Every business reaches the stage in their development where they decide they need a website.
For some businesses this happens before the enterprise is even formed. For others, this comes up after decades of successful operation.
Consider “Why” When Building A Website
When creating a website, you need to first consider your goals. And more importantly, you need to determine how the website will generate a return on your investment – to provide a financial reward substantially greater than the money you spent building the new site.
There are many stated reasons for having a website. Here are four:
- Contact – This is probably the most common type of website a business wants to build – something to make it easier to get ahold of them. These sites emphasize function over form and have no plan to achieve ROI.
- Vanity – This is something that looks pretty and to which a business can point to and say this is ours. A vanity website typically emphasizes form over function, has no stated business goal, and no plan to achieve ROI. Also falling into this category are websites that exist to provide some sort of legitimacy to an enterprise.
- Purchase Facilitation – This is an e-commerce site. The primary goal is to make it easier to collect payment from a customer. These sites tend to balance form and function. They exist to facilitate the ROI inherent in the sale, but do not generate business on their own.
- Marketing Asset – This is the least common type of website that exists and the only kind that Inspire Business Concepts creates. A website that is a marketing asset will blend components of the contact, purchase, and vanity website. There is a blend of form and function, a stated business goal, and a solid plan to achieve ROI.
Building the Perfect Website
A website that is a marketing asset includes a strategy and an execution plan.
Some questions asked by clients when starting a website project are about the design.
“How many versions will we get to see? How many color palettes can we choose from? How much can we manipulate the layout?”
These are fantastic questions, but they’re not the right questions.
The right questions would be, “How are you going to help me build my website into a marketing asset?” and “How will you help me achieve a return on my investment?”
Who is going to actually see the website? And we’re not talking about whether they’re new customers or existing customers (although that does matter). We’re talking about your customer persona.
What is the typical gender distribution for your clients? What age range? What region of the country? Education? Income? Occupation?
You might think that this is digging too deeply, but it isn’t.
During an online marketing consultation with a Phoenix based dance company, we discussed their target demographic. They had photos of very young people dancing that they wanted to use on their website (early 20s), but their target customers were actually retirees. While putting photos of young people might appeal to a few, odds were that they would alienate the majority of their potential customers who would see these images and think, “But that’s not me” and move on. As a result of this consult, we advised that they use audience appropriate photos and update their content to fit the language, emotional state, and values of their target audience.
Another example was work done for a mortgage technology company during a rebranding process. They had a very specific target in mind (based on attitude, not demographic). During the rebranding process all of the content was rewritten, the logo was revised, and new graphical elements were created. The outcome is a brand presence that is immediately polarizing – it attracts people with the rightmind set and repels the rest.
These decisions aren’t even made consciously. But they happen. And they’re powerful! If you aren’t willing to dive deep into thinking about the kind of people visiting your website, you risk turning off the very people you want as your clients.
Your website is not the “Field of Dreams.”
Just because you’ve built it doesn’t mean they will come.
You need to know exactly how you’re going to turn you new marketing investment into a revenue-generating asset.
There are three primary ways to drive traffic to your website:
- Paid – This is fairly straightforward. Whether it’s online or traditional advertising, you’re paying someone to put your message out there in the hopes that the right people are intrigued enough to visit your website. The challenge is that paid traffic is essentially rented attention. As soon as you stop paying for advertising, you stop receiving traffic.
- Organic – This traffic comes from search engines. Organic traffic is highly coveted and is often considered “free traffic” from the search engines because you’re not paying for it directly. Organic traffic requires time, effort, and intentionality to drive any of it in volume. Organic traffic is about creating engaging, multi-media content that is distributed across a variety of platforms over time.
- Social – Social engagement is all the rage and everyone is racing to figure it out. And, because of the low barrier to entry, it’s easy to start doing immediately. This is one of the most popular approaches because engaging with people on social media seems easy. You get to post fun things, interact with people and garner likes. Yet, getting your audience to make purchasing decisions based on your social media activity is hard. Social media has the lowest conversion rate from engagement to payment (according a 2013 Monetate study only 0.71% of people actually use social media to connect them to purchases based on last touch attribution).
How does your message come across when people visit your site? What is your intended “voice”?
And to uncover that, you’ve got to figure out how you plan to convert the people who visit your website.
We’ve identified the following emotional triggers that that can be activated through a website: logic, gain, fear, and loss.
These emotional cues are NOT mutually exclusive. They’re like paints on a palette, blended together to produce unique shades of feeling that connect with your audience and support the goals of your website.
- Logic – This content appeals to the rational mind of your potential client. It shares facts and figures. It offers resources and case studies. It makes a compelling argument where 2 + 2 always equals 4. Logical content exists to provide the rational mind something to do while the rest of the mind is processing the emotional triggers in your message. The extent to which you use logic in your content is directly determined by how rational you believe your audience is when they are making a buying decision. In truth, studies show that people make a decision without knowing why and then use the data available to rationalize that decision. When you provide enough logical information to your audience, you’re giving them what they need to rationalize their decision to buy.
