near-instant access to a world of information, the Internet has become the tool
of choice for professionals seeking information. Now that “to Google” has found
common usage as a verb, it is time for the concrete industry to take increased
advantage of the Internet as a low-cost, high-visibility engine for concrete
information, promotion and customer creation.
No organization is too small to deliver an effective Web presence, nor too large
to entrust effectiveness to outsiders that do not fully understand the evolving
goals of the organization.
In representing the ready mixed concrete industry, NRMCA has been active in
developing Internet marketing strategies and practices—we have made our share of
mistakes in finding what works and are glad to share what we have learned with
members and partners interested in expanding Internet marketing effectiveness.
Deliver a well-organized site or series of sites.
Every organization can and should have a credible Web site, and the good news is
that sites can be affordable AND effective for every size organization. The
starting point is to select a motivated employee with good knowledge of the
organization to take responsibility for learning enough about Web marketing and
presentation to see the job through. If you are a one-person operation—that
would be you! Although much work can be outsourced, no organization can afford
to totally entrust this key marketing function to outsiders.
Fortunately, low-cost tools are available to enable the creation of effective
sites without the requirement for personnel with a graphics design or IT degree.
By utilizing Web-authoring programs, templates, stock photos and other useful
aids, a dedicated employee willing to spend time educating him or herself can
put together a competent site with a reasonable amount of content within a few
dozen hours. The Web itself is a great place to get that education and there are
many books on the subject. The key is to keep it simple, not just initially, but
in the long run. Good organization enables visitor’s to have a useful
experience—flashy sites are frequently distracting and counter-productive.
As long as the project is overseen internally by a competent employee with an
understanding of Web design and marketing basics, outsourcing is a good choice
for many organizations, especially as talented designers and programmers can be
brought into the project at reasonable cost to enhance the site. The key to cost
effectiveness is to use professional help as needed to ensure a professional
look, which can be captured in a template that requires little additional
tweaking over time. Then the content of the site can be “built out” without the
need for such specialized talents. Although NRMCA is fortunate to have
professionals with those skills on staff, much of the effort in implementing our
sites has been provided by student interns. We have built our sites with
Microsoft’s FrontPage Web design program which is relatively easy for new users
to work with, and we keep our sites simple and easy to add on to and update.
Be sure to think through who the information on your site is targeted to and
adopt a tone that is appropriate for that audience. A site often has information
intended for various audiences which requires careful organization. NRMCA has
taken the approach of creating dedicated sites for specific audiences.
One final recommendation—no matter what stage of development, think of your site
as a work in progress. Don’t make the mistake of investing a lot of time and
effort with the expectation that the site will be done upon project completion.
Regardless of assurances from even the most expensive consultants, it is only
upon “completion” that you are likely to understand what you really need, and
the beauty of the Web is that it is easy to make adjustments. Better to think of
your site as always evolving over time, becoming more and more effective.
to ensure an increasing number of visitors to the site.
Publishing a high quality site is not an end in itself. No matter how well you
build it, without additional effort, they won’t necessarily come. The key to
increasing site visitors is to gain links to your site from other sites and from
Search engines determine the position of your site in their search results
through complicated and proprietary algorithms that consider many factors, but
one stands above all the others—how many sites, and which ones, link to your
site. Google and other search engines maintain a record of which sites link to
your site by “crawling” the entire Web recording not just the content of pages
but also the links they provide.
This was the conceptual breakthrough originally adopted by Google that has
enabled them to gain a greater market value than GM and Ford combined: based on
the assumption that sites provide links to other sites that they consider of
value to their visitors, the Web can be used as a “voting platform” to point to
the best sites for categories of information. Therefore, the key to gaining site
visitors is to be linked to by other sites—both because visitors on those sites
can click on those links directly and because the links elevate your site value
in the eyes of search engines, raising your position in search results.
Getting other sites to link to yours takes effort and perseverance. One way to
do it is to offer a link from your site in return for a link to your site.
In addition to getting all the direct links you can, there are other specific
steps and strategies you can follow to raise the ranking of your site in search
results—this endeavor is known as “search engine optimization.” Practices
include determining which search words are most important for your site and
including those terms liberally in your content and in certain positions in the
Web programming code.
Gaining links to your site and optimizing your site for good search engine
placement is as important as building a good site. That is why this
responsibility is also too important to outsource—someone who really cares needs
to understand the key methods and practices to ensure you have a steady stream
of visitors. Good results take time—fortunately there are simple tools available
to track visitors and your position in search engine results for given search
visitors into customers.
Congratulations, you now have a good Web site and are bringing in more visitors
every day. Think the job is done?
Unfortunately, too many organizations leave out a critical piece—using the Web
site to develop a relationship with visitors that leads to new or happier
customers and an increase in business. One way to think of the opportunity is to
remember that the Web is a two-way device and comments and responses from your
visitors can help gauge the impact of the site.
Some sites have no facility at all for feedback, and others offer only emails to
the Webmaster. You need much more. Think of your site as a device for generating
highly targeted prospects that can be converted to customers. This can be done
by offering sign-ups for free printed or electronic newsletters or just by
making it clear that visitors are invited to ask questions. Be creative. On
NRMCA’s Web sites, we offer free “project assistance” to commercial specifiers.
