach you about choosing a website? Plenty.

bench tabe saw

As a wood products manufacturer, you would never choose a tool based on price alone. You would consider many factors like efficiency, reliability, longevity and return on investment. You would research and evaluate the options to ensure the benefit to your business. You know that investing in the right tool will increase efficiency, sales and profitability.

In this article, you’ll see how all tools, including websites, are not the same. Choosing the right tool will have a positive impact on your bottom line, while choosing the wrong tool will result in lower productivity and profits.

Let’s consider a bench table saw. Would using one of those saws as your primary saw help or hurt your business? A bench table saw can perform most basic operations of an industrial table saw. They can rip, crosscut, mitre, dado, and rabbet. And these saws are very inexpensive, so you’re not shelling out lots of cash. Then why would you invest in a Martin or Altendorf sliding table saw when a small, inexpensive saw can do? Because they have many significant shortcomings.

  • the single phase motor is noisy, small, and inefficient
  • it takes much longer to rip lumber, especially material thicker than 4/4
  • its light weight and size make it unstable
  • its lighter-duty bearings won’t stand up to continuous use
  • its reliability and accuracy negatively impact quality

While a bench table saw may be fine for homeowners or job site use, it could never handle the demands of an industrial manufacturing environment. It wasn’t designed or built for that.

Low-priced tools have high long-term costs

Just like the bench table saw, many low-priced or “free” website platforms appear to be able to do everything their professional counterparts can do. But an informed buyer examining these low-cost platforms will see that they are woefully under-powered and inefficient, and they can never handle the demands of a manufacturer’s website. While their upfront cost may be small, their unreliability and tremendous inefficiency results in low productivity, which means very high long-term costs. Those websites rarely serve your customer’s needs, and that could mean lost sales.

As a manufacturer, you know that the success of your company is related to production efficiency and product quality, and how well you serve your customers. That’s why you need to invest in the right tool for the job – whether it’s industrial manufacturing equipment or an industrial-grade website. Prospective customers will judge you by your website design, content, performance and the user experience.

For a business website to be an effective sales tool it must:

  • be reliable and available 24/7
  • be fast and easy to navigate
  • have powerful searching capabilities
  • provide complete, detailed product information
  • deliver large quantities of content efficiently and consistently
  • serve as a resource for your current and prospective customers
  • be optimized for search engines

Invest in a quality tool

When considering a business website, take your time and do your research, just as you would with any tool purchase. Learn about the professional level platforms that are available, and try to compare apples to apples. Before deciding on a web development company, be sure to ask questions, know exactly what you’re getting, and make sure it’s the right tool for your wood products business. Rarely do the one-size-fits-all tools solve more problems than they create.

Working with a professional web development company that knows the wood products industry and takes the time to understand your individual needs, means you’ll get a website tool that will work for you and your customers. Remember, it’s important that your website contributes to your bottom line just like every other tool you own. The money you invest in a quality tool will be returned many times over through years of reliable service and increased productivity.


Learn why manufacturer websites need to be product intensive. Read more.


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Think of your website as you would a top salesperson

person-apple-laptop-notebookFrom your potential buyer’s point-of-view, your company’s website is like your salesperson, and it’s very likely the first “salesperson” he or she will encounter. That’s because buyers prefer to do online research first, rather than contact a company directly, to get the information they’re looking for.

In fact, 94% of today’s B2B buyers do online research, according to Acquity Group. Buyers go online to search for, evaluate, and select suppliers – and they do it all anonymously. What this means is that potential buyers are visiting your website, checking out your company, and deciding whether to contact you based on what they find.

With all this behind-the-scenes research going on, you need to ask yourself if your website is effectively selling your company to prospective buyers. Is your website providing the important information that your potential buyers need to properly evaluate your products and services? Is your website helping your company to advance to a buyer’s short list?

Use your website as a salesperson, or risk losing sales

Consider this: Nearly 60% of the buying/decision making process is already complete before prospects ever contact a supplier, according to Google. Because contact with a company’s sales department comes much later in the purchasing process than it used to, you need to be sure that your website works as your virtual sales rep, or you could miss out entirely on new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers don’t invest in their website’s sales potential. They’re not using their websites as a sales tool to provide the useful content that creates value for buyers. Many B2B buyers, in fact, report being frustrated with suppliers’ websites because they often find the information lacking, according to a study by Google and ThomasNet. This lack of useful information is causing many manufacturers to unwittingly lose business they might have otherwise won.

Give your website the right sales tools

pexels-photo-175039 To be successful, a salesperson has to be prepared. For your human sales rep to be effective out in the field, he or she has to have complete knowledge of your products and services. He or she also has to have detailed product information to leave with customers, such as product catalogs, spec sheets, CAD drawings, etc. By being prepared, your sales rep can educate your customers, answer questions, offer solutions, and make a convincing case for using your company. Without having knowledge and information, your salesperson wouldn’t be much benefit to your customers, and his or her value to your company would be diminished.