- Gain – This emotional trigger generally speaks to the positive emotions that your audience wants to feel. Gain is a sense of hope, accomplishment, protection, wealth, health and joy. And more than just feeling good, when properly used, gain oriented messages can provide the right kind of impetus to get someone to make a purchase on your website.
- Fear – Of all of the triggers, fear is the most powerful seasoning in the message. Just like any powerful seasoning, it must be used in the right proportions or it can go from adding attractive flavoring to destroying the whole meal. Fear is a sense of dread, terror, and ignorance. It creates anger, indignation, and frustration. The messaging behind fear can be very personal (you will die if you don’t get enough 300% vitamin C supplement) to very clinical (people who don’t taken 300% vitamin C supplements are 10x more likely to die of a heart attack by 60 – do you take vitamin C?). In either case, the goal is to create a generally low-grade sense of panic by exposing a weakness your audience didn’t know they had.
- Loss – Sometimes it’s easy to say that loss is the same as fear but it’s much more specific than just a low-grade sense of panic. The loss messaging speaks specifically to solution offered and then taken away. Loss messaging is typically best used when you want to create a powerful sense of urgency behind acquiring the solution. Loss messaging can be specific (identifying what will be lost and when), non-specific (identifying what will be lost but leaving the time-frame open-ended), or subtle (creates a sense of loss and fear without outlining the actual risk for loss).
When creating the message for the website, the first step is to identify the emotional state required of the audience to compel them to make the buying decision.
For example, when working with a luxury performance brand of sports clothing, we needed to create messaging that would appeal to their audience. Since it is a luxury brand of clothing, the overall messaging must be that of being elite, of high quality, aspirational, and achievement oriented.
The logical portion of the messaging was focused entirely on how the clothing itself is high quality and made of performance materials designed to stand-up to any kind of exertion. It also spoke to the versatility of the design and it’s ability to be appropriate whether in a professional or sport setting.
The gain portion of the messaging spoke to the aspirations and achievements of their audience, since the majority of the people purchasing it will either currently be successful or are success oriented. The content speaks to their will, hard work, drive, and a willingness to do what’s necessary to accomplish their goals.
The fear portion of the messaging spoke to the ridicule that can come from wearing sports oriented clothing into a work environment (and being teased by your peers for it). It also spoke to the fact that low quality, non-performance material can fail to hold up under stress (like perspiration during important moments in life). Ultimately, the messaging created this idea that your other clothes could fail you when it counted.
The loss portion of the messaging spoke to what you might lose if your fears came true. You could credibility among your peers. The deal. The girl. All because you decided to be a little cheap and not buy the best possible clothing. Add in that the messaging speaks to being fashion forward and it creates the implication that those not wearing the brand are not at the cutting edge of current clothing trends.
Blended together, it creates a powerful message that supports the website’s primary call to action.
Call to Action
Your call to action is THE ONE thing you want someone to do once they visit your website for the first time. It must be easy to find, clear to understand, and simple.
The importance of the call to action (CTA) cannot be over stated. You paid for that visitor with time, money, or both. You want to make sure that they have the best chance of success of turning into business.
Here are the components of a good call to action:
- Easy to Find – Your CTA must be prominently located on your website. Be mindful that English language visitors read from left to right and that eye movement studies show that people’s eyes generally move in a “Z” pattern across the screen. This means that you need your CTA to fall within that “Z” in order for it to be easily seen. A good location for a CTA is the upper right hand corner of the website or the middle right (just above the fold).
- Easy to See – CTAs are best when their color and font contrast with the rest of the website. Human beings are quickly lulled into accepting something new as normal as the executive function of the brain kicks into hyper-drive when managing new information. You need to disrupt that executive function by using something that is unexpected to stand out. It can be a unique shape, an unusual color, a surprising word, or an unusual typeface.
- Specific – Your CTA must be specific. Your visitor cannot be confused about what you want them to accomplish. Is it to look at your specials? Sign up for a free consultation? Buy your introductory package? Whatever it is, it must stand on its own. A good CTA resists the temptation to become complicated.
Above all, avoid being fancy or clever. It is a notorious trait of web designers and their clients to want to be too clever. The risk is that while they’re busy congratulating themselves, their audience is just confused. You want to make it obvious to your visitor what you want them to do.
User Experience Design
User experience design (or UX) is a very important part of creating a new website. And it’s more than just finding a nice simple template. It’s the art of making sure that your website is easy to use.
Crafting good UX begins with a strategic understanding of exactly what kind of experience you want to create. It also requires challenging all of your internal assumptions on how your audience sees your business.
