Category Archives: Digital Marketing Strategy

Don’t Delete Old News Articles From Your Website

SEO TipWe sometimes get questions from clients who are considering removing old news articles from their websites.

The quick answer: Don’t do it.

Why would someone want to delete an old news article? Here are some situations we’ve heard:

  • It announces an event that has already taken place
  • It mentions a person that no longer works for the company
  • It features a product or service that is no longer available or has changed
  • It features external links that contain broken links
  • It is old and therefore no one cares about it

Here’s why we do not recommend deleting older news content:

Part of the Company History

This is our response to the first three bullets. Just because the tradeshow is over doesn’t mean the article about the show needs to go away. As long as the date of the event is prominently represented in the article, there is no harm keeping the article on your website. If your news archives contain quite a few pages about tradeshows you’ve attended over the years, potential clients/customers will see you attended major industry tradeshows in the past which can help position your company as a major player in the industry.

Regarding articles featuring employees that no longer work for the company; embrace the fact that they were part of the company at the time when the article was originally written. More than likely, they helped your business and may have even interacted with your customers. If they won an award while they were working with your company, it’s okay to leave that accolade on your website. If they were part of a group of employees that volunteered in the community, the overall spirit of the article is still intact whether or not the individual is currently with the company. The exception here, of course, is if the individual left on terrible terms and could be a threat to the business. If you have legal concerns, we always recommend deferring to your legal department for guidance.

Regarding articles containing product announcements or service offerings that are no longer new or available; this is another good piece of your company’s history that should be represented online. Rather than removing the article completely, why not keep the article and add a brief note in the introduction stating that the product is no longer available and has been replaced with a new model? A link could be added to direct users to the current product which ultimately helps satisfy their need.

In research reports we have completed for clients, we’ve seen examples of users searching Google, and even a website’s own internal site search, for older product names that are no longer offered by the company. If search activity is taking place for a branded term that your company developed, your website should be the one ranking first in search engines for related searches. If it’s not your site in the search results, you’re opening the door for your competitors and others sites to occupy these valuable results.

Content Is Important for SEO

As we’ve mentioned time and time again on TKGenius, content is vital to the success of a website. Not just a few good quality landing pages, but lots of pages about a variety of topics relevant to your business. Websites with lots of valuable pages are typically viewed more favorably in search results than similar websites with fewer pages. One of the most logical locations on a website to build up content is the news section.

Let’s look at some basic numbers to further illustrate this point.

If your website contains 500 unique URLs and 200 of them are news articles, making the decision to remove the oldest 100 articles would make your website 20% smaller in terms of total pages. This would effectively reduce your website’s ability to bring organic visits by 20%. Now, we know that not all articles are going to bring in substantial traffic to a website, but a quick look at Google Analytics landing page traffic often shows a surprising number of organic visits landing on particular news articles. A really strong article written several years ago could be responsible for bringing a large amount of traffic year after year.

Content is Hard to Produce

We understand that developing a content calendar and continually writing good content is a lot of work. The best content is unique and often taking lots of planning, research, revisions and approvals to make it onto a website. Deleting an older news article cancels out all that work with the simple click of a button.

This rule expands beyond news article as well. Think long and hard about all the work you put into creating a page on your website before making the decision to delete it. Search engine algorithms are complex and if one of your news articles is relevant enough to rank on the first page of a search engine results page, it would be a shame if one day that page disappeared.

Delivering the Right Message to the Right Person: The Importance of Data Driven Marketing

The concept of data driven marketing is simple – know your customer – and not just the basic demographics either. Knowing and understanding the types of messages that your customers want to receive will greatly enhance your customers’ experience. And research proves that customers will spend more based on a great user experience. Let’s look at two recent examples from my inbox.

Exhibit A – Don’t Advertise Dog Food in Cat Fancy

A few years ago at a carnival, my son won a fish. This was a big deal because it was the closest thing to a pet my son would ever know (as long as he was living under MY roof). So off we went to one of the larger chain pet stores in our area for fish supplies. After spending the better part of a car payment, we were all set. I even joined a rewards program to help us save on things like fish food and tank filters in the future…or so I thought. About a week later I received an email boasting huge savings on dog food. The following week it was cat food, then bird seed, then ferret foot; you get the gist. I attempted to update my email preferences but my only option was to receive weekly, bi-weekly or monthly emails. Because I didn’t want to miss out on a potential gold mine of savings on fish filters, I agreed to keep the emails coming. In the years since, the fish has died, new fish were purchased and new fish have died. Apathetically, I haven’t adjusted my email preferences, mostly because it is easier to delete the email simply based on the sender.

