If you’ve gone through the hard work of developing physical products for customers, why not take advantage of the low-cost and free Web 2.0 tools available to help increase adoption of your product and reduce your sales cycle?
A perfect case in point is Octane Fitness and their line of elliptical trainers.
We were in the market for an elliptical trainer for about 6 months, when we finally pulled the trigger in early April on an Octane Q37ce trainer. Since then, we’ve been extremely happy with the investment. I’ve found that a six-day-a-week workout routine is easy to maintain and have seen marked improvements in my level of cardiovascular fitness.
So why did it take 6 months to purchase a product that I; a) really wanted; b) really needed; and c) is a terrific product that fits my needs exactly?
After reflecting for a month and doing some additional research, it’s clear that Octane could have cut the sales cycle down to under a month. Here’s how.
Our month and a half with the product has been great. It’s sturdy, has a number of very usable electronic training programs and it fits both Mary Beth and I quite well.
The key product benefit for us? It has narrow pedal spacing, which makes the stride very comfortable for both myself (5′ 8″) and Mary Beth (4′ 11″).
Of course, neither of us knew that pedal spacing was important (to us, anyway) or the other features and benefits of a trainer that might be important.
And we didn’t find the answer when we started doing some basic searches for information about elliptical trainers.
This is the point where we get into the marketing of elliptical trainers and where Octane Fitness could easily improve their efforts.
AIDA and SEO
Let’s see where Octane Fitness could have done better in the old AIDA model through some simple improvement in their SEO and other online marketing tactics. We got stuck in the “A” part of the funnel for a number of months, even though we were intent on buying home fitness equipment.
The SERPs return mostly SEO’d pages from various manufacturers or online retailers that clearly don’t offer any real consumer point of view on the best elliptical trainers. The landing pages are mostly garbage and devoid of objective information.
Within a few minutes of searching, I came to the conclusion that the entire fitness equipment industry was somewhat sleazy. Not an environment conducive to immediate purchase decisions and I froze here while I tried to figure out who to trust for unbiased information on the product category.
How could Octane do better to improve Attention and Interest? A few quick suggestions:
- Build an online community. It doesn’t have to be complex. It could be as simple as a Yahoo or Google group or a message board. Get some deep and unique content generated about the benefits of the products. As that takes hold, real consumer information will start to show on the SERPs and will counteract the impact of sleazy SEO tactics.
- Improve/start SEM efforts. I just checked and still see zero efforts by Octane in SEM. Create a thoughtful SEM strategy that targets consumers at key points in the purchase cycle funnel with the right information to counteract the SEO efforts of the competition. Octane could have driven me to the right retailer in our area, Fitness Resource, to demo the product.
How do people decide on which product to buy? Increasingly, it’s through word-of-mouth (or blog). Octane has to get it’s satisfied customers (like me) to write and blog about their products.
How can Octane get customers to blog about their products and participate in community?
- Launch an effective email program. I registered my trainer online the day after it was delivered. As I write this, I haven’t received a single communication from Octane. Why not email me to thank me for purchasing? Or encourage me to participate in their online community? Or ask a trainer how to make better use of my purchase?
- Build the online community. Give people a chance to talk about their product and how to use it. When prospective customers identify with a current product owner and get an honest and unbiased review of the product, it opens the door for Action.
The key to driving action is to give me an immediate reason to buy today. If you check out Elliptical Trainer Deals on Yahoo search, nothing from Octane or Octane retailers pops up.
How can Octane Fitness drive action?
- MDF to retailers for use in SEM. Provide your retailers MDF to spend on SEM and for incentives, such as free home delivery or a free floor mat, to drive traffic to the stores where the sales people can close the sale. This is a particularly good tactic if you’re not doing any SEM (as appears to be the case with Octane) or if you sell through retailers instead of direct to consumer.
Summary and key takeaways
As you can see, building great products is just the start. Even manufacturers of physical goods need to use new “pull” marketing techniques to complete the sale. A quick checklist:
- Are you using your database? If you’re asking for customer information and they give it to you, are you taking the time to thoughtfully engage the customer in a conversation about the products?
- Give the customers a chance to talk with each other. Even if the interaction between your customers isn’t always positive, you have the opportunity to learn about how your products are being perceived in the marketplace. And if they’re collectively raving about the product, you’ll rise above the SEO noise screen your competitors might be tossing up.
Are there any products you’ve used that could benefit from the free/low-cost techniques available now? How would, say, manufacturers of industrial pumps take advantage of Web 2.0 in their marketing?