Dec 03, 2012
Table of contents:
Every business owner wants their website to generate new sales. The Internet is a huge opportunity that gives you and your market a direct connection to do business. For consumers, it allows a greater sense of transparency, comparison and 24 hour access. For companies, it enables the opportunity to source new business, service it and grow without the traditional overheads or restrictions.
Yet, the majority of all business websites are not achieving the sales and growth they deserve. Everyday, money is being left on the table and customers are being lost because business owners are completely missing the opportunity the Internet has presented them.
Growing a business through the Internet does not have to be the daunting or convoluted process it is made out to be. It is not a Ponzi scheme and it is not something that is only relevant for some companies.
Whilst there are many different sides to creating a successful business website, I think there is a common theme that holds true for the majority of failing websites. I hope this post will dispel that misconception, and point you on the road to making a website that actually grows your business.
The problem I see with nearly all business websites is they are fundamentally designed incorrectly. Instead of being purposely created to generate growth, they are built around the notion that customers will magically flock towards them.
Here’s how the problem usually plays out.
The first stage of the process is really the root of the problem. It is at this stage that a business website is commissioned. Either the company does not already have a website, or the current website is not showing the required growth. Typically a business owner will then approach a Web Design agency to get a website built based on a brief they write themselves.
It is at this first planning stage that the goals of the website must be aligned to the brief. However, it seems like in just about every case, the goals of the website are completely neglected.
Whilst the design, the technology, the content and all of the other components of a website brief are important, the underlying ability to add growth to the business should not be something that is dealt with after the website is launched.
Who’s to blame for this? Well it’s hard to say. As a Web Developer / Agency, it is important to point out these things to a client. An architect would not allow a client to build a house that is going to fall down after it has been built. However, I do appreciate that many people (clients) believe they know everything there is to know about how a website should work.
It is only after the website launches that the real problems begin to show themselves. Once a website launches but fails to generate sales, The Sunk Cost Fallacy begins to rear it’s ugly head.
So what are the real problems with this process? The way I see it, I believe the wrong aspects are focused on, and the important aspects are neglected.
The following are a list of things that are focused on during the new website planning stages. Note, I’m not saying it’s wrong to put thought into these areas, I’m just highlighting what happens.
The following are all aspects that are never talked about during the planning stages.
Notice how they are all hard questions to answer, where it is unlikely you will know the answer already, and has nothing to do with the vanity of the business?
The question I will be focusing on in this post is, How will we generate traffic? Whilst it is incredibly important to be able to convert traffic to sales or leads on your website, the ability to convert means nothing if you have no traffic in the first place.
The typical company websites follows this structure:
Note: I’m using Product interchangeably with Service here.
Isn’t this a logical structure for a business website? Well, yes it is.
Anyone landing on the website will be able to see a list of products or services, information about the company and contact information should this wish to contact or make an enquiry.
But, how will they find the website in the first place? Why would they care about looking through your product pages and are they going to go to the effort to contact you through a single generic contact page?
Whilst this structure might work for a company with a well oiled PR machine that is able to generate interest and traffic to the website, it is not going to do much good for the majority of business websites.
If you are expecting your fish to jump straight into the net, this could be a good structure to use.
After launch, a website that is set up like this will become a ghost town. As I talked about in Debunking 4 myths of small business digital marketing, people don’t care about your business. It is unlikely that your product pages are going to pull people in, and they will not go to the effort of jumping through hoops to contact you.
The solution to this problem revolves around having a strategy to fuel growth, and the components in place to allow it to work.
I’ll be focusing more on the components you need to have in place to spur growth as it would be impossible for me to give a blanket strategy to generate traffic that would work for every company and every situation.
The first real thing you can do to dramatically increase inbound traffic is to start creating high quality content in your niche. People don’t care about reading a feature list of your products, or your sales page, they care about content that will directly help them today with zero commitment.
Whilst it may be difficult to see the end value in investing time to write really good quality content, the real benefit only comes once you have been doing it for a while.
Good quality content will organically bring in traffic to your website without the need for scummy SEO tricks or negligible practices. You will gain exposure, trust and a loyal audience that you can use to predictably grow your business over the long term.
Read more about this, How to get the most from your business blog.
The bottom line is, people only care about your product pages once they are ready to buy from you. If your website only has product or sales pages, it will not generate traffic.
Email marketing is another often neglected strategy that just clearly works! If you are having no luck converting traffic to sales, try converting traffic to email sign ups instead.
Getting cold traffic to convert to sales is incredibly hard. A customer will usually have to have some prior context of your product or your company long before they commit to making a purchase from you.
When you go for the sale straight away, you will lose the opportunity to develop a relationship with that potential customer.
As I outlined in Create an automatic Email Marketing Campaign that actually works, building an automatic Email Marketing Campaign is a passive way to generate leads by informing and educated a potential customer over a long period of time. Using this method, you will build a relationship and you allow the consumer the control to buy from you, instead of being sold to.
Having a beautiful website with fantastic copy and a great User Experience is all a bit of a waste unless you have the ability to drive traffic to it.
There are many ways you can drive traffic to a website, but really, the two best ways are simply producing really good, high quality content and Email Marketing.
If you have the in-house abilities in your company to produce a regular flow of high quality content, you will turn your website from a sad and lonely ghost town, to a thriving and buzzing website that is organically increasing in authority, ranking and reach.
You can’t expect people to land on your website and instantly become new customers. You need to build a relationship and put the buying decision into some kind of context.
Persevering with a strategy that neglects traffic generation will leave your website under performing and ultimately it will not do your company justice.