by Brian Flook
Nearly everything we do these days begins online, so no marketing effort today can have significant success without the essential foundation of a website that is intuitive, functional, well designed and informative. So how does a small business first afford and then maximize the incredible power a website?
I call the internet the great equalizer, because it is the one marketing tool where a small business can look as powerful, successful, and creative as their biggest competitor. The website is very often the place where consumers eliminate choices, so your website's job is to make sure you don't get cut from the first search. Your website needs to move a visitor from potential to legitimate prospect; if that's not happening, you need to find ways to improve your website. This is achieved using art, science and a little internet magic.
When you follow my critical website solutions, the odds you will earn a client will improve drastically.
My seven critical website solutions are:
- Understand your computer screen
- Clear a path
- Intuition must lead the way
- Photos are your best friend
- Provide capture opportunities
- Words mean things
- Missing information is the door to departure
#1 – Understand your computer screen
A computer screen is a computer screen, right? Wrong! Eye studies have taught us that we read a computer screen differently than we do a printed document. You read a magazine ad in the shape of a "Z" with your eyes entering the ad at the upper left and exiting in the lower right. But your customers read your website more like the shape of an "F", meaning certain areas of your computer screen or iPad are worth more than others.
You should focus your most important information in the areas of the "F"-shape. The upper left of this "F" is the most important real estate on any page. Put your products and other important destinations right there. The lower right quadrant is the least important, put ads, blogs or other links there.
Note the invisible "F" pattern; eye studies indicate these are the most important locations on a website page.
#2. Clear a path
Speed is the name of the game online. You you're your pages to upload fast. You need images to appear fast. Most importantly, you want your web visitor to find what they are looking for FAST. Never put your About Us page on the left. Most website analytics indicate that page gets the least amount of activity. Remember, the customer is looking for a product first and a company second or even third. Make sure your product, pricing, specifications, and other important information appear at the top left somewhere. That way, the visitor can intuitively get to the product within two to three clicks.
#3. Intuition must lead the way
Steve Jobs and Apple are arguably the kings of technology intuition. In his book Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson said his aha moment came in South America sitting on the porch of his hotel. A child stood nearby and observed him using his iPhone and wanted to see it. He recounts that within moments, the child was using the technology. It was that level of intuitiveness that Jobs pursued for every Apple product. Here’s the point: your website visitors must intuitively find their way to what your selling in seconds, not minutes.
#4. Photos are your best friend
The internet is predominantly a visually-driven information platform. Herein lies the art portion of the website discussion: I always tell my clients that good photographs don’t sell, but great photos do. Remember, the internet is where many consumers eliminate your company. If a website isn’t visually and graphically appealing, the consumer relates that weakness to your product: cheesy website = cheesy company. Not fair, but very real.
There are two types of photos for your website. The most important is what we call the money shot. Most websites can get by with three to five money shots. These are the home page and product photos. Then you have the gallery style images.
#5. Provide capture opportunities
Websites haven’t been glorified online brochures since the year 2000. Today, you must provide a means to capture the email and name of your visitors (since they are your prospects).
The most common way to do this is to use lead magnets, which are usually some type of document that will entice the visitor to download it. For instance, “9 Ways to Guarantee Your Website Visitor Comes Back and Purchases Something.” They click, fill in a short form (email and name) and download their paper. Voila! Now you have moved them from a visitor to a potential prospect. Once you capture them, now your wicked marketing automation skills kick in and you are moving that customer through the sales pipeline to becoming a customer.
Using web forms that link directly into your database is crucial in order to move clients along the critical path.
#6. Words mean things
No, seriously, words mean things. Your website must be professionally written. Improper use of their, there or they’re is a killer mistake.
Content that rambles and misses the point will … well, miss the point. Your copywriting must clearly and concisely address the compelling message that your audience wants to hear. You must understand what is compelling to your target audience and then focus your copywriting on their interests, not yours. What you want is not relevant! The key is what the customer wants.
#7. Missing information is the door to departure
How many times have you arrived at a website and been unable to find what you are looking for? I guarantee you didn’t keep looking for long. You find another website that provides what you are seeking.
I often hear, "Should I put everything on my website… prices, specifications, etc.?" My answer is always the same. When you visit a comparison site to purchase—say a camera—there are three or four items to compare. One result says “Call for Price,” one says it’s $456, another shows it priced at $435, and still another shows the price at $412. How often do you call for price? Right, never. Neither will your customers. We have come to expect that the website gives everything we need to make a decision or guess what … you’re eliminated!
Those critical points are the best way to be sure your website will get the job done. Remember, your website is the great equalizer. A great web designer can make the local mom and pop electronics shop look just as impressive as Best Buy. Don’t scrimp here. Make sure your website is professionally designed and built and your sales will see the results.
Brian Flook, MIRM, is the President of Power Marketing and is a published author. He is a leader within the Institute of Residential Marketing, and the National Sales & Marketing Council. His book, Master What Matters, is in its third printing.
With over 25 years of marketing experience, Brian offers a wealth of experience into the marketing needs of business. His firm, Power Marketing, provides full-service marketing to clients across the country.