If I had the chance to opt-into emails about fish supplies, I’d be a happy shopper, but as it stands, I am a data marketer’s worst nightmare…or am I?

Exhibit B – Did the Foundmodclothers of ModCloth Just Send ME an Email?

I’m a BIG fan of ModCloth. I love their clothes, I love their culture, and I even love their behavioral retargeting (you know, that ad for a cute dress that follows you around to other sites you tend to visit). ModCloth does such a great job following me around that sometimes I don’t open their emails when they arrive. So when I received a message directly from the co-founders of ModCloth expressing concern for my lack of response to their emails, I was surprised (although as a marketer, I was happy). Has it really been three months since I opened an email, certainly not, but maybe? Initially I selected the “Don’t change a thing” option regarding my preferences, but the curious marketer, who recently sat in on a presentation about data driven marketing, wanted to see the options.

Fortunately for me, my preferences were set just as I wanted them. But I appreciated the options. Frankly, I appreciated the email asking me if I still wanted to receive emails.

modcloth preferences

The Importance of Data Driven Marketing

Knowing and understanding the messages your customers want to receive is paramount. Engaged customers are repeat customers.

  • Don’t trap your customers into receiving emails they don’t want.
  • Make updating preferences easy for your customers.
  • Skip the step that requires users to sign into an account with a username and password that was created three years ago.

Learn more about the five steps of data driven marketing or leave us a comment with your questions!

The Five Steps of Data Driven Marketing

data driven marketingYep – I’m eeking out as much as I can about my recent visit to the Interaction Marketing Summit hosted by The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron. We heard from experts in the field of content marketing, creative design, and data. The event was kicked off by marketing super-genius Lisa Arthur, CMO at Teradata one of the largest data warehousing & marketing firms in the country. Arthur not only kicked off the event with a keynote address that inspired attendees to “…lift up marketing to new heights,” she was also the recipient of the event’s Direct Marketer of the Year award. So, long story short, she knows her stuff.

Long ago I had a boss who used to tell us, “Don’t try to sell vinyl siding to a brick house.” The optimist in me says that many brick houses have a small amount of siding, but I knew what he was getting at. His words were spoken to a team dedicated to outbound call campaigns. Fortunately, 12 years later, the message still rings true. Whether you are making phone calls or designing marketing campaigns that cross over multiple mediums, knowing your audience is the key.

During Arthur’s presentation, she provided some insight from her recent book Big Data Marketing, and shared the importance of collecting and using customer data to provide a great customer experience.

The Five Steps of Data Driven Marketing

  1. Get Smart: Get Strategic: Plan your campaigns appropriately. Know your audience and make sure you aren’t wasting your marketing dollars targeting the wrong audience.
  2. Tear Down the Silos: The relationship between Marketing and IT is crucial. Your IT department can help you track and report on important customer data. Your marketing team should have a dedicated IT liaison who can help to communicate the information that is needed to
  3. Untangle the Data Hairball: This sounds gross but it really needs to be done. Only 18% of marketers believe that they have complete and useful data. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to update their preferences or go a step further by having them request the specific types of messages they want to receive from you. Don’t try to sell vinyl siding to a brick house.
  4. Make Metrics Your Mantra: Find a good method for collecting and categorizing your customer data. Use your CRM system to its fullest potential – use your newly-broken-down silo approach and ask your IT contacts for customizations of your CRM so you are able to report on and use your customer data. Track your open and click through rates. Take advantage of Google Analytics by adding UTM tracking codes to your campaigns.
  5. Process is the New Black: Make a list, check it twice and all that jazz. Create a process for each of your campaigns and stick to them. If you want to be able to respond to your customers in real-time, process is the way to succeed.

Do you have any other advice for data driven marketing? Share it in the comments!

