Content syndication is a powerful tool that can improve the overall customer experience for brands and their channel partners. A content management system combined with the brand information gives consumers a consistent brand experience. For channel partners, it jump-starts their website lead generation and greatly improves their conversions.

ChannelNet_David Indish

David Indish manages some 800 calls monthly from channel partners seeking advice

Even with a jump-start, many channel partners still find creating and maintaining a great user experience very intimidating.

Dave Indish, manager of ChannelNet’s e-Business Support Center, and his team answer an average of 800 calls every month from channel partners seeking website support.

In this week’s blog, Indish shares the common website challenges most channel partners face when it comes to designing a user experience that will make the cash register ring.


Please explain how you work with a brand’s channel partners.

Indish: We provide brands with a content management system that creates a network of websites for their channel partners (dealers, retailers, mom and pop shops). This provides each channel partner, out of the gate, with all of the product information and other important brand content on their website.

Many people find it hard to talk about themselves, and the same is true for their business. People think they know their business. They think they know their customers, and they think they know what their customers want. But we find that most small businesses really do not know very much about their customers or what differentiates their business. We interview channel partners to learn what makes their business unique. Then we help them capitalize on their value proposition.

Over time, our staff works with each business to customize its website content and improve lead generation. We help the partner create a positive user experience. For instance, we provide coaching on how to create and use photography and video more effectively.


What are the biggest issues channel partners have with their websites?

Indish: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the biggest concern of small businesses. Before they can make a sale, the consumer needs to know they exist. Most business owners do not understand how SEO works. They do understand that well over half of their potential customers use a Smartphone with geo-location capabilities. The most frequent question we get from channel partners is: When I search for such and such on Google, I’m not coming up. Why not?

Our recommendations are multifold. First, we identify the search terms that drive traffic to websites in their industry. Then we help them learn how to integrate those terms within their content so that search engines can find them. This is just an initial step to improve their ranking and increase their leads.

The majority of businesses serve people in multiple geographic areas, which means they need to take extra steps to improve their local search rankings. For example, perhaps a good percentage of their business comes from town A. However, because their address is in town B, when people search for their product in town A, they aren’t showing up. In this situation, we help businesses create content that talks about the fact that they offer this product in town A as well as in town B. There are a number of ways to add this information. They can share news about their community involvement and local sponsorships in town A or offer classes in town A.

Another tactic we always recommend is to include driving instructions from the top customer cities or zip codes on the website.

The ultimate answer to their search engine optimization question, which really is about lead generation, is that they need to improve and to increase the content on their websites. The marketing assets the brands provide are a huge help, but they aren’t enough. The more information there is for search engines to review, the more opportunity there is to improve the page rank. Content needs to be relevant, which is why we start with understanding the customer first.


Are there other strategies they can try?

Local search engines such as Manta, Yelp, Angie’s list and CitySearch are just as important as the businesses’ own websites. Shoppers specifically search for a local business in these search engine directories, and they also use the big search engines like Facebook, Google, Bing or Yahoo. We find that most small business profiles are incomplete. Often, they start creating a company profile on Google, on Yelp, Manta, Yahoo, etc., but they never finish it. About half of the small business listings out there are wrong. Incomplete or wrong information in a business directory is very frustrating to consumers and a turn-off.

We encourage channel partners to complete their profiles on the leading search engines like Google My Business and Bing. Consumers want to know the hours of operation, website address and any pricing information, and most importantly, they want to read reviews.

The details matter for two reasons. Their websites will rank better and their store and online traffic will increase. Our experience shows that consumers visit websites and directories right before they are ready to buy. They are checking to see if you are open and looking for directions.


Are there other pain points?

Indish: It is not so much a pain point as a lack of knowledge. The thousands of conversations we have with small businesses tell us that most do not understand  customer lifecycle management. Consumer behavior changes the closer consumers get to the purchase point. For instance, consumers may begin the purchase process by searching for generic terms like “window coverings,” “blinds” or “window treatments.” Once they identify what kind of product they want to purchase, they change terms and start searching for a style, such as “wood-slat blinds” or “plantation shutters.” Finally, when customers are ready to buy, they use a more specific search query, such as “plantation shutters for sale in Dearborn, Michigan.”

A business needs website content that supports each of these steps in the buying process. Smart businesses educate consumers on their products or services as well as sell to them.

In the case of blinds, you might have website articles about cleaning blinds or about how to measure your windows correctly for blinds. People want to have a relationship with the companies that provide them with useful information throughout the customer lifecycle.


Are there other ways to increase lead generation?

Indish: Yes. Search is the one thing they must do, but many businesses don’t give it the attention it needs. There are many other marketing tactics. Emails can also drive traffic and increase leads. We have a retailer who does biweekly emails to customers, who love it, and hundreds of customers have signed up through the retailer’s website. The retailer usually provides coupons or promotions. Anytime customers can save money, they like it, and it is good for the retailer as well. Website coupons or discounts generate goodwill, and they encourage repeat business. Most consumers spend beyond the coupon amount, so the email is a win-win.


Any closing thoughts?

Indish: Unfortunately, many business owners are so busy working that they do not have time to pay attention to their website or to correct misinformation. Website and directory misses really detract from the overall brand customer experience, and not just from that one store. The customer experience is the sum total of all the interactions someone has with a particular brand. It is important that every touch point, whether it is an online directory, a brand or a franchise/dealer website, is a positive experience.

If business owners can’t pay attention to their website and maintain their online listings, they need to pay someone to do it. An inactive website and or wrong information will really hurt your lead generation efforts.