Everybody, it seems, has a website nowadays, from bands to banks to bakers. With the internet being such a major force in today’s world, having a website has become virtually required for businesses of every kind. But many businesses rush to put up their website, putting little to no thought into using one of the most powerful business tools available today. Later, they wonder why they’re not on the first page of search results, or raking in millions in revenue overnight.
The reality is, a business website is just a tool in the business and marketing toolbox, one that can be used correctly and efficiently, or not. For most businesses, having a website could drive sales and leads exactly like they expect, but only if done properly. Fortunately, you don’t need to know everything about websites to have an effective one, you just need to know how to use it to your advantage. Here are a few ways you can use your business’ website to drive growth and sales.
What’s the Point of Your Website?
Why do you want people to visit your business’ website? Is it to generate interest in your products or services? Is it to answer common questions, promote specials, or sell things online? Why exactly does it exist, and what exactly is it supposed to do for you and your visitors? Unless you know what your website is supposed to be doing, how can you know if it is? Understand that a website is simply a funnel directing your visitors exactly where you both want them to be. But what if that funnel, instead of leading your customers to more purchases, instead overflows and sends them spilling everywhere; do you think they’ll come back for another try?
Before you ever consider adding nifty features like Facebook buttons or the latest Google Whatever app to your business’ website, ensure you’ve carefully considered what you want your website to do, how it will do it, and how much it’ll cost to do so. Be realistic with your expectations, and remember, in the same way that carpenters don’t build houses by throwing hammers at shingles, websites don’t build businesses simply by being online.
One of the most important aspects of your website is its call to action, or what it asks visitors to do. If you sell couches, make sure your call to action relates to buying furniture. If you want people’s email addresses so you can send them valuable information, make sure they know about it. There are few things as important as your website’s call to action, and if you don’t know what it is, how will your customers? If your website doesn’t have a reason to exist, and you’re not asking visitors for anything, than all you’re doing is wasting your visitor’s time and your money.
Put The 80/20 Rule to Work for You.
Quick, what’s the most important asset your business has? If you answered anything aside from “my clients”, you fail business; please pack your things and go home. An accepted business rule states that 80% of sales comes from 20% of your customers, and this holds true online as much as offline. More than anything else, happy customers are the meat and potatoes of any successful business’ diet, and those that don’t learn to cultivate them will starve in times of famine. Don’t go hungry, learn how to keep your customers happy and satisfied.
Consider your website; does it encourage your customers to come back again and again, or scare them away forever? If your website isn’t answering your customer’s questions, building their loyalty and respect, or making it easier to obtain your services, then it’s not doing anything productive for anyone (except maybe your hosting company).
Websites can be a great way to connect and build bonds with customers, but only if it benefits them. They probably didn’t come to your website just to support you; they wanted something, and unless you provide it, they’ll find it somewhere else. Find ways to reward your clients, and work it into your website and your business. Offer special promotions or coupons, run contests and drawings, provide useful information through subscriptions, or just do that extra little bit to show your customers how much they mean to you. By ensuring that your website reflects your business’ commitment to your customers, you can build loyal customers that’ll see you through thick and thin.
Why Should Anyone Trust You?
Be reputable. Sounds easy enough, but it’s more difficult to prove your trustworthiness online, where handshakes and smiles are impossible and Nigerian princes are everywhere. Someone might take a chance on you for a low-dollar item, but will they risk a major purchase without knowing anything about you? Probably not. Of course, there are ways to improve your reputation online, but like everything else in business, it’ll take some work. Some of the most effective ways to earn trust online are through backlinks, influencers, and advocates.
Backlinks are links to your website from another website. Search providers like Google factor in how many backlinks a website has, and who it links to, when determining how high in the search results a website will rank. This means having a thousand links to different websites could be a good or bad thing for your business’ website, depending on where they go. Try to find other, trustworthy and respected websites in related fields to link to, then find out how to link to them. You might have to contact the company running the website directly, or communicate with their webmaster, but if you can find a way to link to another reputable website, it’ll improve your website’s ranking in search and help drive business right to your digital doorstep.
Influencers and advocates can both help improve your reputation and drive sales. Influencers are people others look to for guidance and advice, whether they’re celebrities’ or respected authorities. If you can convince such a person of the benefits you provide, you can expect their endorsement to carry considerable weight with a number of potential clients. Advocates are similar, using their influence among family and friends to drive traffic to your website or business, but they generally have a much more limited sphere of connections than a powerful influencer. Influencers and advocates both may be hard to attract and keep, but once you do, be prepared to capitalize on the increase in leads they provide.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
So far we’ve mostly discussed how a business website will benefit your customers, but let’s not forget all the ways your website can work for you, too. How about automated sales and marketing, and being able to do both 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? Or easy and efficient communication between managers, employees, and customers? Or keeping a database of customers and orders updated and available whenever needed? A website can do all this and more.
Think about what you want your website to do, and find the best, cheapest way to do it. If you’re spending a substantial portion of your marketing budget on printed ads and direct mail, research mass-emailing software as a cost-effective alternative. If your employees are constantly bogged down by common customer questions, have them refer people to the website, where you’ve laid out solutions to their concerns in clear, easy to understand terms, saving everyone time and money. Do your visitors have a hard time understanding what you do? Provide text, pictures, video, or whatever else can help you stand out among your competition online, and let your customers get a better feeling for your unique services. By finding ways to make your website work for your visitors and your business, you’ll discover ways to save time and more money, freeing you up to focus on everything else you need to be doing.
It’s Simple, Really
A website is only as good as the business behind it, and the planning that business did to ensure it meets or exceeds their expectations. But your website doesn’t have to be perfect, or flashy; it just has to do what it’s supposed to. With a lot of thought and hard work, your business’ website could be drawing prospects and sales in at an astounding rate. If you want your website to grow your business, remember this: it needs a purpose, it needs to clearly communicate that purpose, it needs to be seen by a receptive audience, and it needs to be effective at driving growth. If you can keep these critical facts in mind when designing and running your website, you’ll see just how profitable and powerful an asset it can be for your business.
By Eric Streeter, Production Assistant and Writer for Castlewood Studios.