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Improve Your Conversion Rate: Keep Your Eye on the Funnel

conversion rateOnce you have established consistent traffic to your ecommerce store, the conversion rate should become a statistic that you invest to improve.  According to the Monetate Quarterly Ecommerce Report Q1 2014, the average conversion rate for US ecommerce stores is 3.05%, meaning that only 3% of all shoppers that visit an average store will end up making a purchase. I’ve worked with businesses whose stores brought in a large amount of revenue with a 1% conversion rate. What would it look like for these businesses to bring that conversion up to the average 3.05%?  It would immediately TRIPLE their revenue!

So what’s the checkout funnel and what does it have to do with my conversion rate?  Fortunately, Kyle has laid it out for us in his post, Using Google Analytics to Understand Your Site’s Performance. This is the funnel that you should keep your eye on. Sure, a good metric of site performance is the increase of sales from month to month and year to year, but that won’t show you how to make more with what you have.  That’s the beauty of the checkout funnel.  By using and applying the funnel, you can actually generate more business with no increase to traffic.

The checkout funnel allows us to analyze the success of the checkout process and see where you lose shoppers. You can view your overall success rate from Shopping Cart to Order Receipt as well as the success rate between each individual step. With this information, you can quickly see where you’re losing people.  For example, if your average success rate from step-to-step is 85%, but the Delivery step to Payment step is 55%, there’s something significantly wrong with the Delivery step.

Once you have problem steps identified, you can begin to dig into the usability of that page to find loopholes.  Have a friend or family member that’s inexperienced with the site walk through the steps with you and explain what they’re thinking or feeling while going through the process  (You could also get advice from an expert ;) ).  You’ll probably learn things about your shopping experience that you’ve never considered.  Maybe the button isn’t located in a spot that’s easy to see.  Perhaps there’s a form value that everyone misses and the site isn’t doing a good job of telling them what’s missing.  Maybe the phone number field is cumbersome.  There are more business related things that could be contributing to the poor success of the step as well.  Maybe your shipping charges are higher than your competitors, or the payment information step doesn’t appear to be secure.

There are endless possibilities for what subtle things could be turning people away from purchasing, but using the checkout funnel correctly can be an invaluable tool to identify problem areas of your store.  Remember, by the time a customer enters the checkout flow, they WANT to buy the items in their carts.  We need to make that as painless as possible so they don’t change their minds.

What’s your conversion rate?

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Don’t Overlook Great Content in your Website Plans

content_highlighted credit HubSpotSo you are setting out to build your new website or really ramp up your web marketing efforts. What about the content?

At the end of the day, it’s not all about how great the site looks (though, of course, that is great) but it’s more about what the site says and how it says it that equates to online success.

Content writing is an art. Trust me, as I attempt to craft this blog post, I realize that it is a skill that I do not possess. However, we have that talent at TKG in spades – and they tell me it’s like a fine wine that takes practice to perfect.

Simply put, content writing sounds much easier to do than the execution of it can be.

Often, our clients aren’t able to create their own content in-house. Or they start off thinking they can, but end up with material that isn’t well-written or strategized – and that leads us back to pretty websites that don’t produce.

Even worse is what happens when desperate folks think they can grab content from another online source or supplier with the same info. But what happens is this creates duplicate content – a big no-no in the online marketing world.

Not only is it unethical, it often does not read well or suit your audience. And even worse, the Google gods will frown upon you and blow your site off the rankings radar for just about everything. No one wants that.

So what to do? Find a partner (like TKG) that has an awesome copy writing staff in house. Our staff will get to know you and your business and work toward how to best showcase you in the digital space. All while knowing the right way to say it.

You will always know your business the best. It is a pro copywriter’s job to interview and learn your business and the voice you wish to present to your customers online. They will take the pressure off you to create the all of the powerful content that your website and your online web marketing strategy cannot live without! And don’t forget the added benefit of knowing that the content created is original and optimized to specifically target your audience and online goals.

So my advice it to save those content writing skills for thank you notes or a letter to your mom (she’ll appreciate that!). Leave the copy writing to the pros. Your online presence will thank you for it!

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What You Need to Know About Dynamic Sitelinks

Google’s new rollout of dynamic sitelinks for ads will undoubtedly improve click-through rates to your website.

