This is the first of an exclusive two-part series by Slava Apel, CEO of Amazing Print Corp., a leading Canadian web-to-print software company and marketing engine. Apel is a frequent international speaker and expert on the topics of web-to-print, search engine marketing and search engine positioning. He is one of the top new revenue consultants in the print industry and has been voted one of the top 35 Most Influential Canadians in Print. Since 1997 he has helped hundreds of printing companies and thousands of print distributors with web marketing and web-to-print software.

What to do with your website
I can’t start with this article without saying first that you absolutely need to consult with a professional search engine marketing company. Yes, you can have a lot of success doing search engine marketing in-house, but you would never be able to do the job of a professional online marketing team.

I’m also assuming that at this point you actually have a website that not only displays your information, but also sells products. In my experience, if your website is a “brochure” website of about five pages, then you are just telling your prospective clients that you just threw it up there for them. What’s worse, you are virtually telling them to go away and you are not interested in doing business with new clients. I will break down online marketing into a few key segments. If you execute any of them in-house you will save money. If you want them done professionally, then outsource.

Although business to consumer (B2C) gets a lot of attention for being on the attractive side of e-commerce, 2010 U.S. Census data shows estimates for business to business (B2B) revenue transacted online – not through electronic data interchange or EDI – at approximately US $300 billion. Compare that with almost $200 billion in retail transactions, and the B2B commerce story suddenly becomes more appealing for printers targeting buyers. According to the Feb. 2012 Internet Retailer, e-retail spending will increase 62% by 2016. Depending on what you read, at least 30% of print is already being purchased online.

While most potential customers will find you by searching for products using Google, word-of-mouth through friends and co-workers will also bring new traffic to your site. I don’t recommend advertising on TV and radio unless you already have a big brand and even a bigger budget, but using newspapers and magazines, if paired with a QR code, will indeed generate traffic. E-mail newsletter subscriptions usually bring your previous subscribers and prospects back, while optimizing for the mobile market creates a greater opportunity for new local traffic.

About 74% of smartphone owners already use location-based services, and 46% of U.S. consumers now have smartphones. (Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2012). By 2014, mobile Internet is predicted to take over desktop Internet usage (Source: Microsoft Tag, 2012). So planning for a mobile future should be part of your strategy. Just dabbling in the mobile experience could be a detriment to you because 57% of consumers will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. Similarly, 40% of consumers will go to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience (Source: Compuware, 2012).

According to a 2012 study by Oracle for B2B sales, mobile jumped to the third most influential touch point for B2B customers. First was the Online Catalogue (93% – almost no printers are there). Second was Direct Sales (70% – some printers are there). Mobile Web was number three at 24% – and most printers don’t even know what that is! Social networking, blogs and discussion groups are excellent, low-cost way of bringing in traffic. Just don’t expect to sell a lot to that channel, as last year only 12% of consumers bought anything through social media. (Source: PwC, 2013).

Should you be putting all of your eggs in one basket? Should Google be your only strategy? My answer is no. I try not to depend on Google as it is always a moving target. Don’t get me wrong – ignoring Google would be a huge mistake. But keep in mind that 40% of shoppers consult three or more channels before purchasing, compared to only 10% in 2002. (Source: Conlumino and Webloyalty, 2012)

The main goals you should focus on for building your website include:
Getting people to your site
Influencing a purchase or generating a lead, quote or phone call
Making it easy for people interact
Making it easy to get to what the prospect wants within just two clicks
Providing a fast loading interface
Making it mobile and social commerce compliant

Where do you start?
Organic listings, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
What is perceived to be the cheapest way of getting customers is getting your website listed high up on search engines results pages (SERP) for free. A lot has to go into making sure that you are qualified to be listed high up on search engines, and here are a few things that matter most to search engine positioning.

Have relevant content for what people are searching for
Make sure your website has been around for a while
Make sure you have pages that are focused on specific topics
Make sure you give people a reason to bookmark your website or to socially mention it on sharing platforms
Make sure your website becomes a resource of information
Make sure you give other websites reasons to link to you

Paid Listings, PPC (Pay Per Click)
If you can’t wait for your website to rise to the top of search engines and you would like to complement it with a paid strategy, there is a sure way you can get a “perfect” print customer to your website. Before executing this strategy, make sure you have a reason beyond merely branding regarding why you want the customer to come to your website. Only after figuring out why you would want a customer to visit your site, will you now have a way to place a monetary value to this visitor. For example, if 100 visitors come to your website, and from 100 visitors you can generate enough sales with profits totaling $200, you can now figure out that each visitor is worth $2 in profit.

However, there are a few things you would need to keep in mind. What is the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer? Will that customer order more than once from you? Is it is a new or repeat customer? Once you figure out what that dollar amount per visitor is, you can pay up to that break-even amount to buy traffic by paying Google for cost per click (CPC) for every individual visitor. Aside from Google there are plenty of other places where you can buy targeted traffic, but usually Google is a good place to start.

There, at Google, you can refine which customers you want. For example, a customer that types in “postcard samples” is not as valuable as the one that types in “order postcards.” Pay only for customers that already intend to buy your product. Never buy very generic terms like “postcards” as your daily budget would disappear quickly and without results. There are a lot of advanced strategies dealing with quality of ads, landing pages, keyword research and positioning that could save you up to 30% on your Google advertising.

Banner Buying, Display Advertising and CPM (Cost per Thousand)
Banner buying still works! Just make sure the banner is compelling enough for people to click on, and after they click on a banner, make sure that they can easily buy what they initially clicked to find. The three parts of this task are:

Design enough banners to so that the banner you commit to is the banner that most people will click on. Some people test hundreds of different designs.

Make sure that the page customers land on is not your home page, but a product page that customers expect to appear.

Find the right audience for your banner. If you sell letterheads or printed catalogues, don’t advertise where most people are young, hobbyists or not in corporate positions. Figuring out where and to whom your banners should appear is a huge task involving researching and refining.

E-mail Marketing, EMS (E-mail Marketing Services)
One of the most effective ways to get more people to your website is permission-based e-mail marketing. Once you gather your own e-mail lists of potential and previous customers, you can send them specials a few times per quarter – just enough for them to remember you, but not enough for them to feel that you are pestering them. Sending out helpful tips as part of a newsletter is a common practice, as sending out just specials will not get your e-mail passed around.

Social Media, Web2.0
To drive additional traffic to your website, try online social networking tools. My personal favourites are Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Google Plus (all of which have sent thousands of visitors to our websites). Your post or comment, your video or blog can be re-broadcast and become viral if they are well crafted or strike a nerve. I tend to post relevant articles at my twitter profile, which get re-sent to many people who are not in my immediate network.

In the second and final part of this series in the April issue, I’ll examine press releases and PR, web addresses, inbound links, blogs, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, e-mail signatures, offline marketing and things that you should not do.

To find out more about Amazing Print, please visit Amazing Print web-to-print software or contact Slava Apel at 1-800-355-4498, Ext. 224. Or follow his updates on twitter at

Originally published in Graphic Arts Magazine.