It’s hard to believe, but we are now about 15 years into the Internet commerce era. Just a few years ago a new contact at a business function would ask, “Do you have a website?” Today, it’s much more likely you will be asked, “What’s your web address?”
But how is your site performing? Not every company needs or expects its site to do the same things. Some companies rely on their sites for generating sales leads. Others want to provide service information to current customers and prospects. Some businesses actually sell through their sites.
But whatever your expectations, ask yourself these two key questions:
- What do your customers say about your site?
- Have you ever hesitated to refer someone to your site?
Your site probably needs attention. The good news is, a preliminary tune-up can be completed in less than a week. Here are some pointers for website improvement.
Have a GREAT home page
A great home page is concise, easy to read, and earns the visitor’s trust. (More on trust in a moment.) This is often a potential customer’s first exposure to your company, so don’t blow it.
Think of your home page as a type of “elevator pitch.” Explain what your company does and why it’s valuable. In terms of format, stick to these rules:
- Use bullets. (Just like these.) Visitors tend to scan when reading from a screen, and often don’t ever get around to the paragraphs, so include your most important information in bullet lists.
- Use columns. Columns create shorter lines, which are easier to read than lines that run across the entire screen. This is important for holding the visitor’s attention.
- Don’t over-crowd the home page. Less is more. Plenty of white space is okay. Grab their interest, then let them drill-down for more information.
- Don’t over-do it. Speaking of less is more; no one is impressed by over the top animation or fake fireworks that go off when a visitor clicks-through. What seemed cool in 1998 is just distracting and annoying today.
Use sensible, intuitive navigation
A new visitor to your site should have an easy time getting around and finding what he or she needs. It sounds obvious, but we all run into sites that seem to discourage a productive look at the company and what it can do.
Place tabs across the top or along the left-hand side, where visitors expect to see them. Don’t lose a customer because the prospect gets lost. And please…use language familiar to the visitor. Potential customers wanting to reach you look for a tab marked “Contact Us,” not, “Give us a shout!”
Provide interesting, useful content
Ultimately, your website is about making a sale, either right then, or later after additional interaction with the prospect. To increase your odds for success, consider adding relevant content to your site. The right content can enhance your credibility and increase the prospect’s comfort level in buying from you.
White papers, case studies, eBooks, survey results, or other original content created by your company can position your firm as an expert or thought-leader in the field, and everyone wants to do business with established experts.
Be accessible and be human
One of the downsides of using technology is that early interactions with prospects are very superficial. You need to earn a certain level of trust before you can make a sale.
You can do this by making sure your site clearly shows where your company is physically located. Photos of key personnel can help humanize your company. Provide a business address and phone numbers on your home page, if space and design constraints allow for it. If possible, show a commitment to excellent customer service and attention, like, “All customer service calls are returned within 90 minutes.”
Also, a few well-chosen testimonials from happy customers can add to credibility, too.
Call to action
When you get a visitor to your site, be sure to tell them what to do. It’s obvious for online retailers, where a sale is hoped for before the visitor exits the site. But for service companies there are numerous options for engaging the customer.
Visitors can request a free estimate or quote, ask a sales representative to contact them, request a catalogue or price sheet, or inquire about new service options. Whatever your goal, make sure they know what’s available and how they can obtain it.