10 Things Your Website Must Do

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Whether your company sells products or offers services, you will want to make sure that you use this list as a guide for your website.




  1. Define your 'position' and communicate it prominently.

    Tell website visitors on your homepage what you do and how you are different from others in your industry. Tell them where you specialize. This can be accomplished either through a combination of your company name and 'slogan', through text in an introductory paragraph or through a bold, prominently-displayed marketing-type message. Here is an example:

    Cowell eMarketing

    A small and innovative eMarketing firm for businesses seeking new ways to attract and retain customers. Unlike larger eMarketing firms, Cowell eMarketing only accepts a limited number of active clients at a time, which allows us to provide responsive and individual service... the way it used to be.



  2. Communicate that others have taken the step to do business with you.

    When people browse your site they wonder if your company is trustworthy. In order for people to feel confident about doing business with you, you need to help them in the trust department. By showing that others have already done business with you, you show that you are a real company with real customers. Here are a few ways to do this:


    1. Quotes/Testimonials - ask your clients for a 1 or 2 sentence quote about various ways in which you have satisfied. Example:

      "Donovan Consulting is the only firm we go to when we need accounting work that must be accurate and on-time."



    2. Success Stories - compile a short, one paragraph story about how you helped a client overcome an obstacle. Include names of companies and people wherever possible. Also, include factual data to add impact.

      "Susan Smith, Director of Operations at InstaNet, was losing millions of dollars each year in employee overtime and project overruns. With our help, we were able to work with Susan to install ProjectWare and after six months InstaNet reduced employee overtime by 75%. Additionally, project overruns were brought-down to 5% compared to 15% before using ProjectWare."



    3. Case Studies - a case study is typically a one or two page report (longer in some cases based on topic) that takes the success story even further. A case study will provide detailed information about the client's challenges, how those challenges affected their business, what options they had for solving those challenges, which option solved their challenge and specific results of how the solution is saving money or producing revenue.

      It is important to use a combination of these tools throughout your website as related links to relevant information.




  3. Position yourself as a leader.

    As visitors browse your site, they start to form an opinion of your company's offerings, reputation, etc. One thing people will want to know is your 'position' in the industry. Does your company lead the industry? Do they lag behind? Are you a 'me too' company? Here are a few examples of information you can provide to establish a position of leadership:


    1. Write articles and white papers on important topics within your industry. Take a stand and give your opinion on the matter. Don't be afraid of your opinion. If you are passionate about your thoughts and opinions, share them!



    2. Conduct seminars on an important topic in your industry. Teach others how to do something that they otherwise might not know how to do. Depending on your audience, you can offer free seminars or charge for them.



    3. Speak at conferences and other business events where your target audience is likely to be. Apply for as many speaking events as you possibly can!

      Promote your articles, white papers, seminars and speaking engagements on your website. Invite people to hear what you have to say.




  4. Provide opportunities for visitors to engage with you at several levels.

    On the web it is sometimes difficult for people to make the leap from 'just browsing' to buying. Whether you literally sell online or are a services company that doesn't 'do business' online, you will want to offer your visitors several ways to start a dialogue with your company. By giving people an opportunity to engage your business without a major commitment, you establish your 'foot in the door'. Once you have your foot in the door, 'getting the sale' is easy. Here are some tools you will want to consider to get your foot in the door:


    1. Free reports/white papers - not only do these tools establish your company as thought leaders, they also serve as a great way to get people to interact with you at no cost!



    2. Online calculators - a great example are the 'mortgage calculators' that a lot of real estate finance companies offer on their websites. These simple tools provide value with no commitment on the customer's part.



    3. Trial products - can your product or service be packaged in a 'try-it-for-free' scenario? Software companies can offer free 30-day evaluation versions of their software. A products company can send sample sizes of their products at no charge. An online service can offer free access for a limited time or completely free 'basic' accounts. Music business can offer one track of several for free. The possibilities are endless!



    4. Newsletters - If you regularly write or have access to fresh articles, you can publish an online newsletter and allow people to sign-up for free. As long as your newsletter is sent on a regular basis and always has new and valuable articles, it will be a hit!