If you haven’t used them before, sitelinks are used as extensions of your ads in AdWords in order to drive users to your website. Located under the main text of the ad, they allow you to customize the text of the link to help customers to quickly find what they are searching for on your site. Since they are custom, the links can be directed to specific landing pages relating to the link’s text. Google AdWords tracks these clicks so you have specific reporting to show how well the sitelinks are performing.

As of 7/24/14, Google officially rolled out dynamic sitelinks. These are automatically generated links that will better match your website content with what people are looking for based on search activity. Added bonus: they’re free! Don’t worry though; any sitelinks you created previously are still there and working. However, they may not show if the dynamic sitelink performs substantially better.

Here’s how they will show up on a laptop and mobile device respectively:

sitelinks

See the text “Schedule a Test Drive at Joe’s Used Cars” at the bottom of the first listing? That is the dynamic sitelink.

Obviously Google is not losing out on this free deal. You will still pay for conversions, and for any clicks on the rest of the ad. The bonus for the AdWords user is that these, like regular sitelinks, can boost your click-through rate by around 10%. This is great news for anyone who did not previously set up sitelinks – your ad has just been further optimized without any effort on your part!

One thing to note is that your ads will be eligible for dynamic sitelinks if the AdWords campaign is set as to include “Search Network”, or “Search and Display.” Realistically, this addition will affect the top three ad results in a Google search, as these are typically the results that would display sitelinks before this new feature was rolled out.

If, for some reason, you do not want to have dynamic sitelinks, the option is present to have them disabled. Be sure to check out AdWords Support where you can find the form for opting out, and some general tips for sitelinks.

My advice, however, would be to absolutely take advantage of these free dynamic sitelinks that Google is offering to improve the click-through rate to your website. Let us know how it works for you!

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Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines Tip: Develop Supplementary Content

google-quality-rating-guidelinesIn early July, Version 5.0 of Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines was leaked. The document is intended for 3rd party agencies hired by Google to rate the quality of search results. Accordingly, while it does not directly answer the million dollar question of, “Why does [insert competitor] rank higher than my company in search results?” it does provide some helpful insights on the best practices search engines look for when determining which websites to display in their results.

The link above goes to the full 160 page document on scribd.com that requires a fee to view the entire document. Fortunately for you, members of the SEO community have shelled out the cash, read the entire document, and provided their own interpretations on the guidelines so you can get right to the good stuff at no charge!

One of the first blogs to provide a summary is TheSEMPost.com. Their article Google Rewrites Quality Rating Guide – What SEOs Need to Know covers quite a bit of ground. One area of particular interest I’d like to highlight relates to supplementary content:

While previously the quality rater’s guide focused on the main content of the page, with only a brief mention of supplementary content, now there is a new emphasis on not only supplementary content, but types of supplementary content as well. Gone are the days where you can have a high quality page with just navigation for the supplementary content.

The important takeaway here is the need to develop content-rich information hub pages on your website that contain helpful links to other related content on your site. For example, after you develop a general product page to describe your amazing widget, you need to support that page with links to related content such as:

  • A case study of a customer who used the widget and describes how great it is
  • A video gallery showing the widget in action
  • A calculator showing how much money can be saved by using the widget
  • Accessories to customize the widget for various business needs
  • Related widgets you offer that might be of interest to your prospects
  • Blog articles about the widget
  • Contact a sales rep to ask questions and purchase

By producing good supplementary content on your website, you will increase the depth of content and the time on site spent by your visitors. This will result in your prospects having the meaningful information they need to make informed decisions to work with your business!

Want ideas about the kinds of supplementary content you can develop for your website? Leave a comment below describing your product or service.

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“I need a new brandsite!”

brand strategyA what?

Working with as many clients as we have – and over as many years as TKG has been doing it – we’ve learned some things. Hence, we have this blog.

Often, something like this unfolds: We start working with the client on their new website. They say they are after a fresh look that better represents their product or organization.

No problem, we’ve got that covered. Responsive design, too? Check!

So we’ll move through the kickoff portion of our new project process and ask the client to send us their brand guidelines, including logo, colors, etc. At some point in this process the client will often mention, “oh, by the way, we hate those also and what we have does not target our market.”

Ahh. I see.

So if you are out there reading this, and you are a business in this predicament, let’s take a step back. Let’s start with the brand first.

Why?

