I have a problem. I'm trying to find replacement windows for my 60-year-old Cape Cod house near Boston, but I don't want the vinyl builder-grade options in stock at the home-improvement superstores. Iconic architect Royal Barry Wills designed the cozy Cape, and he had strong opinions about what was good and bad. I'm trying to do right by the guy.
When I Google "residential replacement windows" or use other relevant phrases, the searches bring up manufacturer sites that show me various window types, sizes and features. They even ask me to sign up for their e-mail list--but they don't give me a good reason to become a lead. That's because not one is a resource for what I need: advice on the ins and outs of renovating an architecturally significant home, and on the pros and cons of wood versus vinyl versus aluminum clad. Instead, they try to sell me stuff.
In short, they aren't talking about my needs, but they sure do have plenty to say about themselves. I see these kinds of missed opportunities all the time. Home renovation--like many things in life--is an expensive, confusing prospect. The companies that understand that serving is the new selling will be the ones customers buy from.
Your website should be an extension of your sales staff: It should help generate and nurture leads by educating prospects (a role traditionally played by salespeople). Like a good salesperson, it shouldn't just sit around and wait for the phone to ring.
So what about your website? Is it all about you, or does it talk about your customers--and in a language they can relate to? Are you using your website as an opportunity to solve problems for would-be buyers? Are you demonstrating in an honest, empathetic way how your company and its products or services can lessen their pain?
If your website is not helping you generate and nurture leads, consider these possible causes:
You haven't defined goals. The overarching goal of your website is to attract people and invite them to get more involved with your business, whether or not you sell directly to them online. You want visitors to stick around a while and get interested in you and what you sell, right? Have you identified the primary goal of your site? Or secondary goals? What action do you want site visitors to take when they land on your site? Being clear on that informs everything else: design, navigation, content, search engine strategy and so on.
Your content hasn't changed since Bush was in office (even the second term of the second Bush). If your site isn't continually evolving and updating, it becomes a static brochure for your business. If you don't have regularly updated content, such as a blog, you aren't creating new pages for Google to index. Remember, the more content you create, the more traffic and leads your business will get. (See sidebar.)
You aren't creating momentum. You can change this by creating a path for your customers to get more involved with you. To move them along, include relevant calls to action or "triggers" on each page of your site, not just on your homepage. That means on every blog post or any other piece of content you produce. It may sound obvious, but many companies don't embrace the opportunity to create a path to deeper involvement and (ultimately) conversion.
You don't have customer interaction. Incorporating a blog or other social content into your online presence gives your customers a sense of who you are. Use these tools to speak to your customers directly, honestly and in your own (human) voice. This is an enormous opportunity both to educate them on how you can help and why they should rely on you--and to hear what they have to say to each other in the forum you've created. Regularly updated content that has a sense of personality and purpose builds trust with your would-be customers, and that's a beautiful place to begin a relationship.
You can't update your site without the tech guy. Can you update at least some elements without calling IT? This is where blogs and other social platforms come in handy, because you can update them yourself. Why is that important? Because you need to update at least some parts of your site frequently and easily, both to save budget and to create a more immediate flow of content--for potential customers and for search engines.
You sound like everyone else. Is your site full of Frankenspeak, i.e., corporate jargon-rich nonsense? Or, instead, does it sound like it was penned by a human? Most companies spend more time worrying about site design than about the words on the page. But the most memorable sites convey personality and perspective in their homepage content, which immediately sets thems apart. Try this test: If you mask your logo and site design, can you still tell--by the voice of the text--that it's your site, or do you sound like any one of your competitors?
You didn't optimize. Can search engines find your site? Does your regularly refreshed, updated, readable content contain search terms that relate to your proficiency? How well are they attracting customers to you? One easy way to boost your search rankings is to continually link descriptive keywords back to related pages on your own site. Doing so helps search engines understand what your site is about.
You aren't measuring anything. Do you know how your website is converting browsers into buyers? Have you identified what paths they typically take? Do you know which pages perform best for you? Or what content visitors are interacting with the most? Are you using analytics tools to measure the traffic to your site, to track online conversions and to measure ROI on your marketing campaigns? Free tools like Google Analytics are a great place to start.
You put hip before happening. Every element on your homepage should support the goals you've identified. That means avoiding design elements that might be hip or cool but ultimately are just distracting. (My pet peeve: web pages that talk to me.)
Put clarity (useful, predictable, efficient, logical) before creative (cool, splashy, flashy, beautiful).
So how about your website? Is it generating leads by serving potential customers, or is it just sitting around and waiting?