Let’s start with a short case study…a truly sad and unnecessary scenario.
A very interested, potential customer is referred to your business by a friend or current client. Before they contact you, this prospective customer does what everyone does… they visit your website to check you out. They want to learn more about you and your business, your goods and services, how you work, your hours, and maybe your fee structure. You’re excited! You wait and wait, but hear nothing. The silence is deafening. They don’t call for an appointment or visit your store. They don’t email you with a question. Nothing happens. Apparently your warm lead has turned iced cold.
So what happened? It’s a good bet that your website scared them away. Instead of giving this potential customer confidence that you’re knowledgeable and have the experience and expertise to actually help them, your website did just the opposite. It created doubt, uncertainty and a general feeling of uneasiness about your business.
So they probably decided to look elsewhere and clicked on one of your competitors, who may or may not have the same stellar credentials and customer service as you and your company. But your competitor has a better website that instills confidence.
Getting new clients is already challenging. The competition can be fierce. Don’t make it even more difficult by having a useless website that sends potential customers and clients running to the competition.
Your website is the hub of everything you do. This is where the magic happens…where prospective customers and clients come looking for trust, credibility, and valuable information. So how do you make your website into an effective lead generation machine? Over 90% of businesses have a website. What can you do to stand out from the competition and drive more and better visitors down the path to becoming new customers and clients?
Make sure your website has “curb appeal”
You don’t want your website to look stale, dated, tired and visually unappealing. Remember, your site is often the first (and sometimes the only) introduction a potential customer or client has to your business, and your goal is to make a great impression. Visitors use your website to judge you, your company and your products and services. A higher value is place on companies that are professional, forward-looking, and cutting-edge. The problem is, if you are such a company, but your website is not – there’s a huge disconnect. A website that looks old, broken, and forgotten is going to give that same impression to your business. So is a templated solution... an impersonal shell that you dropped your information into. You want a positive, appealing design that suits your brand and your target audience, and gives off a strong vibe of a knowledgeable, experienced company that prospective clients can trust with their business. Get rid of the distracting clutter. Increase the size of your font so that it’s easily read by everyone. Use headlines, bullet points, and numbered items to make information easy to find and content scannable. Lose the industry jargon, and talk to visitors as you would in person.
Bonus Tip: No one should visit your site and think it was built ten years ago or by a 16 year old. If you're not taking care of your website, it stands to reason that you won't take good care of your customers.
My website looks like a postage stamp on a mobile device!
Google gets over 100 billion searches a month and over 60% of those searches come from cellphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. With this growing mobile-use trend, and one that shows no sign of slowing down, it’s no surprise that prospective customers using smartphones have a different set of expectations. The Internet is now at your fingertips 24/7, and users want relevant and valuable information, and answers to their questions and concerns wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. Visitors unable to use your website effectively, easily navigate from page to page, or read your content and take action on a mobile device, are lost to your company forever. Make sure your website and blog are mobile friendly and built using responsive web design (RWD). Test your website on different devices to make sure that it renders properly. The cost of failing to meet mobile users’ needs is very, very steep.
Can you answer the following questions about mobile with a resounding yes!
- Can I easily use the navigation and move from page to page?
- Does the layout make sense on a small screen?
- Can I see the graphics clearly?
- Are my calls-to-action large and easily usable by grown-up fingers?
- Can I fill out a form and submit it?
Bonus Tip: Make sure that when someone touches the phone number on a mobile device, the phone dials your business automatically.
Provide a great user experience.
Make sure the navigation and menu system is intuitive and a potential customer can easily find the information they are looking for. Are clients and potential customers telling you things like, “I looked on your website but couldn’t find _____” or “I know I saw it on your website, but I can’t remember where.” These comments are a good indication that your site is disorganized, difficult to use, and frustrating visitors. Get rid of superfluous content and other distractions that don’t contribute to a strong overall message. Remember, prospective customers and clients are interested in one thing, “How can you help me?” Your target audience should be able to gather accurate and up-to-date information from your website that’s helpful, relevant, and speaks to the questions and issues they’re having. Check often for broken links or error notices that annoy visitors, and may send them looking for information about other companies.
Bonus Tip: Don’t ask potential customers to click through multiple pages or sift through mountains of unnecessary text to find the answers they’re looking for.
I was here…where were you?
Website visitors are used to getting what they’re looking for immediately and want instant gratification. Recent surveys show that visitors expect a page to load in two seconds or less, and are likely to abandon a website and move on to the competition if it takes three seconds or more. 79% of prospective clients that experience website loading time issues never return to that website again. 44% of those lost visitors share that negative information with their friends on social media. Your ideal customer or client is not going to sit and wait, no matter how good or on-point your information is. Don’t lose a potential client because you frustrated your target audience.
Bonus Tip: Website page load times seem to trump everything else.
Best practices to use when rebuilding your website:
- Have your website professionally designed. It shouldn’t look like it was built by a teenager.
- Plan for all screen sizes, not just cell phone and desktop, and always test to ensure that your website renders properly on every device.
- Aim for clean and simple instead of a crowded visual overload. White space is your friend.
- Your business’ phone number, email, physical location, and hours need to be the easiest thing to find on every page of your website.
- Make it easy for prospective customers to contact you via phone, email, or contact form on any and every device.
- Include testimonials and case studies from actual customers, as well as other well-known accreditations. It's powerful to let someone else tell visitors how great your company, products, and services are.
- Include an About page. Potential customers want to know about you, your business, and your story. There's comfort in working with someone you feel you know and trust.
- Be considerate of image and file sizes with relation to load times. No one will sit and wait for information to appear.
- Keep your website content up to date. Potential customers and clients want to see current and relevant information, not an announcement about a 5 year old sale or workshop.
- Make sure your content is free of typos and other errors. Nothing screams “amateur” like misspelled words or grammatical errors.
- Use fonts that are clear and easy to read for all content and always use the same font for content across your site.
- Use colors wisely… make sure they’re consistent with your brand and with the look and feel you want to instill. You don’t need to use the whole crayon box!
- Don’t forget to include calls-to-action. Let potential customers know what you want them to do next and help move them in the direction you want them to go. Be direct and specific.
- Try and stay away from stock photos. Use your own custom images whenever possible. If using stock art, go for high-end professional quality images.
Bonus Tip: Functionality and the user experience is more important than anything else. A beautiful website that doesn't work for potential clients is totally useless.
About WSI Web Mark
Located in McLean, Virginia, just minutes from Washington, DC, Bethesda, MD, and all of Northern Virginia (NoVA), we have been helping businesses locally and across the U.S., leverage digital marketing strategies since 2003. We know that growing your company needs an orchestrated approach with a strong marketing message, website, search engine and advertising visibility, and a strong presence on social media.
With industry veterans possessing over 30 years of experience in translating technology into business tools, we have the experience to create the blueprints to leverage these assets, and a rich set of tools to help you successfully execute the plan.