This approach is producing many leads that we pass along to our promotion
partners around the country. So go ahead and ask the visitor for a response
which provides an opening for developing a customer relationship.
search engine ads.
The ideal place to appear on a search engine page is near the top of the search
results list for a given search, or at least on the first page of results. But
gaining that position takes time. You might also want to pursue marketing
opportunities presented by searches that your site will never be returned for,
such as “asphalt.” At a cost, search engine advertising can get your site link
on prime search result pages regardless of your search engine optimization
The first thing to understand about search engine advertising is you are not
charged for an ad that is placed unless the end user clicks on it. This means
when you pay for an ad it is for someone to visit your site that is likely well
targeted to your message and service, if you constructed your ad properly—why
else would they click? Through Google’s
you are bidding against other advertisers to appear on the page of an end user
who has submitted a specific search term. You specify the search terms you want
to appear with and the maximum amount you will pay for a “click” on your ad, as
well as the maximum amount you will pay for clicks in a day for all your ads,
thereby controlling your advertising expenditure. The challenge is figure out
what search terms potential customers will use. Experimenting with all the
program variables is easy and essential for establishing a successful as
Ad clicks are only useful if they come from prospects in your trading
area—Google and other search engines offer regional and local advertising
options that limit add placements to users in specified geographic areas.
Google provides comprehensive information about advertising results, including
the number of times it is displayed and clicked on and the average position of
your ad when it is placed. It is advisable to bid high enough to get you ad in
the top eight positions, the number of ads that normally appear on the first
search results page.
In selecting the ads to place on a given page, Google is not simply placing
those with the highest bid—they are selecting ads that will generate the highest
revenue for them. A ten cent ad that gets clicked on often will be placed above
a twenty cent ad that is rarely clicked on. The key to getting clicked on is
having an ad that is relevant to the search term connected with that ad. At
NRMCA we are currently paying from five to sixty-five cents per click for
different ads. Sixty-five cents is not a lot to reach a prospect that is
building a parking garage and wants to learn more about cast-in-place concrete.
One of our most successful five cent ads is for pervious concrete, linking to
that frequently appears for Google users who enter “porous asphalt.”
measure, then tweak and measure again…
One of the satisfactions in developing an effective Web strategy is that many
success factors can be measured. Successful programs evolve over time and are
documented by Web measures such as site visits and visitor responses and
marketing parameters such as prospects created and converted.
The most important lesson from our experience is that the Internet matters more
all the time but most organizations are not giving it the “mindshare” and
creative attention it deserves—rewarding opportunities are wide open for those
willing to make these very reasonable investments.
Programs Can Boost Your Traffic
An upcoming article in Concrete InFocus will provide details of NRMCA’s
Internet marketing strategy and how members and partners can participate for
Here is a summary of the strategy, including opportunities for immediate
Websites for the Industry
NRMCA has launched five “Websites for Industry” that each focus on a leading
ready-mixed concrete application. These sites are targeted to commercial
These sites are
intended to serve as comprehensive information sources so that our members and
partners can simply link to them to educate their site visitors about these
applications. Linking to the sites also elevates them in search engine rankings
helping ensure that Web searchers get access to sites that offer complete and
well-presented information on these topics. Three of the NRMCA sites are already
the #1 site returned by Google for their topic (the other two newer sites are
NRMCA also returns the favor of a link to our sites with a link back to
referring sites. These links generate traffic back to referring sites, often
specifiers looking for regional or local information. Such links boost search
engine results of our participating members and partners—a link from a top-rated
site for a given topic is particularly valuable in Google’s site-value
Project and Planning Assistance
All these sites prominently offer free project and planning assistance to
specifiers. We list on each our non-profit promotion partners in North America
that have joined our project assistance network for that application. Many of
the specifier assistance requests represent significant promotion and sales
opportunities. On the Concrete Parking site email links are also provided (on
request) for concrete promoters that have been trained to conduct presentations
using Concrete Parking Analyst software.
State affiliates and non-profit concrete promotion organizations that want to
participate in our mutual link program or join our project assistance network
should contact Kimberly Pittmon at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-485-1146. Kimberly also fields requests for
listings of CPA-trained pavement promoters.
NRMCA producer and associate members interested in mutual links can contact
Jacques Jenkins at 240-485-1165, email
Information on mutual linking with NRMCA sites is available
Outreach to Specifiers: The Centerpiece
NRMCA’s most recent Web project is
This is the capstone of our efforts to provide value and gain interest from
The new site serves as the central hub that we direct specifiers to that need
assistance on any ready-mixed concrete topic. Comprehensive information is
provided on concrete benefits in general and links are provided to all our
application-specific sites. Specifiers can learn about NRMCA national account
services as well as the “green” characteristics of concrete, among many other
topics. The idea is this one URL will provide easy access to most everything a
specifier may want to know about concrete, no matter how general or specific. We
expect to build out this site considerably over time and welcome suggestions for
content and services that might be valuable to specifiers.
Our ad for pervious
concrete, which links to
frequently appears for Google users who enter “porous asphalt.”