It’s nothing new and it’s not a revelation, so why are so many smaller organisations still shying away from doing business online?
A good website only has positive effects on your customers and your business. But if you’re still not convinced your business needs to get online, here are a few good reasons to change your mind.
Let’s start strong with some facts and figures:
Without a good website, you could be missing out on thousands or even millions of new customers. The first step in the buying process for many potential customers is to look you up online. Your website is your online shop and your customers are waiting to walk in.
Your online business is open 24/7. So there’s another advantage to a quality online presence; you’ll be attracting customers, creating buzz, providing information and making money ... literally as you sleep. Selling your products and your brand has never been so flexible, as customers can choose where and when they want to buy.
Picture the scenario a “few” years back. Mr Smith walks into his favourite local store, the owner knows Mr Smith very well, knows what he usually buys, what he does for a living and what he thinks of the shop overall. Things haven’t actually changed that much.
With some basic online tricks and tools you can also get to know your customers very well indeed. Through your website and social media pages you can get feedback, find out what people usually buy from you, how they use your website and what they think of your business.
All this helps you tailor your online shop window, improve your services and gain and retain customers.
There are loads more reasons to set up a website. And the best thing? It’s easy to do and it’s not expensive. Use simple web design software and you’ll find out just how easy it is to create a professional website without any training or experience.
Quite simply, a decent website will help improve your business, give your customers greater access to your products, services and location, while helping you build a stronger base, where you can attract more customers every day.
Dale Cook is the technical product manager at Serif.
What’s wrong with this website?
This self-orientated list is offputting for anyone searching for answers to their problems. Read it closely — OUR services, OUR products, about US. There’s nothing here that shows that you care about your clients and their challenges.
Say no to jigsaw pieces, hand shakes and random smiley women answering phones if you want your business to look authentic. Invest in decent original photography or illustration that reflects your brand.
It’s all about how great the company is, and says nothing about the kind of people they help, in language they understand.
It’s neat to be niche — promising to do anything for anyone won’t win you much business.
A brochure is only handy if your visitor is just about to buy, but what if they’re “just looking”? There’s nothing here to engage or interest anyone earlier in the buying cycle.
Not only is it out of date, but again it’s very inward looking. It’s all about the company, with nothing about the customer. And there’s no offer to stay in touch now they’ve found you — no newsletter, no Twitter. Your website visitors could soon be gone without a trace.
I am sure you’ll have seen many websites like this from businesses both big and small. Little more than an online brochure, a site like this can work as a credibility-building tool but doesn’t do much to engage or build trust in what you do. Businesses with a website like this are missing a trick.
Remember: your website is not a sales proposal. Not all visitors will be ready to buy straight away. If you want to engage and generate leads from your website — a regular stream of warm, inbound leads — you need to do more than present basic information on your company. Answer their questions, make the content valuable to your audience and you can turn your website into a fully-fledged member of your sales team.
There are so many ways a website can be used as a business tool. To start with main business objective should always lead the brief for any website design project. Write it in capital letters at the top of every page if you have to!
To give you an idea of how powerful a business tool your company website can be and get those creative ideas flowing, your website can: free up manpower, answer questions at all hours, provide simple information for people to find you, publicise events and products, show off your awards and news, take orders online and much more.
In any way that you look at your company website, it should shadow the effectiveness of any referral, direct marketing or advertising campaigns.
The real question is what your website should be doing for your customers?
Service! A good website should provide a good service, the same as a good employee. Think of your website as your show room or shop window, it’s a representation of your business.
Your company website is how people find you, where they go to find more information and make comparisons. Just like a first date, those first impressions are very important.
Track and measure feedback
Use your website to track your visitors and measure their feedback, this will help you to make decisions about additions, changes and upgrades too. Here are some of the measures we recommend are part of your company’s quarterly review and KPIs:
These are all important and part of the bigger picture — do you know how many visitors on average translate into an enquiry and how many web enquiries convert into customers? This is the first step in calculating your website’s return on investment.
Your website must encourage people to act
Encourage action. It’s important to define this first and the creative brief of any website should be based around:
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to develop an action-oriented website right from the home page. Take a peak at the Microsoft home page, every piece of text is written with the objective to bring you deeper into their website.
It may sound like common sense but it’s crucial to make sure it’s easy for customers to get in touch with you. Put your phone number in a clear and obvious place and provide several different ways for people to get in touch (your website is open 24/7). Usability research suggests that users are accustomed to finding a phone number within the footer of the website on the right hand side.
Is your website a star or should it be heading for retirement?
Answer the following questions and be honest with yourself, no one is judging you:
If you can answer yes to all these questions, then you get a gold star and your website gets two gold stars! For the rest of us (yes I mean us), it’s great to wake up and smell the coffee from time to time and refocus on what’s important.
