You have a website. You think it looks class. But unbeknownst to you, your average user thinks your website looks like a graffiti-laden slum. The taps don’t work (ie) your website is slower than a three-legged Donkey.
The fact is, most Irish small business websites suffer from diseases that hinder those websites to function properly? You might not even know about it, but your website might suffer from these diseases too!
In this article, I will try to help you diagnose those marketing problems and I’ll give you some pointers on how to fix them.
Mistake #10. Small business websites that don’t have a strategy
Those web design projects that lack a clear strategy, always miss the goal of producing results, and are sources of frustration for everybody involved in the project.
The most common reasons I hear why somebody wants a website are: “so that we have one too”, and “so that people who want to know more about us, can read our website”. These are not real reasons! These are not business goals that can be measured!
Furthermore, most people who want a company website want to be done with it as fast as possible. Many times a new product launch, a fair or exhibition, or a new marketing campaign sets a false deadline for the web design project, instead of a strategic goal defining it.
This is why you need to ask yourself every time these questions before starting any website project:
- What is the website’s true business goal? The two best goals are: to create new leads and to build a relationship with your old customers. Or to make a sale on the website.
- Who is the target market your website will serve? What kind of visitors do you want to serve on your website?
- What does your website offer to these visitors? What kind of content, what services make your website interesting to these people?
- What is the main message that you want your visitors to have on the brain? What is the message that you want them to remember even days after they visited your website?
Mistake #9: Small business websites that are too formal
The Internet is a totally different medium than the TV, radio or newspaper. It is a lot more informal than anything else! This informal voice and behavior is what people on the Internet expect and respond to the most.
Try to rewrite your website’s copy to be informal, and stay away from slang and industry specific technical terms. Your copy should be written in a way that even your grandmother or a five year old child can understand it.
Furthermore, you need to break-up your copy into small, easily readable paragraphs. There are loads of statistics on the Internet which prove, that people read text printed on paper, but they only skim through the copy and only read parts of the same text online. It is simply harder and more exhausting to read on screens, plus people got used to doing things fast on this medium.
That’s why you need to shorten every text, so that only the vital information remains, plus your own style. Break-up text in short paragraphs and sentences that are not longer than the ones you read here.
Mistake #8: The small business website that looks like an e-brochure
Did you notice that most company websites look like a printed brochure? The web design industry even gave a name for them: they’re called “brochure sites”. Perhaps you have a website like that, in which case you need to redo it. Why?
Think about it: what do you do with almost any brochure that is handed to you, mailed to you, or given to you during a meeting? And if you are one of those people who don’t throw these out instantly, then how many times do you actually pick up that brochure to read it again?
That’s right! Exactly as many times people visit your brochure website once they saw it: NEVER AGAIN!
A brochure site does not capitalize on, and misses out on the Internet’s biggest advantage: interactivity! It talks to the visitors, but not with the visitors.
As a small business owner your website should be your best friend and your ultimate secret weapon! It can complete so much useful tasks for you:
- it can find out more about your target market
- can test your marketing materials
- can qualify and classify your leads and potential customers
- can act as customer support
- can manage public relations
- can support your resellers
- and can sell for you automatically
…tasks that otherwise would cost you a small fortune and put burden on your shoulders. Your website can do all that for you in 24/7, and a lot faster and a whole lot cheaper than any specialist you can employ.
Mistake #7: The Faceless small business website
Because of the Internet’s informal style your visitors like to know who are behind a website. They do not want to read about posts, instead they want to see that if they contact this business, then who is going to pick up the phone, who is going to answer their email?
These are the small tricks that build trust and make a website personal.
Get a digital camera and take a photo of everyone in your small business. The more personal the better! Forget the tie, you don’t need to win a beauty contest, you just need those pictures to have a human face which make your small business website personal to your visitors. Have everyone write a short paragraph about themselves, and put everyone’s phone number and email address near their picture.
Mistake #6: Me, I, We!
Another typical mistake: “this website is about Us”.
If you count on your website the number of occurrences of the “Me” words or expressions (me, I, we, our company, our product, with us, about us, etc.), and then you count the number of occurrences of the “You” words or expressions (you, for you, our clients, our customers, our partners, etc.), make sure you do not rest until the latter (You) exceeds the former (Me)! Why? Because your visitors are only interested in themselves, and they are interested in your business only because they have a problem. Write about them and about their problem and they will drink in your words.
