According to Stanford University, 75% of people judge the credibility of a company based on the design of its website. And have I mentioned that website technology is evolving at record speeds?
The key takeaway here is that your audience is “judging” you by what they see when they find you online. A consideration here is also that even the people who you meet offline will find you online, to validate their experience with you. Your website is the core of your sales and marketing plan, and something that your target audience is going to use to determine if you are right for them.
“More and more people are finding, vetting and communicating with professional service firms online.”
First, this book is a must read for you. Second, what this statement implies, or actually states, is that your buyers are buying you online. The sales cycle starts with your online presence. This combined with the Stanford study should get you thinking really hard about the impression you are making online.
So, how can you design your website to not only market, but to “sell” while you are busy meeting your deadlines, and serving the needs of your clients?
1 – Develop Buyer Personas
According to Tony Zambito:
“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)”
Buyer Personas are critical, and are the necessary first step in developing not only your website, but your entire sales and marketing plan.
They are the stories of the people you are trying to attract and engage.
When someone lands on your website, the language you choose as your website copy will resonate with the people you are trying to attract. Why? Because the language is going to be based on their story not yours.
A story like this would be used to make the content on your website more relevant to your target audience. The more relevant you are, the more likely you will be to attraact the right people. Attracting the right people is an important component of reducing your total cost of sales and marketing.
2 – Create a Blog
A blog is what attracts people to your website via search engine optimization and social sharing. It is also what keeps people engaged on your website when they find you via a referral or some other offline event.
Your blog is your way of “giving” your expertise to your audience, and in many cases, in return for permission to market to them further.
Your blog is also the bedrock of an effective social media strategy. Your articles are what people share to their own networks. Your articles are also the foundation of your online reputation and online authority.
Here are a few of my tips to crafting a good blog post:
- Know who you are writing to. Pick “one” of your personas and write an article to that “person”. Don’t write to a wide audience. When you pick a person to “speak” to, your blog articles will be more personalized, and ultimately, will resonate with a wider audience.
- Add context to your articles. Let the reader know who you are writing for, and why it matters. Give some hint as to the situation your advice applies to. Don’t just write a generic how to. Write a how to for a particular situation for a particular person with a very particular set of needs and goals.
- Make your articles useful. Sure, you want to express your opinion, but you don’t want to overdo it. You want to provide utility to your audience. Give your audience something they can take away, whether it is an action item or a new way of thinking about something that will improve their situation.
- Be conversational, not formal.
There is much more to blogging effectively that I cannot cover in this article. The tips above will get you started wither with a new blog, or making the right adjustments to your current blog.
3 – Differentiate Yourself With the Right Value Proposition
Michael W. McGlaughlin in “How to Drive Prospects Away from Your Website” makes a lot of great points. One of the things he did was to list out some common assertions professionals make on their websites that do absolutely nothing to differentiate you, OR, compel your prospective audience to stick around and investigate further. Some typical “statements” that Mike says you might want to avoid include, “We focus on client results” or “We listen”. My personal favorite is, “We take the time to understand what the client wants.”
Really? No kidding.
These are not statements of differentiation. When you are crafting your message, you have to make sure you don’t sound cliche, or like everyone else. You also have to be careful not to make things that everyone expects you to do, your key differentiators.
If you think providing execellent service is unique to you, than you are not in touch with your market or industry. Who among your clients wouldn’t expect clients service as a given?
Answering questions like these, will help you craft a message that differentiates you from your competition:
- What can I do that my competition cannot? A specialty will come in handy here.
- What “experience” am I selling? Don’t sell your services. Sell “peace of mind” for example.
- Am I easier to buy than my competition? Don’t make your services hard to evaluate. Also, make it very easy to contact you.
Or, you can look at what makes a great value proposition to begin with (from Peep Laja at CoversionXL:
- You explain how you will improve your clients situation – relevance.
- You explain how you can deliver quantifiable value.
- You tell your ideal prospect why they should buy from you and not someone else.
The point here is that you MUST use the right langauge to present your value proposition. Otherwise you will be stuck in the same crater most CPA’s cannot get out of. The crater of looking and sounding like every other CPA, unable to really help your niche maret identify with you, or why they should call you.
4 – Easy Navigation
This isn’t, conceptually, very complicated. You have to make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. First, based on the personas you created, you can determine WHAT to put on your website. Then, from a design perspective, you have to make it easy for people to find the information that you spent so much time creating on their behalf.
A few simple rules:
- Simple is almost always better than complex. Leave a lot of white space. Say more with fewer words. And use images.
- Create a navigation that people expect. Don’t let any designer tell you that you want your design to be unique. No. The design should be familiar, particularly as it relates to site navigation. Your value proposition is what speaks to your uniqueness.
- Have a logically progression of pages with information that guides people to the places you want them to go, but does so on “their” terms.
Check out this article from Hubspot “How to Create an Intuitive Website Conversion Path”.
What is the goal or purpose in all of this?
The goal in all of this is to help you leverage the power of your website to “sell” for you when you are busy delivering your services, or even sleeping.
As a professional service provider, your economic unit of measure is time. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in the day. With a well designed website, you can take advantage of every one of those 24 hours, to sell your services.
If you do this right, you will:
- Reduce your total sales and marketing costs.
- Reduce the amount of time you waste chasing bad business.
- Improve your quality of life by working less hours, but focusing on the things that matter most
Here is a list of a few resources that will help you think smarter about your website as a marketing and sales tool.
“Value Propositions That Work” – Havard Business Review
“Why “Simple” Websites Are Scientically Better” – ConversionXL
“53 Ways to Increase Conversion Rate” – ConversionXL
“11 Fundamental Ingredients of a Great Blog Post” – Coppyblogger