NBJ Summit Extension Illuminates Best Internet Marketing and Sales Practices

The Internet was once again the fastest-growing sales channel within the U.S. nutrition industry in 2008, expanding 22% to $1.4 billion last year, according to Nutrition Business Journal estimates. But, unfortunately, throwing time, dollars and other resources at a company’s online marketing and sales initiatives won’t guarantee sales success. In fact, without the right strategies, tactics and mindset, companies can actually lose money in their efforts to harness the Web as a sales and marketing vehicle. This reality seemed well understood by the 50-some nutrition industry executives who gathered today for the NBJ Summit Extension: Internet Marketing & Sales seminar at the 2009 Natural Products Expo East in Boston.

The paid session—which featured Paul Hannam, founder of Bright Green Leadership; Roy Bingham, head of e-commerce at RenewLife Formulas; Devin Ryerson, founder and CEO of PurePrescriptions.com; NBJ Publisher and Editorial Director Patrick Rea; and NBJ Co-founder Tom Aarts—was designed to help CEOs and other top executives learn from the best Internet marketing and sales practices that are currently emerging inside and outside of the nutrition industry.

A long list of actionable advice materialized from the two-hour session, including these highlights:

Be willing to fail: In today’s lightening fast online world, successful Internet marketing and sales requires an action-oriented mindset and willingness to experiment, Hannam said. If a company wants to get it right, it must be willing to get it wrong, he added. “You have to be constantly learning from your mistakes.”

Content remains royalty: Yes, content is still king, in part, because great content is the fastest, most-consistent way to obtain top listings placement within Google and other search engines. Content can build brands, but the goal is to become a trusted thought leader around a problem or issue—such as joint pain or healthy aging—rather than only a product or brand, Hannam noted. Blogs and social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, can help establish a company’s position and credibility around a chosen problem or issue.

Design Websites with users in mind: Consumers have very short attention spans, and they expect certain things when they arrive at a Website, such as a company or Website logo in the upper left corner and an internal search engine in the upper right corner, Ryerson said. They also first use Website navigation to browse for what they are looking for before turning to search and get frustrated when the checkout button isn’t immediately findable. Spend time evaluating well-designed e-commerce and information sites to better understand what works and why, he added.

Videos communicate authenticity: Rather than adorning a Website landing page with a pretty but irrelevant photo or other graphic, consider adding a short video from the company’s CEO or another trust-worthy individual to welcome users to your site and explain what you hope they will accomplish there, Hannam suggested. Videos, he said, build credibility and trust and are proving more powerful than static images. “Be informal in your video messages, as this helps boost authenticity,” Hannam added.

Be persistent: Most people don’t buy until after their sixth contact with a company, so don’t despair or give up if a new e-mail marketing list proves less than fruitful at first, Hannam noted. Use each communication to build relationships, offer people something of value—such as useful information or a purchasing offer—and make someone in your organization accountable for protecting your e-mail marketing lists from being over-used or abused.

Don’t break the rules just to make a buck: Dietary supplement companies that market and sell their products online with no regard to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) might, in some cases, be able to make boatloads of money by duping consumers with illegal cancer cures or fraudulent offers, but they do so at the risk of the entire supplement market, Bingham said. “These companies are trashing our industry,” he said. Remaining DSHEA-compliant with all online marketing content—including meta search tags and online consumer reviews—is increasingly important to staying out of trouble with the FDA and FTC, Bingham and Ryerson noted.

A video replay of The NBJ Summit Extension: Internet Marketing & Sales session will be available for purchase via the NBJ Website for those wanting more advice and insights from this panel of experts.

Related NBJ links:

E-commerce Is Now a Must for Nutrition Firms

E-marketing: A Recession Essential for Every Company

Good Search Engine Marketing Key to Selling Supplements Online

Tips for Evaluating an E-marketing Campaign in the Nutrition Industry

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