Lockdown has prompted many companies to think about switching to a more online business model. Such a move has a profound impact on all aspects of a builders’ merchants’ business, not least its communications. Its PR team must now drive online leads and enquiries, but how? Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director of Energy PR, highlights some things those teams need to think about

The first step must be to check that the company’s site is communicating effectively. Just as you’d never attempt to fill a bucket without fixing the holes in it first.

Similarly, before you attempt to drive more online leads and traffic, you should make sure the site is performing as well as it should. Does your site explain things properly? Is it complicated to navigate? Does it support the online sales process? Research has shown that 80% of cart abandonment can be due to ‘nasty surprises’ around delivery costs. So be clear and upfront about this.

Also check, are you giving yourself the opportunity to data-capture people? Once someone has been on your site a while, offer them something really valuable – a guide, access to a costing tool, membership of a loyalty scheme. Whatever will be useful to them - in exchange for name and email details. You can then start marketing to them, driving them to your site, rather than constantly relying on search engines.

Email marketing

A 2018 study by Emarsys showed roughly 80% of businesses rely on email as their primary channel for customer acquisition and retention. Email marketing is relatively unique in its ability to drive the first sale as well as unlock more revenue from your most valuable customers. So, focus decent time on getting it right.

Have a smart email marketing programme in place. Be systematic, measure open rates and click throughs. Test frequencies, days or week, and layout. Test, test, test.

Media and SEO

Once your site is working well and you have some data-capture, you can drive more inbound enquires. Media relations will play an important role in this. If carefully planned and executed, online media coverage will not only get your products or brand in front of readers, but it will also boost your website’s own search engine optimization; your site will appear higher in the search rankings for key phrases or terms.

That’s because quality online media titles are respected by Google and the other search engines. If your company is featured in an article on a relevant topic in a good, pertinent media title and that article then links through to your website, Google’s algorithm notes it. 

It will conclude that yours is a good site to point people to for that product/topic. So, it will place you higher in the search rankings when people search for it.

With some careful consideration for the key phrases/topics people might search for, you can use online media relations to dramatically boost your web traffic.

Obviously, this isn’t a quick fix, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will make a difference.

Brand building

Another reason why companies should be focusing on the media at the moment is that there are real opportunities there. We conducted a survey among 137 of our media contacts. Over half told us that companies have cut their activity back. 

Furloughing has left 38% of the journalists we spoke to with fewer companies to approach. This is a real opportunity to plug this gap, build your brand and leapfrog the competition. This is important as people searching online and faced with an array of options are much more likely to select a company they’ve heard of. 

Social media’s role

When people think of generating online business, many think social media is the answer.  While it’s true that social media can be a fantastic tool for getting your brand in front of your online audience, it’s not the perfect tool for delivering web traffic and therefore web enquiries.

For instance, JCB got just 1.81% of its web traffic from social channels in May (source SimilarWeb). Suddenly focusing your efforts on social media activity is not going to deliver a major surge in traffic/web leads.


In a typical e-commerce business repeat customers account for eight per cent of the customer base but 41% of revenue. So, if you are looking to boost your web enquiries, harness those repeat customers. 

Offer them new products/services but do more than this. Ask them for recommendations, and reviews. Engage them in your marketing activity in ways which will boost your online presence and reach.


It can be very hard work trying to drive web traffic and leads. So also consider partnering with some of your supplier brands. Could you do joint initiatives to generate email contacts, social media activity or brand exposure for you both? Can you host a joint webinar or produce a series of how-to videos? Find ways to pool resources and both benefit.

Use the tools & focus

My final piece of advice is not to reinvent the wheel. Use tools and resources such as Similarweb to identify how other highly successful e-commerce businesses in your sector get their traffic.

Google Trends will help you identify effective keywords and phrases your site and media relations should be focusing on. While your Google Analytics will show you what’s working on your site. Remember you won’t be able to do it all. Focus. Do a few key things well to start with and progress from there.

To arrange a tailored discussion on how PR can boost your online enquiries and sales email Louise@energypr.co.uk