What problems do they have that your company can solve or help with? What kind of results can they expect? Write about these, and not about your ISO9001 certification, and not about how many widgets your company has – those only interest you, but believe me, your visitors don’t give a damn!
Mistake #5: The small business website where the useful content = NONE
Useful content is the very best thing that can make a website successful. The best design, sound, animation, the newest programming tricks are all in vain if you do not have useful content on your website. If you do not have content on your website that picks the interest of your visitors, then they leave quickly and never come back.
Content does not have to be text only! It can be a picture, a video, a sound recording, anything that makes your website useful and more interesting and more enjoyable. A few short videos about your best customers that show how they work together with your business. Or a downloadable mp3 file, where one of your employees with a pleasing voice explains how a prospective customer can recognize and diagnose the problems that your company can solve.
But the easiest one is to write – a well written blog where you share some of your knowledge in concise articles helps your readers a great deal.
I can’t stress this enough: create interesting, useful and relevant content, because that is what attracts new visitors, and that is what brings back the old ones again and again.
Mistake #4: Too much from the good stuff!
Most web design companies will always try to convince you that you need the latest technology and the latest trend to build your website. And if you look at the history of web design we had a bunch of these lately: animated GIFs, websites using frames, flash websites, intros, dynamic HTML websites, image sliders, responsive websites….and I could go on. Let me share a secret with you: these aren’t necessarily good for you, these are good for your web designer who can invoice you more.
I attended a conference a few months ago where Ireland’s biggest web design company suggested that businesses should change their website every 2 to 3 years in order to be able to utilize the latest technology.
If you ask me, it’s not worth it! Only change your website if it’s not working (i.e.: it does not fulfill its strategic role). And as far as technology goes, you should always use what the majority of the users is able to use. Of course, your web designer has the fastest computer, the highest resolution monitor, and the newest iPad. But most of your users still use a 3 year old laptop or desktop PC with a resolution of 1024×768, will they still be able to enjoy your website?
You should always plan and design for the platform that is widely spread among your target market. Your web designer should know which platform that is, and if not, you can always look it up in your website analytics.
Mistake #3: The small business website that ends up like a labyrinth
I know it’s shocking, but the purpose of a website is not to present a mental challenge to your poor visitors. And yet most websites have a navigation that is so tangled that you need to be a Sherlock Holmes to decipher where the information you’re looking for can be found.
The first and most important thing to avoid this, is to ask yourself what the questions are that your visitors are having when they come to your website? How do they think? How do they search for the information? There’s a big chance that their logic differs from your own.
Try to think like your visitors and build your website structure according to their thinking and search logic and not by your logic.
Mistake #2: Small business websites that forget about old customers?
Most businesses spend way more money on marketing to new and potential clients than they spend on keeping and serving old clients. But in fact marketing to old customers is the most cost effective marketing!
How does your website serve your old customers? Does your website try to solve problems that your customers turn to your customer support department?
Browse through your website thinking like one of your old customers. Does your website offer any useful information or easily usable services? Can you complain or inquire about your services?
What requests, questions, complaints or feedback do your old customers call your customer department? If you compile these, you can create a FAQ section on your website, which not only makes your old customers happy, but takes off burden from your customer support department as well.
… and finally the biggest mistake:
Mistake #1: the website is finished, we can sit back and relax!
Most website plans do not include a marketing plan that will direct visitors to the website and which will continuously increase the numbers of those visitors.
They won’t come just because you built it! In order for your target market to visit your website you need to tell them why is it good for them to visit your website and where will they find it.
Before you create and finish your website you need to know who the target market will be (otherwise how will you optimize your website for them, right?). If you know who the target market is, then you need to create a marketing plan to attract those people, while you build your website.
Offline you can market your website and get visitors using traditional marketing strategies, like direct mail campaigns, advertisements in magazines and newspapers, flyers, contests, etc. These things are so important that I will write more about these strategies and how to attract visitors in more detail later on.
So, how many of these mistakes does your website suffer from?