Managing the Vertical Challenge Online

Vario Creative designs dynamic websites for contractorsI had an interesting meeting yesterday.  The customer was a large, very successful contractor who services multiple niches, as well as the general construction market.  The challenge they presented, which I give them tremendous credit for identifying, is that they need to focus on their niche verticals, without sacrificing the market as a whole.

The solution most companies would come up with would be akin to this bit Seth Godin posted last week.

Sigh…(and sorry to lift your picture Seth – I didn’t want to link direct…)

So then, as marketers and web designers, how are we to deal with this quandry?  How can we service these prime niche markets, while not turning our backs on the general market as a whole?

The solution is dynamic websites (yeah, Y2K called, and it wants it’s buzzword back…).  The truth is that by mixing the best practices for Search Engine Optimization(seo), Online Advertising and Project Portfolios, you can give each business area it’s due. 

Think of the post last week in which we argued that each page should function as it’s own homepage, a distinct entry point to your site.  When you treat the site that way, you essentially are creating separate homepages for your specific vertical markets.  Let’s say in this case, we are a Design/Build Contractor, who services the general market, but also specializes in Beverage Distribution Centers and Printing Facilities (note that both verticals have something in common, very specific and intensive HVAC plants).

You then design your homepage to give direct one click access to specific verticals.  Those pages are fully optimized for that niche, with your unique value proposition outlined clearly as though it was your primary mission statement.  On your real homepage, you make use of a “project spotlight” which randomly rotates projects from your portfolio, and where applicable you mention the specific vertical and again, link to that vertical page.

Your project portfolio pages are then easily categorized by niche, again with one click access to show customers only that work. 

  • Avoid using flash for your portfolio – it is not searchable.
  • Spend extra time ensuring your portfolio is keenly honed for seo.
  • Treat each page as though it were a homepage.
  • Apply a laser-like focus to your verticals, pounding the message of your special talents home.
  • Don’t forget the special sauce – you’ve got experience that allows you to avoid the pitfalls.  Perhaps you have a special trap rock floor mix you use for the special needs of the beverage industry, or your HVAC division has tremendous experience in the humidity controlled environments that printing facilities require.  Let potential customers know
  • Testimonials – we can talk til we’re blue in the face, where possible we need to let our customers speak for us!
  • Project Spotlight – rotate items randomly from your portfolio on your homepage. 
  • Portfolios as Case Studies – give your portfolio a make over with a quick project recap, hitting the highpoints of why the job was a success, and how you uniquely helped make it so.  We all love successful projects, and we want to know how you are going to help us succeed! 

Now many of you are thinking, “gee, that’s great in construction…” The same principles work in many areas of business. I’m personally remaking our own site along these lines.

Other Reading:

Surviving Personalized Search – Good article with tips you should put to use.

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