Typically small to medium sized businesses make their website when they first open up and it never gets a look in again. Maybe your website is one your cousin made for you or one of those cookie cutter websites you hashed together. Let’s face it, this isn’t how you’d treat your star sales person.
What your website won’t do for you
It won’t generate content by itself, it won’t analyse your business and intuitively know which product or service to promote and it won’t be able to discover what makes your service unique and better than the competition.
This is my rather long-winded way of saying — “what you put in, is what you get out.” So make the most of it and understand that not just any old website will do… your website needs to be worthy of your business image.
Sian Lenegan is account director at Sixth Story.
Read more on developing your website:
Chances are the most viewed pages on your website are About Us and your client list. Who are you, and who trusts you with their business? Two key things that potential clients want to know before getting in touch.
Client lists are self explanatory — names, logos, testimonials, and soundbites all linked to case studies add credibility to your business.
But what about your About Us? The section is a chance to let potential clients see the real you, and to show a bit of personality. But what bit of you, and how much personality? There are infinite ways of doing it, and we thought it would be useful to outline an approach we like.
Do see the page from your potential client’s point of view. Your golfing prowess might be awesome, but how does that help them? Write about your approach to the business, not your hobbies.
Do think about the page as part of your business story. Write about how your role fits and contributes to that story. “Before joining x I worked as a sales consultant for fifteen years. My understandings of what can make or break a sale help my clients succeed.”
Do share your mission. What do you believe, and why? Define your audience — what kind of people can your business help?
Do interpret your data with your offer clearly in mind. So don’t just say, “I worked as an accountant for 20 years before starting my payroll business,” write “20 years in accountancy showed me how crucial payroll services are to business success.” Keep asking yourself “why is this relevant?”.
Don’t write too much. Remember the rules of good web writing. Short and to the point is good. Strong headlines will draw people in, so link to further pages if there’s more to say.
Do make sure the whole page links well to the rest of your site. Relevant About Us copy will make natural links to your clients and services and approach, so embed them in the site. Fire enthusiasm, and lead people seamlessly to the rest of your content.
Do use good professional pictures of you and your team. People like to see who they will be working with.
Don’t be too obscure. You might feel that you’re best represented by a picture of a lovely smooth pebble or a snap of Kermit the frog, but not everyone will get it. (However if you do want to go down an alternative visual representation route, make sure your explanation is easy to find and written with wit.)
Don’t be boring but…
Don’t be “wacky” or “zany” or anything that could be remotely interpreted as something Timmy Mallet might do. Nothing along the “you don’t have to be crazy to work here…” lines, please.
Do ask for help. An independent view can be really valuable in helping you see what’s most relevant and most compelling for a potential client.
It’s a question I am often asked — whether it’s better to have a blog that sits within your main marketing website or to have a blog that sits on a separate domain.
As ever, you need to have a plan, look closely at your objectives, your brand and how your customers want to receive useful information from you and interact with you.
If you have a good website, one that enjoys many visits and conversions to leads, then it is feasible to integrate a blog within your main sales website. Keep it between your own goal posts! This is what marketers call reinforcement and endorsement. Potential customers can see other customers commenting on your products and services and your marketing messages are all in one place.
If, on the other hand, you have a website that needs optimising in the search engines, one that remains static or that you wish to leave as your main sales funnel, you could consider a separate blog domain. A separately hosted blog allows you to extend your marketing messaging further and it can enable you to create freer marketing information — such as blogs that are aimed at educating your audience. This option effectively gives you two websites – and you can register a keyword rich URL which can set you apart from your competition!
Using the right tool for the job is important in any business, and it is no different in the world of content.
Valuable content is an essential part of any marketing strategy. From basics like websites through to business books, a portfolio of good content can become a valuable toolkit for your business.
Not every business will need all the tools, it’s about getting the communications mix right for you and your customers. Understand how your customers like you to communicate with them, and talk to them that way.
Website: Pack it full of value. Make it a hub of useful resources for your clients. The answers should all be there. Needs to engage. Keep it up to date.
Articles: Give away some of your hard-earned knowledge and show thought-leadership. Generate interest and understanding in return. A business blog is a fantastic way to publish and share your articles.
Whitepapers: Positioned somewhere in between a magazine article and an academic paper, this powerful form of content can super-charge your thought-leadership efforts.
Newsletters: Keep in touch. Short, sweet, relevant. Should be regular.
Social media: Join the community. Be seen. Social media offers a good way of showing what you know. Interact and make yourself useful. Twitter and LinkedIn are among the best.
Email marketing: The best campaigns are targeted, responsive and useful. Email can be a clever way of carrying on the conversation with potential buyers.
Case studies: The kings of content. Make sure yours show potential clients exactly how you help people like them.
A business book: If case studies are the kings of content, business books are the Masters of the Universe. Sure fire way of positioning yourself as an authority in your field. Big commitment to create, with bigger pay-off if you get it right.
What collection of content tools is right for your business?
By Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton