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Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 1: You and Your Website
Post 1: The Key to a Website That Works for You
Your website must serve you, your customers and search engines. In this Module, we’ll take these one at a time in Sections 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Then we’ll bring them altogether in the 4th section.
We start with you.
It’s not because we think you’re selfish. It’s just that we believe in win-win. We bet you do too. It’s who we attract as clients.
So here’s something really important to frame our entire discussion in this Module:
If your website doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work.
There are two ways to read that last sentence. We mean it both ways.
- It needs to stand in place of humans
In days gone by – when people wanted to buy a product or service, they contacted you and your competitors. You answered their questions.
Now nearly 9 out of 10 consumers use search prior to making a purchase. They talk to you later. They’re better informed.
Your website is the primary spokesperson for your business until they contact you. It must “sell” where humans once did.
- It needs to produce the desired results
Ultimately, you need to make sales. But is that the purpose of your website? This highlights the key to a website that works for you:
You need to define your site’s purpose. What do you want it to do?
We find it’s often easier to use real world examples to highlight virtual world principles. So let’s step-away from the internet to elaborate on this point.
What’s the purpose of your advertising?
Many business owners make a critical mistake when they advertise: They don’t know what they want the ad to do.
The result? An ad that does nothing!
Whether we’re discussing an ad or your website, it’s all about communication. Unclear communication is costly.
Picture this – you’re given directions for a task. The person explaining them gives you all kinds of details. But they never tell you what the end result should be. Isn’t that frustrating?
The same is true with all your business communications. You need to determine your purpose first.
You need to know “the why” before you build “the what”.
[George] I used to own businesses that served homeowners. Our ads had a single purpose – to prompt a phone call. If I had those same businesses today, our purpose would be to drive them to our website.
On the other hand, retailers of all types advertise to drive traffic to their store. Ecommerce businesses (today’s version of a mail-order firm) advertise for sales.
With that as background, we’re ready to talk about the purpose of your website.
Many business owners and managers still don’t understand how this basic principle of effective communications applies to their website. For example, research shows 7 out of 10 websites selling to businesses have no clear call-to-action.
Obviously, your website is more complex than a single ad. So it can serve more than one purpose. But it should serve at least one, unlike the sites reflected in the statistic we just quoted.
10 business purposes for a website
So what do you want visitors to do on your site? You may want them to:
If you are “pure” eCommerce site, this may your goal. However, most visitors won’t buy on the first visit until your brand is established. Even then, this is not the primary purpose of most sites.
2. Visit your real world place of business
People may primarily visit your site to find out about hours, specials, menus, your location, and those sorts of things. If that’s the case, you’ll want these things prominently displayed on your site.
3. Contact you
You may want visitors to call you or contact you via a form provided on the site. Once again – if this is your primary goal, you’ll want your phone number highly visible on your site.
4. Schedule an appointment
If your main goal is to get an appointment, you may want to allow visitors to do it right on your website. Many people prefer this today.
5. Sign up
You may want to capture the email address of your site visitors. So you’ll place a sign up form front and center. (Well, not necessarily center – we’ll talk about placement in Section 2 – Your Customers and Your Website.)
In exchange for their email, you may offer people who sign up access to special deals or additional information (e.g. a special report). This gives you the ability to spark sales activity and/or build trust over time.
6. See you as a credible source
You may publish content on your site which showcases your credibility and may even help you become a thought leader in your field. If this is your goal, you may want to consider a blog and/or podcast. We’ll talk more about these media in Module 3.
Another possible purpose is to get people to regularly consume the content you create. You may want them to subscribe to your “feed”.
For example – if they subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed, your content automatically goes to their preferred place (e.g. email) whenever you publish. It’s a great way to build a base of loyal fans over time.
8. Interact with you
You may want visitors to interact with you. For example, they may comment on a blog post. This can provide “social proof” – showing other visitors you have a community – which helps build trust.
9. Follow you on social media
Yet another goal for your site may be to get more followers on social media. Why would you care about this? One word: leverage.
Social media followers have friends and followers. You get leverage when they follow you because their connections may see it and follow you too. It’s word-of-mouth…on steroids!
10. Share your content on social media
Closely related to the last one – your visitors can also share your content on social media. This is a great way to attract attention without spending money on advertising.
(NOTE: Just read through the following for now. Then go to Part 1 of the You and Your Website Guidebook which will walk you through the three questions.)
One. Two. Three. Questions to ask about your website
The list above isn’t exhaustive. You may have other reasons.
The key is to determine what specific result you’re looking for from your website. The design and content should fully reinforce that specific purpose every step of the way.
While you should focus on one goal, you may have up to three. To discover what you want your website to do for you, ask yourself three questions:
- What is the primary aim of your website?
- What is its secondary purpose?
- If there is a third reason for your website, what is it?
Know exactly what you want your website to do. It’s the simple key to getting it to work for you.
We’ve learned the lesson presented here the hard way. Our site got better with its second iteration. Now we’re on its third and we’re seeing much better results.
We have one overarching person for our site: to get people to sign up. We give them a Special Report for free in exchange for their email address.
We certainly don’t hide it. It’s:
- featured on our Home Page
- on the side of every other page, with few exceptions (which we’ll explain in Part 4 of this Section)
- at the bottom of every blog post
- in a box that pops up under pre-determined conditions
Real world business owners miss a critical point which every successful online business owner knows: Your list is your greatest asset.
We’ve learned the lesson. Now our list grows every single day.
We communicate regularly with the people on our list. We offer them products and services.
Then we send them to our website to get more information. This highlights the second purpose of our site – to make sales to people on our list.
So our first purpose (sign up) is for people who don’t know us. They’re in the early stages of the buyer’s journey.
The second aim (buy) is for people with whom we’ve built trust. They’re in the middle to late stages of the journey.
A minor third purpose is to build our credibility. Our site is the one of the main ways we’ve done that. It now ranks in the top 1% in traffic of all websites in the world.
You can do it too! Determine what you want your site to do. To do that, think about your business model and where your visitors are in the buyer’s journey.
What do they want? How much trust have you built?
Construct offers which fit their level of trust and you’ll get customers ready and willing to move forward!
With this background, you can either go through Part 1 of the You and Your Website Guidebook or go on to the next post. (We recommend that you dive into the Guidebook, but it’s up to you!)
Also note – if you have any questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.