You look at your website and think this site needs an update. Somebody refers you to a web developer, or, perhaps, you call an agency to help you develop a dazzling online presence. To get started, you meet with your new web team and talk about logos and colors. They probably ask you how many pages you need to have developed and if you have any special functionality you’d like built – like a calendar, online directory, or contact form. At some point, somebody mentions Facebook and Twitter and the need to get involved with social media. At the end of the meeting you probably feel tired from thinking about all the pieces of the puzzle, but you’re excited because your business is about to launch with a dazzling display of digital fireworks.
The Build Up
A few weeks go by. You have been pouring over your laptop, writing words upon words trying to describe your business. One one hand, it’s fun because you’ve put so much work into creating a unique product that you love. There are so many details to cover. The backstory of why you started the business in the first place. The challenges of figuring out exactly how to put your business together. You write about the people on your team and how, together, you have hopes of changing the face of your industry with a new perspective. The web team you’ve been working with has put together a nice looking site with your favorite colors, cool pictures, and
The web team you’ve been working with has put together a nice looking site with your favorite colors, cool pictures, and all the copy you’ve written. It’s the final click-through demo before launching your site and you’re really excited. Everything looks great. The site goes live.
A few days go by and you haven’t gotten any leads. How can this be? You have this great looking site. Everybody worked really hard. Why isn’t the website generating the leads we were hoping for? You look at your web stats and see that you’re getting traffic to your site. So, why isn’t anyone contacting you? You excitement begins to turn to frustration as you begin to realize that the website never ignited into that dazzling, lead generating machine everyone was expecting. Instead, it turns out that your website was just a soggy bag of fireworks.
What Went Wrong?
I see this ALL the time. The last three clients I worked with had JUST paid thousands of dollars – in once case tens of thousands – only to find that their new website didn’t perform any better than their old site. But why not? Everybody worked really hard and the new site is certainly a refreshing new design. So, why aren’t you seeing an increase in leads and sales? Here is the answer: the new website is doing the exact same thing as the old site.
The new layout and the new pictures may look better – and that’s the trap. It is a trap because you already know your business so when you see the bright new design, you apply that enhancement to the knowledge you already have about what you do. The problem is that a new visitor to your website is coming to you without that prior knowledge. You and your customer are in two different worlds. You know ALL the details about your business, how it is different and why it is better than the competition. A first time visitor to your website doesn’t know any of that. They are a blank slate.
A professional looking website is important because it is often the first impression a person has of your business. First impressions barely matter if your customer can’t quickly discover the purpose and benefits of your business.
How To Fix It
A new website design does little or nothing to put the benefits of your business into the minds of your customers. To improve your website you have to do three things:
- Clarify your message
- Understand your audience
- Give yourself tools to continuously engage your audience
Notice that none of those three things involve graphic design. Yes, graphics, are nice, but the key to success lies in your content and building your audience.
There is a great deal to unpack with regard to these three points. We’ll get an overview of each point now and will be diving in for a deeper look into each of thiese things in upcoming articles.
Clarify Your Message
Before you can clarify your message to your audience, you have to clarify the message to yourself. Take some time to really boil down your value proposition – the main benefit – the primary differentiating factor – your business offers. Think of a phrase or short sentence that reveals what your business is all about. It is hard and takes time to figure this out, no question about it. It’s probably going to take several days of thinking, jotting down notes, and then going away and coming back later to think it through some more. It’s critical, however, to be able to do specifically define what your doing because your website, content marketing, email marketing, videos, and everything you produce should ultimately drive people back to this one, fundamental point.
Homepage vs Interior Pages – Scanning vs Reading
First, understand that your homepage and your interior pages and blog posts are entirely different things. People read your blog posts, and they scan your homepage. Your home page should primarily include headlines and phrases. Try to keep the phrases to about three words or less so that they can be consumed in a glance without having to move your eyes across a line of text. Under a headline, you can have one explanatory sentence. Then, have a link to read more. The headline should mention one of the differentiating benefits your business provides.