A Scottsdale restaurant has a website whose primary menu options are “Who”, “Why”, “What”, “Where”, “When”, and “How.” It’s a nice idea (because it’s simple) but it doesn’t work well because visitors weren’t sure where to find what they wanted. When and Where seem easy (location and hours), which was right. But the food menu was located under What. And How was actually a list of all the ways to get food from them. But How could easily have been about how they make the food or how they got started.
Because UX is so important, outline the use cases for the website first. Will people use it to find information? Make purchases? Schedule appointments? Sign-up for classes? Get newsletters? The questions go on and on until the ultimate purpose of the website is laid out.
Once the uses are outlined, they must be prioritized because there’s only so much prime real estate on the main page of your website.
This prioritization process leads to creating a blue print for the layout of the website. The blue print we describe is more than just a wire frame for the site (which is a graphical representation of the layout of the site and internal linking structure).
The blue print for the website explicitly describes the user flow. It governs everything from where elements are placed on the page, how they are titled, and to where they link.
As an example, a blue print will specify each of the steps that a visitor will take to get from point A to point B. It will define the information to which they are exposed during their journey and makes sure that the elements are in place to support the desired user experience.
Finally, once the blue print is done, the names for the places are created. The goal behind the naming is to make them generic enough that the majority of people will understand what they can find behind a link. And when we say the majority, we’re talking about 70 to 80% of your audience. You’ll always have those 10 – 15% on the top end who will always get it and those 10 – 15% on the bottom who are always confused.
Maximize the Value of Your Investment
Now that the website is launched, the work has really only just begun.
Everything outlined above speaks to getting them to show up, speaking to them, and getting them to act. There’s so much more.
Bad news, most of your site’s visitors aren’t ready to buy today!
One online study from Retailer Today (2012) indicated that 81% of people complete research online regarding purchases beginning anywhere from 41 to 135 days from when they are actually ready to make a purchase (median was 79 days).
Your business might not be in retail, but it doesn’t change the fact that consumers are savvy enough to want to conduct research before they buy. In fact, their visit to your website could even be research to make a purchase with a competitor.
We believe that all businesses need to have a compelling offer on their website. This offer should be something for free, but that is ostensibly of value. The price for entry should be their email address or physical address so that you have a mechanism through which to market to them.
A cleaning company offers visitors a free e-book on cleaning tips from the pros. The book is written to be useful but not easy (in and of itself, increasing the desire to just have someone else do the work for them). It is supported by a two month long email campaign designed to get the visitor to return to the company website and contact them for a quote.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is a failure to increase the value of converted business.
You paid for someone to come to your website and they’ve purchased.
Now it’s time to maximize the value of that investment by turning that one purchase into a series of purchases.
Your marketing must include a system that allows you to stay connected to your customer.
One such mechanism is to create regular and valuable content on your website for your visitors. This has a double benefit of giving them a reason to come back and provides search engines with a body of work to index, increasing your odds of receiving organic traffic.
Another way to increase the value of this content is to send it to your customers on a monthly basis, especially if it’s content they would find valuable. This will provide the benefit of giving them something they’d want to see and keeps your business top of mind.
The last step is to nurture those relationships that you’ve built.
Satisfied customers are a powerful source of referral business for your company. And the beauty of referral business is that you don’t need to pay for it again.
You just need to train your customers how to do it.
In 2014, Inspire Business Concepts conducted a study of people who would describe themselves as loyal customers of a business. We asked them how likely they would be to refer the company they liked to friends and family. Over 84% said they would. We asked them how often they did it. Of that 84%, only 13% said they had done so in the last year.
When we probed further to find out why, what we learned was startling. They just weren’t sure how to go about doing it. They didn’t know what they didn’t know about their favorite company’s service offerings. They just knew that the solutions they were getting didn’t really apply to their friends and families.
To illustrate, let’s look at a local massage company. Their specialty is medical massage, frequently working with athletes and people who have injury related pain. A service they provide is facial massage to relieve the pain of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), but treating TMJ is not actively advertised nor did they have any mechanism for making their customers aware this is something they could do.
It’s important to emphasize that training your customers to become your sales force is NOT the same thing as advertising your products and services to them.
Training your customers is an intentional act that requires finesse. It’s a careful balance of exposing them to other sides of your business without making them feel like you don’t value them.
Web Design is Important, But…
You MUST Focus On Results!
Having an effective design is not the same thing as having a pretty design. Most businesses are focused on their marketing looking good. What they need to focus on is whether they’re getting an appreciable return on investment.
Get the most out of your website investment. Make sure that you approach the project through the eyes of your customer and answer the questions we’ve presented.
By focusing on the user experience first, you can rest assured that you’ll effectively communicate to your client that you are the solution for them. And by doing that you’ll turn your marketing investment into a sizeable return.
Get your investment return today.