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7 Insights From An Austin Internet Marketing Company For Reaching Customers Online

Jan 31, 2008
On a recent Sunday morning I had the distinct and unique pleasure of touring my home city of Austin, Texas on a Segway motorized vehicle with my visiting father and some other tourists. Besides the fun of riding this new machine which I have for years wanted to try, participating in the tour reminded me of the uniqueness of the city of Austin and why it is not quite like anyplace else. Austin somehow manages to maintain the right balance of the cutting edge of high-tech companies, the edginess of a vibrant youth culture, and the traditions of Texas.

As an Internet marketer, I could not help but link certain aspects of this new-found appreciation for my city with what I believe are some key insights about how my clients can better connect with customers online:

Insight #1: Project your own style:

Austin represents an eclectic mix of conservative Texas tradition, successful young professionals, and a postmodern hippy culture of artists and bohemians. People who visit from elsewhere for even a day or a week leave feeling like they have experienced something that is not quite like anywhere else they have experienced before. If you look closely, you will see on every 50th car or so bumper stickers that say "Keep Austin Weird," representing a quiet rallying cry of support for Austin's unique brand of quirkiness. Similarly, your Web site needs to project who and what you are. Your goal should NOT be to attract hordes of prospects to your site. Your goal should be to attract a steady stream of prospects who have a high probability of converting into paying customers.

Insight #2: Honor your brand:

Austin has its own version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame called, aptly, the Texas Walk of Fame. Sidewalk stars engraved with the names of famous Austinites from authors to entertainers can be seen downtown. Austin is proud of its favorite sons and daughters. Even while Austin tries to change with the 21st Century, it remembers those that helped make it great. Taking a cue from the Texas Walk of Fame, your company needs to develop a clear brand strategy. Who your company is and what it stands for comes across on your Web site in ways you cannot even imagine. The brains of your visitors take in thousands of visual cues per second, and those visitors are making judgments about your company based upon what they see there. Again, the goal is not to please every visitor. Rather, the goal is to honor your brand and to let the "star" of your brand shine through on your site.

Insight #3: Shake things up once in a while:

A visit to many parts of downtown Austin indicates that the city is currently in the throes of change. Huge construction projects are underway to build the necessary residential and business infrastructure to accommodate shifting demographics. This is a bit painful to motorists (and we devoted Segway-ists!) trying to get around the city. But, the city planners are smart enough to know that by proactively changing they are growing. The alternative is to go toward stagnation. In the world of Web traffic, this insights calls for you to revisit your site on a regular basis. Add some RSS feeds. Change your skins. Start a blog and update it regularly. Install a widget. Freshen up your content. Do what you can to make visitors sit up and take notice: you will be perceived as fresh and cutting edge.

Insight #4: Be innovative:

On my tour I learned that the city of Austin has an extremely innovative car share program whose goal is to reduce downtown traffic and pollution while assisting residents to get around. The program has a number of designated parking spaces around the city for a handful of cars that can be rented by the hour. If a downtown resident has a doctor's appointment or other transportation need, they just show up to the car at the right time and off they go. Very cool! So (you guessed it), your Web site needs to be similarly innovative. Being innovative does not mean reinventing the (mouse) wheel: it just means doing something that you have not tried before that will make a positive difference in the lives of your visitors. They will thank you for it with more business than you can handle.

Insight #5: Proactively drive traffic to your site:

As cool as Austin is, the city is smart enough to know that they need to get the word out about Austin. So, in 1991 they invented the slogan "The Live Music Capital of the World" to boast that they actually had more live music venues per capita than even New York City and Nashville. By the same token, your Web site can be the best site in the world, but if you do not actively try to drive traffic to your site you are missing out on a huge opportunity. From pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to article and video marketing, there are countless legitimate ways to get people to your Web site. Avoid the "Build it and they will come" myth. The strategy should be to build a useful site with good content - and then intelligently drive traffic to your site.

Insight #6: Know your audience:

Austin has a clear vision of itself in 10 or 20 years from now. There are numerous projects underway to attract successful, young professionals to the city with innovative developments that put an emphasis on walking and accessibility rather than on automobiles. Similarly, everything you do to drive traffic to your Web site needs to have your target audience in mind. How do they think? What is important to them? Know this and you will attract the customers you need.

Insight #7: Be clear about what you want people to do on your site:

A final note: Austin is full of one-way streets. When I first moved to the city I found this a bit annoying, but I have to admit that once I got to know the streets it actually simplified life a bit. For example, oncoming traffic is unidirectional, which translated to less hesitating when merging into traffic or deciding which way to go. In a similar vein, design your Web site such that first-time visitors know exactly what you want them to do. You are the master of your (Web) domain and visitors to your site want to know where to go and what to do. What is of value on your site? You know best, now make sure that your visitors know, too.
About the Author
Austinites and others looking to build their online businesses can get sound advice on Web site design, search engine optimization, and driving more traffic to their sites by visiting Austin-based Jed C. Jones Consulting, Inc. at: JedCJones.com
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