    5. Consultations, Evaluations - Services companies can easily offer free consultations to qualified prospects. The consultations can take place via phone, email or in-person. Either way, you engage your prospects and start a dialogue with them!




  5. Sell with emotion and justify with logic.

    You may be thinking that this one doesn't apply to you because your company does not sell products online, however, all companies have a 'sell' to make. Whether you are a consultant, lawyer, doctor, landscaper or any other type of service-oriented business, you must sell potential customers on why they should consider doing business with you. So how does one sell with 'emotion' and justify with 'logic'? Let's first explain why this is important.

    When people decide to spend money, they do so based on how they think the product or service will make them feel. For example, someone who buys a Volvo automobile likes the feeling of safety and security. Safety and security are the emotions. You must know which emotions your product or service cater to. When you know which emotions you must cater to, you can then use words and phrases that will resonate with your customer.

    So if the emotions are why people buy, then what is this other business about 'justifying with logic'? After a person has the right 'feelings' about a purchase, a conversation starts to take place in their head. In this conversation, they convince themselves that they are making a good decision. Your job, after catering to the right emotions, is to provide enough information so they will 'win' the argument. Give benefit-related details about your product or service. Get specific with numbers, ratings, percentages, etc. The Volvo buyer buys because of safety and security but convinces themselves with data about the specific safety rating, how many people have survived head-on collisions, the number of airbags, etc.

    Add a guarantee about your product/service and you will have all the right ingredients to sell with the pros!



  6. Use imagery of smiling, happy and successful people.

    It's cliché and maybe a bit corny, but it's absolutely true. People want to be associated with happy, successful people. Images of business people looking very serious at a meeting table may look professional, but they do not inspire. If you sell products online, show happy people around your product. If you are a consultant, show your customers in front of their businesses or homes, smiling. If you are a landscaper, show your customers and their children enjoying their beautiful yards and gardens.

    Some may think that this technique is for smaller businesses and that larger businesses shouldn't use this kind of artwork. Nonsense! Don't ever feel that by showing happy, smiling people somehow diminishes the appearance of company size.



  7. Prominently post a phone number and contact information.

    Post your contact information prominently on your site. If you can't incorporate the contact information into your site's 'look and feel template', make sure the link to the page that contains this information is prominently displayed. There are too many websites on the Internet that seem very anonymous because you don't know where they are or how to get in touch with them. This small bit of information will give potential customers a sense of security, knowing that they can easily get in touch with your company if they need to.



  8. Incorporate a professional, crisp and clean design.

    This is a touchy subject. Some people love animated images, Flash, 'roll-over' menus and anything else that they think is 'cutting edge'. Web features such as these have their place, but should be used sparingly. Nobody will ever do business with you because you use these features and your competition doesn't. Nobody. Remember that the web is most like the experience of reading a magazine and not like watching TV. Keep your website design simple and clean and use these web features sparingly!



  9. Promote and address privacy.

    If you collect information from people for the purpose of selling goods, sending out newsletters, etc., you will want to ease their minds by letting them know that you value their personal information. Post a page on your website called, 'Privacy Policy'. On this page inform visitors that their information will not be shared or sold (if that is the case) and that their information is safe. Look at other sites on the Internet that have privacy policies and use those as a guideline for yours. According to the Customer Respect Group, a large and well-known organization that monitors and reports-on how online businesses treat customers' personal information, a privacy policy is a must-have!



  10. Follow-up with respondents immediately.

    Nothing is more disappointing than completing a 'Contact Us' or 'Request More Information' form and not getting a call back in a timely manner. Worse yet, a large number of business, for whatever reason, completely ignore the communication altogether! This negligence can completely undermine your credibility and a customer's confidence in the web, in general. Make it a policy to religiously follow-up with visitors who contact you within 48 hours. A reply within 24 hours is recommended and even better. You should also consider employing technology to give an immediate automated response to people who complete these online forms. An automated reply coupled with a 24 hour personal reply will provide a sense of reliability about your company.


About the Author

Frank Cowell is a Certified eMarketer (as certified by the International eMarketing Association) and President of Cowell eMarketing. Cowell eMarketing provides website and eCommerce solutions, eMail Marketing services and Search Engine Marketing services.

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