Well, if the brand you have currently is really outdated or targets a market that is not your focus anymore, you’re going to need to re-do this before your website anyway. It not only affects your web and online marketing efforts, but also your business cards, letterhead, print items, wearables, signage … and on and on. All of these things need to be current and on target for your new online presence to take hold and be effective.

What now?

Get it done. TKG can help you determine what your brand is missing and develop new collateral that represents the business or organization you want to be today. Work with our team to create your new face so that you can put your best foot forward in the digital space and beyond. Brand, check!

Then what?

Bring that new brand online and proudly show it off to the masses, while your business reaps the benefits of your hard work.

What is Ranking Retention?

If you’ve ever re-launched your website, hopefully you’ve heard the phrase “ranking retention” or maybe “ranking protection”. At its most basic, it’s a series of steps you should take when you’re re-launching your website that are designed to minimize the impact of a re-launch. While this phrase implies that you need to do something to preserve your search engine rankings, it’s also something that you’re doing to preserve the user experience.

So, what is ranking retention exactly?

We tend to think of it as two separate tasks, actually. The first is matching up old URLs with new URLs and applying re-directs, and the second is updating deep links to your site.

301 Re-directs

Let’s say that your old site was built with urls that ended in .html (or .asp or .php) and your new site doesn’t use this extension (a common scenario for sites that haven’t been rebuilt in the last 5 or 6 years). Even if you keep the page names exactly the same (i.e. www.site.com/about-us.html vs. www.site.com/about-us), because of the extension being removed, Google (and other search engines) still view these as two separate URLs. Since one is really just an updated version of the other, you need to re-direct about-us.html to about-us so that the search engines understand that they should stop indexing the old URL and start indexing the new URL in its place. These are called 301 re-directs. Wikipedia defines a 301 re-direct as follows:

“The HTTP response status code 301 Moved Permanently is used for permanent redirection, meaning current links or records using the URL that the 301 Moved Permanently response is received for should be updated to the new URL provided in the Location field of the response.”

And Google in particular recommends using them when you want to change the URL of a page as it’s shown in search results.

While the actual setting up of the re-directs is probably something you’ll have your web development or hosting team handle, creating the list is something that you or your marketing team should do. It’s usually as simple as setting up an Excel file with the old URL in one column and the new URL in another, and every page from your old site that has a version on the new site should be matched up against a new URL.

Ranking RetentionIf there are pages on the old site that won’t exist in any form on the new site, you do not need to (or want to) create a re-direct – just let these pages go. Once you have the list, provide it to the appropriate people and they should be able to apply these at launch.

Once applied, there are 2 benefits:

  1. You’ve now directed Google (and other search engines) on how you would like them to index and rank your site. There is, of course, no guarantee – Google might decide that even though they showed your page for a particular keyword search before, it no longer is the best fit, but if you’ve lined up your re-directs well and have had an eye towards choosing the right keywords and creating good content, you are in the best shape possible for this to be successful.Ranking Retention 404
  2. Users who click on your site on a search results page will be re-directed to your new site instead of just getting a dead link.Can you skip this step? Sure, but why would you want to? This is the easiest way to a) make your links in the search results still clickable and b) tell the search engines what you would like for them to do. And, having seen sites try to recover from a re-launch without doing this vs. the site who have done it – I’d vote for this every time, if for no other reason than it is incredibly easy to do, and it is terribly frustrating sending users to dead page after dead page while you wait for Google to crawl your new site and figure out on its own what pages it should index and de-index and how it should rank them.

One caveat:

As you continue to grow and market your website, you will likely come up with other legitimate reasons to use 301 re-directs and you may wind up re-directing a page to a page that has been re-directed to another page, and then re-directing that page to another page, etc. etc and so on. Sounds crazy, but we’ve seen it happen. And what we’re left with is a loop of re-directs that don’t always work the way they’re supposed to and can sometimes land visitors in the wrong place or no place at all. So be sure to monitor your site’s performance (is Google indexing the updated urls?, etc) and consider removing 301s when they are no longer needed. You will lighten the load on the server and minimize the possibility of crazy 301 loops down the road.

Link Updates

The second step in a ranking retention project is updating links to your site. To be clear, these are not links from your site to your distributors or partners, but rather links from their sites to your site.

