Grab your smartphone, Google your company's brand name, and see if it comes up top.
For eight per cent of the UK's top resellers, it will be another company rather than them occupying pole position, according to a digital marketing firm that has examined the digital footprint of all 100 firms in CRN's Top VARs and issued the above advice.
Some 97 firms in the top 100 have responsive or mobile websites, but relatively few - 37 per cent - are using HTTPS, which Google has added to the rules it uses to decide where websites show up in a search, the report found.
Meanwhile, only 37 per cent were found to have an easily discoverable newsletter, and even fewer - 14 per cent - a discernible ‘pulse' on their websites.
Overall, the research, from digital marketing agency Sharp Ahead, concluded that 56 per cent of the UK's Top VARs are missing at least one area of digital marketing best practice.
Sharp Ahead director Jennifer Esty told CRN there are a couple of easy wins for resellers seeking to improve their digital footprints.
Firstly, resellers lacking a subscription-based communications strategy - via a newsletter or blog - may find it tough to communicate with customers and prospects after GDPR comes into force on 25 May 2018, Esty said.
"I would suggest they very proactively go out and build those lists in a GDPR-compliant way. And if they are already doing [newsletters and blogs], to ensure they are compliant with things like double opt-in, and making sure people have actively subscribed to their list," she said.
Adopting HTTPS is another simple victory, she advised.
"Google will start punishing [those without HTTPS] from an SEO point of view. Google is very keen now on HTTPS and it will signify to its users when a site is not secure. They have warned about this for the best part of 18 months, if not two years, but it is going to start taking effect on the rankings and user perception of a website. For the channel, where security is often one of the services they are selling, the one or two that are still not compliant should do it straight away as it is quick and relatively inexpensive.
"Then there are certainly some best practices around lead generation, around prospecting and lead nurturing. But I think they are more complicated strategies to start to implement and you'd need to fix some of the other things first."
Google did not display a Google My Business listing for 25 per cent of VARs examined, despite it being free. It contains important information such as the firm's address, phone number, business hours and reviews.
But Esty said the biggest digital marketing faux pas she encountered during the research were the instances of resellers who failed to finish top of their brand searches.
Some 71 per cent of business buyers start with a generic search, Sharp Ahead said, citing 2015 research from Snyder and Hilal.
"If you think about a scenario where a prospect has been approached by a member of the sales team, or has come across a piece of third-party content and wants to find out more about the company, they go to Google and type the name," Esty said.
"If they can't find you, really they've written you off and are thinking ‘maybe they don't exist; maybe they've been bought; maybe they've gone under - I'll find someone else to engage with'. I would encourage anyone - not just the top 100 VARs; this is good B2B advice for anyone - every once in a while when you have a free moment, type your brand name into Google and make sure the user experience from a prospective and customer point of view makes sense."
Esty's study covered not only search user experience, but also website best practice and content marketing strategies.
On the plus side, the 97 per cent of resellers that have responsive or mobile websites is ahead of most other B2B markets Sharp Ahead has examined, Esty said.
Seven per cent of resellers were adjudged ‘leaders' and were found to be using the full suite of digital marketing tools. A further 21 per cent were labelled 'contenders', 49 per cent ‘stragglers' and 22 per cent ‘laggards'. This latter group uses very few digital marketing best practices, forcing their sales team to pick up the slack - and leaving the door wide open to competitors, Sharp Ahead said.
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