Boston Cedar & Millwork isn't a distributor, says marketing manager Scott Babbitt. It's a "marketing company that distributes building materials."
Along with selling products, Boston Cedar educates its customers on brands, promotes its products, and holds presentations on green building. The company's website helps execute this strategy.
"We have a marketing philosophy that [the site] is paramount to how we do business," Babbitt says. "It's an informational source that contractors, consumers, and general people can go to and be engaged and learn something from."
The www.bostoncedar.com site began in 2000, but was basically a "product catalog online," the company stated in its contest entry. The page was updated in 2005, and again in 2009, to include more advanced features such as installation videos, in-depth product information, industry trends, 24-hour ordering ability, and events calendars.
As green building has gotten more popular, Boston Cedar decided to make itself a resource for green building information. It created the Green Road Show where, for no cost to participating lumberyards, Boston Cedar travels with a green building expert to put on presentations. The site not only serves as an online home for this service, it links to a list of the company's green products and to sites where visitors can learn more about green building.
"We use it very much to educate our customers," says Dave Merryman, national accounts manager for ENAP Inc., a building materials purchasing cooperative. "The website is like the glue that holds all of their product categories, branding, print ads, and presentations together."
Beyond expanding the content of the site, the 2009 relaunch enhanced its effectiveness. Boston Cedar worked with Genuine Interactive to improve the site's ranking on search engines such as Google, as well as improve its organization.
To make itself more visible on Google, Boston Cedar uses pay-per-click ads that display during relevant product, brand, and keyword searches, says Kyle Sinclair, search marketing director for the Boston-based agency.
Genuine Interactive also helped Boston Cedar develop landing pages for the site. For example, instead of having only individual pages for each product category, one page on the site would house all of the categories and provide links to each section.
Moves like these helped boost site statistics. While the amount of people who have visited the site has gone down since last year–the site had 55,231 visitors in 2009 and 61,720 in 2008 from Jan. 1 to Oct. 4–the quality of visitors has improved. Visitors from the same period in 2009 look at 16% more pages than in 2008, and spend 13% more time on the site.
Paid site traffic from Google is 87% more likely to visit the Dealer Locator page, which lists dealers that sell Boston Cedar's products. This same group also spends 23% more time on the site and views 24% more pages than the average visitor. Additionally, keeping track of what visitors look at helps the company satisfy existing customers. This works especially well with the Dealer Locator page.
"It lets us know what people are looking for," says Jack Bacigalupo, creative director of Premiere Creative, a company that helps Boston Cedar run the site. "You can go to a dealer and say, 'Thirty people searched your site last week. How are you following through with that?'"
Tracking clicks also works as a selling tool to attract new dealers. "Look, there are 78 hits for this product a week," Babbitt says he can tell prospective customers. "Here is why you should participate in this program."
Boston Cedar hopes to branch out even further with its Web marketing effort, expanding into social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. But it has already moved light years beyond a simple product catalog.
"The whole key is making it more of a tool than just pretty pictures," Bacigalupo explains, "getting content on here that is really useful to the Boston Cedar audience, contractors and consumers."