I recently fielded a call from a new potential client in the financial industry who asked if I could take their existing site and essentially make it look, sound and function like their two competitors’? They, not so convincingly, went on to tell me how much they knew about their business and had a clear marketing vision for achieving success. To them, a Band-Aid on their existing site would require a simple “creative fix” from my agency and would solve most of their problems.
I responded politely with “That’s not what my agency does. As a matter of fact, we painstakingly do as much as we can to do the opposite, and separate you from the competition rather than lump you in with them and the rest in your space. Certainly, we appreciate what supposedly ‘works,’ but you, Mr. Client, ‘You are different!’ You have unique value and a competitive advantage over all of the others.” “A true marketing agency will work with you to identify specifically what that is, plan a strategy and then execute into every marketing tactic that is performed. Your website is one of your most important marketing weapons and its power should not be under-estimated. Furthermore, there are several key components that go into a successful site that include design, copy (messaging) and functionality. I’m sure there are several other agencies that will give you what you need but at the end of the day, you are risking new business if you don’t take marketing seriously and, more importantly, if your website looks, sounds and functions like everyone else’s.”
Does your website suck?
In other words, does your website work for your business? Does it accomplish your objectives for success? (I.e. generates leads, sales, educates and informs customers) Is it just brochure-ware or a place to hang your hat in case a customer wants to contact you or needs some ‘basic’ information? Do visitors to your site know what they are to do when they arrive? Is it easy to navigate? Is the branding and messaging clear? And, is there a strong and urgent call to action to respond?
I’m amazed with how many sucky websites there still are out there on the World Wide Web. With all of the easy to use web design platforms (i.e. Word Press), this Internet-lameness is not due to the costs to product “a good one” (I hope you have not already made that excuse in reading this to this point). In my opinion, it is because most businesses do not value a website as a key part of their marketing mix or the marketing that should go into making it that. They’ve been “getting by” for so long. And, now, with social media, that is where customers will go to get information first. Wrong!
The Worldwide Party
Remember, your website is the marketing ‘suit’ (or dress) you wear to the world party every moment of every day. It’s accessible by every person, company, stakeholder and/or potential stakeholder in your business—24/7. A business’ website speaks volumes about the people that manage and work there, what they do, how they do it and, most importantly, how much they care, or take their business seriously.
Think about it, if you were going to a party with 1000 pre-qualified prospects for your business all with large budgets, what would you wear? How would you introduce yourself? Once you’ve received their attention, what would you then say? And, how would you leave each conversation? I know what I would do… I would look my best for that party. I’d wear my sharpest, most comfortable suit. I would efficiently try to meet as many people as possible and, in blanket fashion, ‘work the room.’ Upon greeting each pre-qualified attendee, I’d have an introduction that they understood, could identify with and asked questions to learn more. I’d engage them. I’d then follow that up with some great stories, yet not give away the farm. And, I’d be sure to leave that party with as many business cards as possible and next steps for follow up. THAT is what your website should be doing at all times! If it isn’t, then I am afraid it’s likely “your website sucks.”
Improving Your Website So It Doesn’t Suck
It’s not too late to refresh your website. Here are a few basic tips:
- Understand your business: Go through the key questions of what makes your business, products/services unique? What are the benefits? What is the key message? Revisit the 24-hour marketing plan and refer to your own brief to stay on track.
- Develop a website strategy: What do your customers respond to? What do you want visitors to your site to respond to? How will you get them to do it? What is success for your site? What do you want to accomplish? How will you get there? What’s your roadmap?
- Be sure to make your website easy and fast for the customer to do business with you: Include navigation that is clear and easy and not too busy or cumbersome. Streamline the process for them to get to your desired response. Highlight areas for response (i.e. “Request a quote” “Learn More”)
- Pay attention to copy and messaging: if your key message does not come across loud and clear and concisely with your copy, you need to keep editing until it does.
- Choose design that’s attractive yet relevant: Use graphics, formats and layouts that make sense and are in line with your business, industry and/or key message. Allocate real estate on the home page so that the key areas of interest and desired response are most visible.
- Make it dynamic: Include content that can be changed up like a Twitter feed or blog. Use images that rotate. Keep it fresh, exciting and engaging.
- Prominently display a call to action on every page: Make it clear what you want customers to do when they visit your site. You will never know unless you ask sometimes so be sure to ask. For example, “Interested in a quote? Click Here” “Let one of our representatives show you a demonstration of success we’ve had with another client. Call us now”
- Establish credibility: Be sure to use testimonials and/or clients served to show your experience satisfying others.
With some marketing thought and foresight you can improve your site and ignite the customer relationship spark and then keep it burning for years to come with a good website.
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Florida and New York since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over six years. He has been quoted and/or featured in USA Today, Mobile Marketer magazine, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Marketing magazine, BNET TV and Business Currents magazine, to name a few. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com, call him at 239.963.9396 and follow him on Twitter @angbiasi.