When times are tough, the best advice is not to cut marketing dollars, yet that seems to be one of the first things to go. Maybe it’s because most companies don’t know how to measure the return on investment of laying out all that money upfront. But any organization that is seeing its existing customers spend less money better find more customers if they aren’t going to sink. Web sites are a good place to start, and if companies are less busy than normal, now may be a good time to redo the site and invest in some ways to draw more traffic. Steven Birdwell is a poster boy for smart marketing. But he only changed his site after several years because he was faced with the exact circumstances described above. When interviewing him for a story in this month’s issue of Accounting Technology about how to successfully sell technology services in this economy, Birdwell admitted that he started to worry this summer when some of his clients who typically spend $30,000 to $50,000 a year on his Los Angeles-area firm’s services had not purchased anything but an hour of support help in the past four months and some of his clients' employees started approaching him asking for jobs in anticipation of losing their own positions. So he tasked one of his young tech-savvy employees to redo the Web site and hired a woman from Duct Tape Marketing to help him develop a plan for success and find the people and other resources necessary to capitalize on that plan. Her services cost $5,000, but he was reimbursed 50 percent as part of Sage's co-op marketing dollars. Within a few months, the investment paid for itself in additional leads generated and new services sold. True, this isn’t the only thing he changed. But it was one of the most important and the quickest and easiest to fix. And the best part of marketing online is the ability to conduct little tests to see whether moving something to another spot on the Web site or asking prospects for more or less information yields better results—something he’s able to track using a free tool called Google Anayltics. From July 1 to the end of October, the tool found: *His Web site visits per day had gone up more than 1,000 percent. *Average time visitors spend on the site had gone up exactly one minute for each visit – which Birdwell attributes to more interesting/relevant content. *Pages viewed per visit was up almost 10 percent. *And new visits were down 2.5 percent, which means more repeat visitors. Proof’s in the pudding that marketing matters. So stop skimping. Alexandra DeFelice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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