There are a lot of different tools that can help you find a list of sites that are linking to you – Google WebMaster Tools is usually a good place to start. Once you have this list, you’ll need to separate the links so that you have a list of sites that link to your homepage (this URL usually isn’t changing, unless you are changing domains) and deep links (i.e. links that go to a product page or somewhere else in your site other than your homepage). It’s usually this second list where you might consider requesting updates. If you’ve only got a few links, it’s not such a big deal but if you’re a larger site that’s been around for years, you might have hundreds or even thousands, and you’ll want to set up a spreadsheet similar to the 301 list so that you can see what sites are linking to you, where they are linking and where you want them to link to. During this research stage, you should also be collecting contact information for these sites so that you can reach out to them.

There’s been a lot of questions over the years on whether this step is even necessary. Is it more valuable to have a site that correctly links to exactly the right URL vs. leaving the link alone and letting your 301 re-directs handle passing the user over? A recent response from Google says that it doesn’t actually matter.

So…. Can you skip this step? As much as I want to say “yes” (because, let me tell you, requesting link updates is maybe my least favorite thing to do at work ever), there is at least one good reason to keep doing it:

Your 301s might not always be on the server. Let’s say that you re-launch your site and put 301s in place. Some time down the road someone (maybe you!) notes that Google is indexing all of the new pages and decides to remove the 301s from the server. Although the 301s served their purpose and helped Google re-index your site, if you were counting on them to re-direct users who clicked on now-defunct links, once they are gone, users are now reaching dead links. Talk about a bad user experience! This is especially troublesome for the sites that were referring a lot of traffic to you. Once the 301s are gone, all of that traffic is instead going to your 404 page (if you have one, hopefully you have one. You do have one, right??) Bummer.

If you’ve got thousands and thousands of backlinks, you may need to prioritize where you make these link request efforts (for example, the sites that actually send traffic) but it’s worth taking the time to determine where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck and at minimum make those update requests.

Sadly (and this is why it’s my least favorite task), despite your best efforts, you may not get a lot of response. We’ve done some really successful link update campaigns and a lot where our requests fell on deaf ears… but as part of our due diligence and settings sites up in the best possible way, it’s still something we recommend doing. And, we tend to find that the sites with the best links get the best response – and there’s a lesson in that too!

Have you re-launched your site recently? Did you engage in ranking retention? How did it go? If you didn’t do it, what impact did you have from skipping this step? Tell us in the comments!

Why Manufacturers Should Consider E-Commerce

Our Northeast Ohio location means we are near thousands of manufacturers.  It’s hard to believe all the things that are made right in our backyard.

manufacturing ecommerceThis has given us a fantastic opportunity to work with dozens of manufacturers over the years building sites that generate leads or actually sell products via e-commerce.

Honestly, until recent years, the vast majority of manufacturing websites have been lead generation sites, but the tide is starting to turn.  We’ve been counseling our clients for years to at least start getting comfortable with the notion that they are going to end up selling direct someday.  Not all of them of course, there are many businesses where a distribution network will always be needed.  But so many manufacturers make products that are easy to ship and sell.  They need to consider leveraging e-commerce to help grow beyond what their distribution network can support or to diversify channels of business.

Concerns many manufacturers have about e-commerce:

  • Upsetting their current distributors by “competing”
  • Shipping very small quantities
  • We don’t hold inventory
  • We don’t know how to market or deliver that way

Top reasons manufacturers should consider it:

  • Margins – do you really need more reasons than that?
  • Distributors and stores are staffed lower, carrying less inventory, relying more on manufacturers anyways
  • Strategy and pricing can be adjusted to protect your distributors
  • E-commerce allows coverage where you don’t have distribution

We have helped several manufacturers, even some large distributors, dip their toes into e-commerce.  They often start out small and hesitant, because of all the concerns I listed above.  However, once they get a taste of that new revenue – at greater margin – rarely do they ask us to slow the faucet. The reality is most manufacturers that make consumer products, whether it be candy or plumbing supplies, don’t have the kind of distribution network that they need.  E-commerce often makes their products readily available to consumers who are seeking an opportunity to buy.

If you own or run a manufacturing company and are struggling with that decision, or even if you’ve dismissed it already, I urge you to give it a second thought. We’re here to help, contact us with any questions.