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Does Your Web site Shine?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Websites are powerful sales tools for business-to-business and business-to-consumer organizations. From providing answers to questions to showcasing a track-record of success, websites play an integral role in communicating key offerings.

In the early days of websites, companies viewed their site as a static brochure featuring key selling points. Today, websites are significantly more dynamic and offer more functionality.

When building a new website or redesigning an existing one, consider these five key components:

• Virtual sales staff — Face-to-face meetings are a great way to build relationships with clients. The challenge is what happens after you leave the room? While some may pick up the phone and call to ask questions, many will try to find out themselves. When a prospective client visits your website, it is serving as a member of your sales team. It assumes responsibility of answering frequently asked questions, providing product and service overviews and communicating the key points to your target audiences.

• Optimized content — When building a website, think like a consumer. Ask, “What would I be searching for if I were looking to hire a company like my own?” This will help refine the information to be included. It is also the first step in identifying keywords and phrases for the copy. The better optimized your site is for keywords and phrases, the easier potential customers will find you.

A full competitive analysis can be helpful. Under What key terms are your competitors found? How can you differentiate yourself from others in the market? How important is your brand? Will people be searching for you by an actual product name? Strategizing before implementation contributes significantly to success.

• Digging for information — The rise of mobile technology and advent of social media makes clients accustomed to instant response. They expect to find information they need quickly. The concept of instant access should also apply to your company’s website. Be sure that site navigation includes clear headings and is easily visible to those who visit the site. Don’t make people visit 10 pages to find your office hours or even the markets you service. Prospective and current clients alike will appreciate a website that is user-friendly, easy-to-navigate and content-rich.

• Mobile-friendly is customer-friendly — Just as clients are accustomed to finding information easily, they are accustomed to accessing information on-the-go. If your clients use smartphones, creating a mobile version of your website or even a custom mobile application. This is particularly useful for restaurants whose patrons book reservations on-the-go and companies that allow clients to pay via smartphone.

For companies with mobile versions of websites and/or a custom applications, make note of these value-added tools on your traditional website. Let customers know they can access coupons and use geolocation incentives, through applications such as FourSquare. This drives consumers to action and repeat visits to your website. Delivering coupons to a customer’s smartphone when they check in to your business or another nearby business helps to drive sales and improve customer loyalty.

• Shameless self-promotion — Is it important to showcase success stories on your site? Yes. Is it beneficial to showcase the range of products and services? Yes. Should you include 10 pages of the accolades you have received? No.

As much as a website is designed to sell the company, it is a tool for communicating effectively with clients. Therefore, the website should focus on the customer, not the company. How does this work? Communicate the key benefits your company provides to clients in a language that resonates with them. For example, “Reduce operating expenses by 25 percent with automated workflow management software” is more compelling to the consumer than “We sell automated workflow management software.” Highlighting the key benefits your products and services offer is an effective way to promote your business without repeatedly saying “Our company is great.”

While websites serve as a business’ central information hub, it is important to build a site with clearly organized content and user-friendly navigation. Focus your website strategy on consumers and make it easy for audiences to engage. Remember, a dynamic, mobile-friendly, and content-rich website can mean the difference between getting lost among the competition and staying at the front of the pack.

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