Make Your Website Work for You
"Build it and they will come" used to work for websites; not anymore. Web browsers and potential customers have too many options available. If a website does not immediately meet a visitor's needs, that visitor is gone, likely never to return. To make sure your website not only complements your business but also meets your business goals, take a step back and think like your customers.
In fact, in any way you "touch" your customers (website, advertising, in-person, etc.) you should take a step back and think like your customers. After all, your goal is to meet their needs; meeting needs starts by understanding needs.
But for now let's focus on making your website work.
What is your goal for having a website? Is it simply to have a web presence? If that is your answer, you are selling your business short, and missing out on a valuable marketing and sales tool. Your website not only establishes your presence and provides contact information, but it allows potential customers to gather the information they need to make a purchase or use your services. Think about it this way:
- What customer questions do you field on a regular basis?
- What information do your salespeople tend to provide?
- How do you want the answers to common questions phrased?
The above information should be prominent on your website? In effect your website can then "pre-sell" customers, making subsequent sales efforts easier and more streamlined.
The goal of your website should be to provide enough information to overcome natural buyer hesitance, create a rapport and sense of trust, and make it easier for customers to take action no matter what time of day. (Your website is always "open" even if your store or facility is not.)
Once you understand your goals and the needs of your web audience make sure your site addresses those goals and needs:
- Clean, professional design. The majority of consumers search online before making a purchase; when that happens, your website, not your place of business, will be the first impression you make on the customer. A well-designed site can project a great image; a poorly-designed, out of date site will turn customers away. If you're concerned about the expense, keep in mind your website is simply another form of advertising; devote a portion of your advertising budget to your website.
- Easy to navigate. Don't assume your customers know where to look for important information. Make it easy. If your customers want to view new products, make that easy. If they primarily look for how-to advice on using your products, make that information easy to find. Pretend you are a new user, or better yet, have a friend try out your site and make sure a new visitor can easily find what he or she is looking for.
- Useful content. Provide helpful, knowledgeable information about your company and your products and services. Focus on what customers will receive rather than what you do. Include helpful articles or tips. Make the visit worthwhile for potential customers and you will build trust and sales.
- A great "About Us" page. Tell potential customers who you are. Give them a sense of your company's personality, goals, and approach to business. Use your "About Us" page to win potential customers over; tell them how they will benefit by doing business with you.
- Contact information. Don't forget to tell customers how to reach you. Make sure contact information is included on every page. At the same time, also make sure contact information does not distract from your main message and main content. (In short, contact information should not be the first thing a visitor sees but it should be relatively easy to find.)
No matter how thorough and comprehensive your site becomes, (like if you include audio, video, user forums, tools and calculators, and other applications), the key is to ensure that a visitor does not have to stop and think. If you force a visitor to think about where to look, how to find information, how to use a particular feature of your site, you have failed to produce a good experience for that visitor. Frustrated visitors are visitors who leave. Make sure your navigation structure is easy to follow. Make sure your content is intelligently grouped and categorized. Use simple descriptions, simple language, and easy to understand directions. Make your site easy to use, and more customers will use your site and do business with your company.