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The power of the PDF for sharing and lead generation

Barry explains how the humble PDF can play an important role in sales and marketing for flooring contracts.

THIS year saw the humble PDF – portable document format – reach a major milestone. Yes, it’s 30 years since it was launched, yet today, it’s still one of the most consistent formats for the sharing of published information and lead generation.

Which is why PDFs continue to have an important role to play in sales and marketing, being ideal for the transmission of product specifications, instruction booklets, leaflets, catalogues and more that can be shared.

Your website is one of the most popular hosting platforms for PDFs, and how you use them is as important as the information they contain. One big benefit is you can make downloadable papers and other information freely available to website visitors, and in return for them filling in a simple form with their contact details, they receive the PDF and you gain a lead.

As I’ve explained before, construction specifiers and buyers now do most of their research using directories, websites and other sources to collate as much information as they can about prospective suppliers before they even think about contacting you. This is why collecting an email address in return for some useful information about your company or services is an opportunity missed if you don’t provide the option.

Where did the PDF come from?
Imagine you’ve gone back a couple of decades and are looking at a pile of pages you have printed from a website you have visited. As you’d expect, they probably looked terrible. Even today, printing a website page is not straightforward, so back then, it was nigh on impossible, even when companies had far smaller websites than they do today.

Which is why developers started to create images in the form of documents and offer website visitors a file more usually used by print companies to receive artwork, the PDF, enabling them to print the information exactly as it was designed.

PDFs complement your website
If the product pages on your website describe your services but leave other details to a document hidden elsewhere on the website, you are probably not on your own. However, this short-cutting is not best practice, for the following reasons:

Well designed, comprehensive web pages are far easier to access, understand and read on screen than a document image that has been designed for printing out.

Many of your customers will be accessing websites via a mobile phone; I’m sure you’ve found that squeezing and panning a large document on a small screen is frustratingly inconvenient.

Although search engines are able to read and index PDFs, it’s easy to forget to optimise them for search. So don’t make the mistake of missing out on the opportunity to maximise interest – and the free publicity – a well-designed, written, and optimised website page will give you.

Why put PDFs on websites then?
Back in the day, PDF documents were difficult to open and you may well have needed some type of support software to get the most from them. Now, however, it’s easy for visitors to click on a PDF, which opens in their browser and gets them straight to the detail they need. The original thinking was that they could be printed out, but now, with often complex designs and printer ink being the price of champagne, many will read content on screen and not need to print.

However, as a marketing tool, a means of providing specific or additional flooring information, as well as lead generation, the use of PDFs is still worthwhile.

Check what PDFs you have
Do you know how many and what type of PDFs you have on your website or in your files? The answer is probably ‘No’, so find out what documents you have and if they are still relevant.

The easiest way to make an inventory of the documents and downloads you have on your website is to talk to your website developers. They’ll have the knowledge and tools to be able to do this easily, then give you the information you need to catalogue them.

Once you have this information, check they’re current, and how big they are. If some are particularly large, then these can still cause problems to those on slower or mobile wi-fi, and if the documents don’t load in a few seconds they will give up. Again, your website developer can advise on file size.

Can readers go to your website from a PDF?
PDFs are now extremely searchable and it’s good that a search can take you directly to a paper or report containing information you’re looking for. However, as they can be found in isolation, can the reader go on from there? What if he/she wants to go to your website?
If your PDFs don’t have a call-to-action or links to related web pages, then you’re missing a trick. It might sound basic, but make sure your PDFs are branded with your company and contact details.

Don’t forget to give your PDFs relevant company/subject titles so it is easy to save the PDF – and then find it again when needed. Don’t simply use a string of meaningless characters and numbers as titles as these are not ‘machine readable’ and cannot be easily found and indexed by Google.

You can easily check your PDFs are ‘machine readable’ by pasting the wording from your PDF into Word or Notepad, and you’ll then see what the search engines see when they index your website.

Lastly, if you don’t already have one, why not create a ‘template store’. This will become a very useful place to store things like corporate styles, logos, blank PowerPoint templates, and images, plus of course, your PDFs.

That way, anyone in your team can access it and save time finding slideshows, white papers and other documents.

Your PDF checklist

  • Make sure your PDFs are easily accessible on your website, just like normal web pages
  • Ensure they’re easy to read on a screen, without too much scrolling and zooming
  • If you want your PDFs to be printable then ensure that they do not contain large blocks of solid colour or huge images
  • Do all your PDFs have the correct title headings?
  • Make sure they contain company information, web address, and contact details etc.
  • Do they have clickable links and do these work?
  • Make a list of all the PDFs on your website – ask your web developer for help
  • Work with your website developer to create ‘squeeze pages’ – dedicated web pages that capture data when someone downloads a PDF. This is a well-tested means of lead generation
  • Share your PDF lists and lead generation pages with all relevant team members to ensure they understand your strategic objectives

All of this can be part of an effective marketing plan, so if you need help with any of the above, or if you have any other marketing related questions, please email info@streetwisesubbie.com

Finally, may I take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year.
01773 712116
Barry Ashmore is managing director and co-founder of StreetwiseSubbie.com

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