Interior pages should have more details than your home page because once someone clicks through to an interior page of your website they are showing heightened interest in that particular area of content. The more someone buys in to the benefits, the more effort he is willing to invest in achieving those benefits.
Blog posts are probably where you will compose the richest content. Your blog is the platform where you can really unload the nitty-gritty details on a variety of topics. The interior pages of your website should link to blog posts. The overall flow of things would be this.
First, the visitor lands on the homepage and discovers a benefit of your business that is interesting to him. He then clicks through to the interior page that describes this benefit in greater detail. Within that interior page, you link to blog posts that provide even greater detail about the topic. For example, as you make your points in your interior page, you can link to blog posts that contain supporting evidence for the points you are making.
Understanding Your Audience
If you don’t understand who your audience is and what they want, it is virtually impossible to reach them – physically, intellectually, or emotionally. You have to know where your audience spends time on line in order to reach them physically with your message. You have to know what questions they have in order to reach them intellectually. To reach them emotionally, you have to know what they really care about.
There are many ways to get to know your audience. In the context of using your website, you can get to know them by taking note of the content they consume from your website. A very valuable tool to use both for growing your audience and for understanding what they are interested in is to give away free, downloadable content like an eBook.
Create several different informational products, or eBooks, on different topics that go into greater detail than you provide on your website. This is often referred to as a content upgrade. Compared to the information on your web pages, your eBooks will be enhanced, more informative, and specialized. Then, allow people to enter their email addresses to download the content upgrade.
This does a variety of very good things for you in terms of understanding your audience. First, you are building an email list of potential customers. Based on the eBook they download you can tell what kind of customer they are. In other words, you have a list of leads segmented by interest. So, now you know who is interested in what and you can follow up with timely and relevant information.
Going hand-in-hand with your content upgrades is your email list. You should build an email list of potential customers. Then, as you send out emails, you can look at who clicks on which links and that will tell you which topics are interesting to each person on your email list. For example, you might send out an email that mentions three different services you offer. If a person clicks on a link to read more about service A, you can assign that person to a list of people interested in service A. Then you can follow up with everyone interested in service A with supplemental information about that particular service. This lets you send the right information to the right people and avoid bombarding people with information they don’t care about.
The Tools You Need
If there’s one thing the Internet has, it’s tools. There are tools for everything. Here are a couple tools that you want to make sure you have if you want your website to be a valuable, lead generating, tool for your business.
Email Marketing: You want to make sure you are doing everything you can to build an email list. This is really the most critical thing you should be doing with your website. This should probably be the most import function of your website. Email gives you the ability to learn your audience and reach out to them without having to rely on them coming to you.
Web Statistics: It is shocking how many business are not tracking the traffic on their website. It’s a very simple thing to do and there are free tools, like Google Analytics, that provide incredibly rich information about who is visiting your website, where they are coming from, and what they do once they arrive at your site.
Help Desk: If your business fields support related questions via email, you can dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of your support by moving off of email and into a help desk system. A good help desk system will give your team the ability to assign support tickets to one another, look up answers to common questions, insert saved replies, and keep track of the status of support issues so nothing falls through the cracks. Keep in mind that good support is some of the best marketing you can do because happy customers talk about their experience with your business – and so do unhappy customers. Implement a successful support platform and get yourself good, free, effective word-of-mouth marketing.
Social Media: I mention social media last on purpose. It has been my observation that people often put too much emphasis on social media platforms. They set up accounts on all the platforms they can think of without thinking things through – like who they are actually trying to reach. The assumption is that more is better and everybody just has to have lots of social media accounts. Yes, social media can be helpful but in the context of your overall online marketing strategy. Building up a following on social media doesn’t actually validate your business and is much less helpful than people tend to think. I recently gave a talk about a different approach to social media where you use social media as lead generation tools for your website.
If you have a website and it’s not bringing in the leads and sales you are hoping for the problem most likely lies in the messaging, not the graphics. To get things on the right track, clarify your message, understand your audience, and give yourself the tools you need to succeed.
If you want some help with this, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to help!