The same holds true for your website. If your website isn’t equipped with the information that buyers need, it’s not helping you to maximize your sales potential. Properly armed with useful product information and resources, however, your website can become a hard-working and valuable sales contributor.

Much like a human sales rep, your website can:

  • increase revenue
  • reach new markets
  • contribute to your company’s growth
  • promote your company’s products and services
  • educate prospects
  • cultivate new customers
  • keep existing customers engaged
  • generate sales leads
  • stand out from your competition

A good salesperson does more than just sell

handshakeA successful salesperson knows that sales is about more than selling. It’s about building relationships, establishing trust, educating customers, solving problems and inspiring confidence in the products and services that he or she is selling.

If you want to turn your website into a top sales contributor, you need to treat it as any other member of your sales team. And that means using your website to do more than talk about your products and services. It means having a website that focuses on your customer while also contributing to your company’s sales performance.

Incorporate these tactics to make your website a sales contributor:

1. Create value

Anticipate your buyers’ questions and provide them with the information and resources they need. Searchable online catalogs, extensive product information, downloadable CAD files, FAQs, case studies, and testimonials are some of the elements to have on your website that will create value for buyers. The more valuable you become to your prospective buyers, the greater your chances of getting the sale.

2. Build relationships

Your website can build relationships with your customers just as a human sales rep can. Use your website to share your knowledge and offer helpful solutions to your customers’ problems. A blog, for instance, can be a useful tool for providing information and nurturing prospects. Think about how a human salesperson builds rapport and trust in a face-to-face meeting with a customer, and incorporate those methods into your website content.

3. Adapt the conversation

Many businesses sell to more than just one customer group or industry. Human sales reps interact differently with each customer group and adapt their messages accordingly. In the same way, your website content should be customized to speak specifically to each of your customer groups. Whether you devote separate sections of your website to your major customer groups or use targeted calls-to-action, it’s important to show your customers that you offer solutions to their specific needs.

4. Capture sales leads

Just like a human sales rep, your website should be capturing qualified sales leads. One way is to offer valuable information in exchange for contact information from prospective buyers. Consider special offers, how-to guides, e-books or other useful information that your buyers might want. Request-for-quote forms and newsletter sign-ups are also a good way to acquire sales leads.

While incorporating these sales-focused elements might mean a website upgrade or redo, the potential for return on investment through increased sales is worth the expense. And like your top salesperson, your website might just deliver your next big client.


Uncover the hidden profitability of your indirect customers. Read more.


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Why wood products manufacturers need to treat their website like any other tool

man on bandsawYou wouldn’t consider purchasing a tool, setting it up in your shop and never touching it again. But many manufacturers think that building their website is a once-and-done process. In this article we’ll look at why treating your website like any other tool can yield benefits in the form of leads and sales.

Imagine never checking the squareness of your radial arm saw, the accuracy of your miter saw, or the set of your planer knives. You know what problems that would cause further down the production line. You would be wasting not just materials and time, but opportunity and profit. By continually monitoring your tools and making fine-tuned adjustments you are ensuring reliable production. You maximize your output and seize new opportunities through efficiency.

Likewise with your website, you need to regularly monitor your pages to keep them optimized for search engines (SEO – search engine optimization). Optimization is the process of monitoring and refining the keywords and phrases on a page to increase the page’s search ranking. To reach a wider audience and be found, you need to elevate your website page rankings. That’s really worth doing. 89% of B2B buyers research products online, and 46% use their research to create a short-list of potential vendors. If they can’t find you, you’ll never be on the short-list.

Most people don’t realize that visitors who reach a site through a search engine are much more likely to arrive on a page other than the home page. Home pages are not good candidates for optimization because they contain so many competing keywords and phrases in order to direct traffic to different parts of the site. Really effective business websites have optimized pages for specific search terms to get higher ranking for those terms. The point being that higher ranking will result in greater visibility, increased traffic and more sales opportunities.

But just like the tools in your shop, you need to actively monitor and adjust your pages to achieve those benefits. So think of it like the regular maintenance you perform on your equipment. Keeping your tools sharp and the shop clean goes a long way toward maximizing production efficiency. You invest the time because you recognize that efficient production increases profitability.

Invest time in your other machine, your sales machine, your website. Create and optimize pages so they will deliver quality leads. Focus pages on specific keywords or phrases for maximum effect. Then monitor your analytics and page ranking, and continually refine the page content until your pages begin to deliver leads and sales. It’s worth remembering that maintenance is an ongoing effort that results in long-term benefits.


Learn 9 ways to improve your website. Read more.


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