In many ways, your website is the face of our business. It’s usually your first and best opportunity to distinguish yourself, connect with your prospects and tell your story. If it’s not engaging, well-designed, easy to navigate and informative, it could undermine your marketing efforts.
Your Credibility is on the Line
When you hand out your business card, usually, the first thing prospects will do is visit your website to learn more about your organization. So, it’s vital that you meet or exceed any expectations you set with a useful site that showcases your expertise and provides a meaningful experience.
But, not all website requirements are the same for everyone. There are no cookie-cutter solutions that check off all the right needs. You should begin with a solid strategy that has clear, actionable and executable objectives.
The First Question to Ask Yourself
What you want to accomplish with your new website? If you want people to contact you, give them a good reason to provide their personal info through a contact form. For that, you’ll need a good call to action. It should be something useful, like a download, coupon, whitepaper, etc. For some markets, checklists have proven to be very effective. If you’re running a charity or foundation, your main goal is likely to convince people to get involved or donate money. In that case, a downloadable asset might not be the best choice. A better one might be sharing heartfelt success stories, video testimonials or media coverage. Everyone offers free consultations, so they are, essentially, worthless and usually not a good incentive.
How Far Do You Need to Take It?
The scope of your new website should be determined by what your market expects. It can be as simple as a few pages that state who you are, what you do and why you do it differently. Or it may need to be more robust with rich, original content and an active blog that positions you as a subject matter expert. Either approach can be just as viable as the other. It’s more about what suits your business, what your competitors are doing, what your prospects are looking for and how you can make a lasting impression.
What’s Your Real Message?
When it comes to your message, instead of talking about what you do, retool it to tell your audience why it matters. “Okay, so you offer A, B and C. But, what do I gain from it?” Find your voice and focus your message on the “why”s instead of the “what”s. Try to connect emotionally with your audience. Most buying decisions are emotional ones. So, think hard about it. Why should they hire you or buy your product? What is their emotional benefit? What pain points are you relieving? Will they sleep better at night? Will you help get their boss off their back? Even saving money brings an emotional gain. Determine the emotional buttons and push them. Empathy can be a very powerful sales tool. If your audience immediately knows that you truly understand them, you’re halfway there.
Drive Visitors along a Logical Path
Develop your online sales funnel and guide prospects into it. What’s meaningful to your audience should be no more than one or two clicks away. However, depending on your industry, turning prospects into sales might not be achievable in one or two steps. Understanding your audience’s mindset and behaviors will help you determine what the right path is and what level of engagement is needed. When prospects eventually leave your site, they should feel that they’ve gained something and have a good reason to return. So, make sure your website doesn’t become stale to return visitors. New blog posts, limited-time offers, recent videos, newsletter subscriptions and more go a long way toward bringing people back.
Never Lose Sight of Your Competition
You can learn a lot from your competitors. Look for ways to positively distinguish your business from them. Visit their websites and learn from what they’re doing right and, just as importantly, what they’re doing wrong. If you’re seeing common themes in their messaging, try to find ways to adopt them, while providing your own spin on them. If you’re running a small business in a big industry, don’t just evaluate other small businesses. See what the “big boys” are doing, too. You want to look like you belong as long as you don’t get lost in the mix. If you set your sights high, you may find that the bar is pretty low. There’s no reason why your website cannot be as great as anyone else’s.
Nothing Promotes Your Business Better than the Words of Others
To bolster your credibility, you should be soliciting client testimonials whenever possible. If you have privacy concerns, they can be addressed with some level of anonymity by using initials or just first names with their location or industry. Ideally, the testimonials will reflect different business types or specific client challenges that, as a whole, paint a broad picture of the quality of service you provide. Often, you’ll find that clients are willing to provide testimonials, but will ask you to write them on their behalf for approval. This is actually ideal, because it enables you to tailor them to their unique experiences, so they don’t all sound the same.
Don’t Let Technical Issues Drive Away Business
Sixty-five percent of all digital time in the US is spent on mobile devices. More than half of all web searches (60%) are done via smart phones. These numbers will continue to grow. If your website is not mobile-friendly and responsive to your audience’s habits, it will compromise their experience and drive them away. Security is now more important than ever. While having a secure website has always been a smart move, web browsers are now alerting people when they visit one that lacks it. Having a website that is neither mobile-friendly nor secure could quickly kill your business.
Keep Things Fresh
A great website is never once-and-done. Changing market dynamics, improved search engine algorithms and the evolution of your own business model are factors that you’ll need to stay on top of. As much as you might like to check that spanking new website off your to-do list, you should regularly assess its effectiveness and find ways to keep things fresh and informative.
Consult with Experts Who have Been There, Done That
It’s always in your best interest to consult with a seasoned professional who understands the strategy and technical needs of creating an effective web experience. If you don’t think you can afford to hire a professional to build your new website, keep in mind that your competitors have likely determined that it’s a worthwhile investment. If you are not a designer, developer or marketer and you decide to build your own site, it will likely show. And you will not be following best practices. If you decide to hire a pro, perform your due diligence and contact customers of each candidate. Don’t be driven solely by price. Some firms will have low entry rates but will make it up by cutting corners or adding extras that you thought were originally included. If you go cheap, expect to get exactly what you pay for.
Make it Work for You Instead of Against You.
These are only a few of the many considerations for creating a website that showcases your business and positions it for growth. There are other important items, like search engine optimization, target marketing and proliferating your business through online directories that should not be ignored. Best practices are far too numerous to cover in one blog post. Many of these items will not be addressed if you use cheap, online cookie-cutter website-building tools.
Every great business or organization deserves a well-designed, mobile-friendly website that does more than just sit there. Getting that new site launched is always a big relief. But, that’s only half of the game. Today, you need to be more creative and take further steps to distinguish yourself, communicate your brand promise and create a great user experience.
If your business is like ours, you don’t have a bottomless marketing budget to build awareness of a name that lacks clarity. We have to be more calculated and deliberate.
Evolving technology keeps all of us on our collective toes, makes us more aware of our competitors and presents more opportunities to distinguish ourselves than ever before. Moreover, it adversely impacts those who fail to embrace it.
Your circle of influence should not be confined to your immediate sales prospects. That’s not what marketing in the 21st Century is about.
To succeed in marketing, we need to avoid the distractions and focus on the fundamentals. We need to pull ourselves out of the bubble in which we live to see ourselves the way others see us. It’s this uncluttered view that helps bring the clarity and objectivity that lead us to a sound strategy.
Marketing communications is not a democracy. It’s purely strategic. It’s based on research, data and even philosophy. It relies on experience, best practices and, oh yeah, talent. It is not something to be trivialized.
Do you have an outstanding business with an identity that doesn’t stand out? Are you in an exciting start-up struggling to excite others? Does your great track record still not help you gain traction? Perhaps there’s a disconnect between your brand image and your brand identity.