As I have said many times, a business website is fundamentally nothing more than a marketing communication tool. It is a channel through which you can communicate your business proposition and encourage your market to engage. If your website is going to deliver benefit to your business you need to drive 3 things:
- Visitors – appropriate people coming to your website
- Engagement – accessible, relevant content demonstrating the value you deliver
- Outcomes – response from visitors through which you can develop revenue
This might seem obvious, so why is it that many SME businesses focus on number 1?
“If only I can get people to visit my site, business will follow.”
It’s convenient to think that if people know about you they will buy from you. But how effective is your website at showing people how you can deliver real benefit to meet their needs? How easy is it for them to find the information they are looking for on your website and then take the next step? Let’s take a look at the website 1-2-3 and developing a joined-up approach.
Without visitors, your website is irrelevant! I said above that too often there is an excessive focus on driving website visitors. This said, it is undeniably true that even a very poor website stands a chance of delivering results if people are visiting. The best, website in the world is useless if nobody sees it! Nevertheless, the internet is a competitive marketplace and a poor site, even one that has traffic, will find the going harder and harder. There are many channels through which visitors can find your website:
- Organic Search – driven by SEO
- Paid Search – driven by Adwords, Facebook etc.
- Direct access – visitors typing your domain name from:
- Advertising (online and offline)
- E-mail Marketing
- Print Direct Mail
- Word of Mouth
- Links from other websites
- Social Media
It is unlikely that you will use all of the above in your own business. My advice is to consider each objectively and create the first step in a joined-up marketing plan to use the channels that are most appropriate to your particular target market.
Visitors come to your website with expectations. To convert visitors to customers, you must deliver on these expectations. It doesn’t take long for someone to decide that a website isn’t what they are looking for – possibly only a few seconds. You need to make sure that whatever page they see first when they reach your site gives them enough information to commit to exploring further. Once you have this commitment you should try to lead them on an engaging, interesting and relevant journey which builds to inviting them to take a next step. Your site should deliver:
- Relevant, up to date content
- Intuitive navigation
- Benefits, not just features
- Information and advice
- Introductory offers
Again, not all of the above will be relevant every time. The expectations of your visitors will vary depending on your target market sectors. Use your knowledge and experience to create a flow of appropriate content into your joined-up marketing plan. Regularly adding and refreshing content means returning visitors will always find something new. Never forget, your content should be about what your visitor wants, not what you want. The skill is to weave your message into delivering on their expectations.
Most people like an easy life. Being invited to do something is easier than trying to figure out the next step for yourself! This is never truer than on a website. Your content may thoroughly engage your visitor but at some point, you need to invite them to progress towards becoming a customer. Have a clear Call to Action on every page. This can be as simple as making sure your phone number or email address is prominent, or a link to your contact or newsletter sign-up page. Remember that a call to action is asking your visitor for more commitment. You might like it for a new visitor to jump straight to placing an order but this may well be too much, too quickly for them. Proposing marriage on a first date isn’t normally recommended! You need to allow time for confidence in your offering to grow to a point that you don’t need to ask for the order. Your visitors decide for themselves that they want to do business with you. So long as you deliver on your proposition, you have the basis of a great business relationship. The best approach is normally to make the next step easy. What is appropriate will vary depending on your business. Here are some ideas:
- Offers & guarantees
- Try before you buy
- Testimonials and Case studies
- E-newsletter sign-up
- Initial meeting with no obligation
Honest and Open
It may sound obvious but honesty and openness is a great way to do business. It is often a good idea to give some indication of your fees/costs. While this might put some people off getting in touch, maybe this is no bad thing! Also, it means that when you do receive enquiries, these people already have an idea of what you charge. The key is to engage without too much additional commitment from your visitor – small steps. Good business development is a process, not an event! If you are an e-commerce business then often, securing orders will come down to price and availability – but even here, demonstrating you are a reliable business can be the difference between receiving an order and not. People learn quickly that the cheapest price is often not the best deal! In other businesses, particularly where you provide a service, then the relationship between you and your customer is key. You may come across websites that make promises which seem too good to be true. These might generate some short-term revenue but too often lead to customer disappointment and rarely build solid, long-term business relations. If you would like to discuss options for a joined-up marketing approach for your business, do get in touch. There is no obligation 🙂