Building an Effective Business Website
Everywhere you turn people are twittering, posting and commenting on blogs, updating their facebook page or squidoo lens and some even still hang around in myspace.
All this is great if you like to socialize but pretty much a waste of time if you run a business. The marketers will point at all the success stories but conveniently forget the 99% who didn’t make a dime.
If you want your business to have a solid, long term, effective internet presence you need a business website. It may all sound very dull but if you get it right then it’s pretty much assured you will make money.
A good business website does three things:
- Meets people’s expectations
- Builds trust
- Converts your visitors into customers
Caveat, this article is aimed at the bricks and mortar businesses who want to improve their online presence. It’s not really for e-commerce websites nor is it much use for affiliates or entertainment sites.
Meeting People’s Expectations
When looking for a product or service, there are many websites to choose from. If yours is difficult to use or doesn’t present the visitor with the information they need, in a manner to which they are accustomed, they will leave and probably never return.
You need to do a little bit of planning and consider what you intend to promote, how you are going to do the promotion and how to lead the visitor to that promotional material.
Promoting product or service
Essentially, this means writing good quality descriptions for each product or service. Keep the terminology to the minimum; just because you understand all about thrust flapper valves doesn’t mean your visitor does. Try to imagine you are describing your widgets to a bloke in the pub. Promote the benefits, keep it simple but not too brief. Anticipate any questions that may be asked and put the answers on the site.
Make sure you include images of your products or show your services in operation. Don’t use your £50 supermarket special to take the pictures. Using a professional photographer will repay your investment many times. I know I get very frustrated having to work out if a fuzzy and minuscule image represents the thing I’m looking for.
Which one do you think sells the product better?
Technical information is also important. No point in promoting your widget if you don’t tell me how big it is or what it is made of. If there are safety data sheets or installation instructions make sure they are available as a PDF.
Leading the horse to water
Once you have all your product or service information sorted make sure your visitors can find it. This means an effective navigation system. Don’t use dropdowns or other fancy menu systems, keep it nice and simple so that your visitors don’t have to guess where they are going.
Not everybody will land on your homepage so make sure that every page carries your business name, tagline and a clear navigation path to the rest of the site.
Top Tip: Do NOT under any circumstances waffle on about you, your company, your goals and ambitions. Do not use words like quality, customer satisfaction, excellence, 100% or even ‘top value’. They are marketing clichés that are so over used as to be worthless.
Your visitors don’t care about you or your business. All you need to do is meet their needs and appear to be trustworthy.
The first thing to do is to publish your contact details. Don’t hide your address, telephone number and email away on a contact page, display your business details on every page with the logo of any professional bodies you belong to.
If all you have is a mobile number that’s OK as long as you explain why you don’t have an office phone. 0800 and 0845 numbers are just about OK but anything else is thought of as a premium rate number. If you are a local company use a local number. Remember as well that 0800 numbers are not free for mobile users so this may put people off calling you.
Another useful trust building tool is the testimonial. Again don’t hide them away, put examples on the actual pages and link to the testimonial page. The only problem with testimonials is that they have to be convincing:
Fantastic Service, thanks guys. Mrs P, Doncaster
This is pretty much a waste of time. Who is Mrs P? What service was provided? Which guys were they?
A well written testimonial describing the work you do, where and for whom and mentioning you by name can really boost your credibility. I’ve seen some sites that do a sort of post project interview and publish the transcript. Another idea is to do a project write up and break it up with the customer’s quotes. You can really be creative, anything that shows you in a good light and is interesting to read will always help to build trust.
If your products or services have been reviewed on an external site then include the quote and the links. Newspaper articles and other marketing material can also be scanned in and displayed.
If the project involved an installation or building work then show before and after pictures. Publicity shots with the happy customer, although a bit cheesy, do actually show you ain’t telling porkies.
Convert your visitors into customers
It’s all very well having great images, descriptions of your products and lots of testimonials, unless you make a sale then your marketing has failed.
Putting your contact details on the site is a good start but you need to give your visitors a reason to pick up the phone. It’s the call to action and comprises two main parts.
The actual action is the button to click, the telephone number to call, the form to complete and so on. But to make it effective you need to have a reason to carry out the action. The two items combine to form the call to action:
To get your free brass rubbing newsletter enter your email address and click on the OK button.
To order your £9.99 inflatable armchair call 01234 567890.
Complete the form below to get a quote for your roof tiles.
Another vital part of the conversion process is the USP. The visitor is scanning the page looking for the bit of the deal that invites them to look no further:
Next day delivery, free delivery, 10 year guarantee, 1 year support, installation included, no call out fee, limited edition and so on.
If your offer is reasonable and convincing then the incentive to complete the call to action increases.
More call to action tips here from boagworld.
Hook, line and sinker
Nothing described above is really complicated and it’s not particularly innovative either. Just tell it like it is. If your products are well presented, your business appears trustworthy and your sales pitch is convincing, there should be no reason for your visitor not to convert into a customer.
Right at the beginning I spoke about planning. You need to plan the whole site so all the parts of the puzzle fit together. It’s about making sure the homepage leads to the product pages, that the ordering or contact process is integrated, the navigation is easy to follow, the pages are constructed logically and it’s clear about what the visitor should do next.
A website is not like a brochure or an exhibition stand. It’s the internet equivalent of fast food, don’t expect your visitors to spend a leisurely lunch digesting your wonderful site. They want to be fulfilled fast without having to think.
Meet their needs and you will have met the basic criteria of an effective business website.
If you want help with your website, then all my contact details are down at the bottom of the page.
Describe the products or services in non-technical terms, use good quality imagery, ensure technical data is available for those who need it and make sure it’s easy to find your way around.
Always include a call to action: to get this do this. Don’t make your visitors have to find the USP, promote the benefits on every page.
Contact details all over the site, proper testimonials, customer comments and external references all help to build trust.