Matt B., Marketing Coordinator
Having a professional-looking, informative, and engaging website is a necessity for every business these days. It's a way to communicate what you do, keep customers informed about special offers, provide valuable information like pricing, and it can help you stand out from your competitors by highlighting your company's personality. It's also, whether you like it or not, the way that today's customer searches for the vendors they want to use.
Having a website is mandatory. Having a website that connects with customers and gets you noticed, however, takes some particular attention that isn't hard, but requires you to be smart about how you approach this critical marketing tool for your business.
Your website may be about your business and services, but it's meant for your customers. You have to put yourself in your customer's shoes when you think about the design, layout, and navigation of your site. Consider all the sites you go to that are basically just a random collection of outdated information that's hard to find and doesn't give you any value. Vendors who treat their website as an afterthought give off a first impression of sloppiness. It's definitely not good for business.
This is an opportunity to look sharp and deliver an impactful message about your services and also about your business. In order to give people that immediate sense of, "these guys have their act together," consider these tips as you prepare to build a website that delivers customers to you and creates fans out of them:
Before you start, remember that websites are meant to be visual and impactful in a world of people whose attention spans are limited. Your site should also convey something specific, and rather than just slapping a lot of pictures on a few web pages, start with the end in mind. In other words, you want website visitors to book an appointment with you - how will you get your website to drive them towards that?
First thing is to think about the key messages you want to stick in the brains of your site visitors AND the way you want to communicate them. Do you want them to think of you as the most cost-effective vendor in your market, the one with the fastest response time, are you the most courteous, or is there something else that defines you? Identify the things that are most important about your business, and make sure you state it on the homepage...and thread it throughout the other pages on the site. Keep in mind not to just barf out a bunch of buzzwords; use a consistent tone and voice in your writing. If it's "just the facts", that's fine, but keep the site content direct and to the point. If you want to add some color, use a more informal voice and maybe throw in some humor (who doesn't love the one about the limping joist installer?).
Secondly, write out a list of what you actually provide. If you just say that you are a tile company, you may lose people who are looking for a grouting job. You're also missing an opportunity to differentiate yourself if you aren’t specific about the breadth of your services. Explain your expertise in terms that laymen would understand and emphasize your experience, whether it’s in years or in the different types of jobs you’ve done. Let people know not just who you are, but specifically what you can do. It demonstrates to customers that you are confident in your abilities and it instills trust.
People will most likely remember you based on how visually engaging your site is. Busy people scan more than they read, so quality pictures can tell a good story if used correctly. Research tells us that while people only remember 10 percent of things they hear and 20 percent of what they have read, around 80 percent of people remember things they see or do. Think of it this way - in a study of restaurant customers, it was determined that when there are pictures of menu items on menus, customers are 70% more likely to order those items. People like pictures, and busy people looking for a vendor to solve a problem are going to scan a website, not read it in depth.
Your images, however, have to look sharp. Fuzzy pictures, or ones with bad lighting will reflect poorly on you. Also, using stock imagery is fine, but it has to relate to the work you do and the feel you want people to have. It's also worth noting that it's a natural inclination for humans to want to look at faces, so make sure you include pictures or actual people doing actual things on your site. It will create a connection with site visitors and portray
Check out this website and let me know when your head stops hurting. It may not necessarily be the worst website ever created, but it's pretty close. Your website is a reflection of your brand and it's the first point of contact with customers. It simply has to look crisp, be well organized, and communicate professionalism.
When it comes to website design and layout, simpler is usually better. You don't need a lot of pages and links, but you do want to ensure it is organized and easy to navigate through. As we mentioned earlier, if you use images (and you should!), make sure they are engaging and clearly visible; high resolution images work best. Create a balance within the site of both written content, pictures, and calls to action. Ultimately, you want to communicate your business and your "story", but you also want the customer to book an appointment.
It makes sense to sketch out the order of things you want to communicate and make sure they are reflected on your site. Clearly, it's important for you to make sure your company name and contact information is reflected prominently on every page - probably best to do that in both the top (header) and bottom (footer) of each page. Then, use the homepage to make your most important message; this is where you establish who you are and what you do, and what makes you special. Again, be simple. And brief. You don't need to cram everything into a single page.
Create navigation and links within the site that guide people to information that will help them, but will also help you make a customer out of that person. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer; what do you want to know? Typically it's price, menu of work you perform, availability, work samples, references, maybe a blog with your personal insights, and a way to easily book an appointment. Each of these items can be a link from the top navigation, and can also be linked within the content throughout your site.
I can’t stress this enough: simpler is better. A website with only 2-4 pages is plenty if it looks great and has a focused message.
You've built up a loyal customer base over time - those people's comments and references can be an effective way to market your services and demonstrate that you've earned the trust of customers through excellent work and professionalism.
Get your binder of references and go to your Yelp and Facebook pages - pull out the complimentary quotes and comments. Then get pictures of your happy customers and their completed projects. Sprinkle those throughout the website, with comments about the work you did for them. After helping with a kitchen remodel, you might, for example, show your happy customers in front of their pantry doors with a caption that reads: "Debbie and John in Middletown love their new kitchen cabinets made by Smith Carpentry!" As we said earlier, people love images on websites, and they especially respond to pictures of actual humans.
This is also an opportunity to tell a compelling story. Create a separate page on your site called, "Customer Stories" and populate it with short stories about some of your customers. You can use images like the one mentioned above, but accompany it with descriptions of the work you did. Emphasize the details of the job and how you worked closely with the customer to deliver just what they want. Explain how you delivered it quickly and to the customer's satisfaction. Perhaps you made recommendations to improve the product or service that the customer loved.
Seeing people rave about your work may be the most effective way to communicate your excellent work and that you are easy to work with.
You'll get a customer's attention if you can prove you are available when they need you. Even though you can't be available 24/7, you can essentially be open for business if you provide your customers with the ability to schedule appointments with you online. Your website can become an effective customer-generator if you direct users to opportunities to book online and make appointments.
Online booking and appointment making is an inexpensive functionality you can put on your website easily. It makes it convenient for customers, reduces the timely scheduling work you normally do over the phone, and it offers a customer service benefit that differentiates you from your competitors.
Your website should make it clear that a site visitor CAN book an appointment, and direct them clearly to WHERE on the site they can do it. Make sure there a link to it is prominently featured in the header, footer, and throughout the website. You don't need to beat people over the head with annoying pop-up boxes, but make it simple to find. Again, the simpler, the better, and if users can find you, they'll more easily want to book with you.
Social media is such a part of people's lives today that it now influences how people search for goods and services. In fact, 74% of of buying decisions today made with the help of social media. This is good news for a well-organized website because you can easily integrate social media into your online marketing strategy.
This is fairly easy and all website creation tools provide this functionality. All you need to do is add social sharing links in our content so users can "like" it and share it. What happens is that action of liking shows in your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social feed; each like is validation that you are a valued vendor. When a user shares the content through sharing tools, it shows up in their feed in their own social account. Your business is automatically tagged and a link is provided. Those people's contacts and followers will see their approval of you and your business. With the right amount of activity, you'll be able to benefit from the network effect and have your company's content and pictures showing up in front of people who could also become prospective customers.
These end up being current testimonials and are current because of the nature of the fast moving social media usage. Once you start seeing traffic in your social media feeds from these people, you can thank them in those same channels and even like and retweet their own content. It becomes reciprocal and engenders a connection between you, your customers, your potential customers, and all the people who follow them.
A website is a necessary tool for your business, but it doesn't have to be difficult. With the right mix of content, images, testimonials, social media, and effective opportunities for calls to action, your website can become a central destination for people seeking to know more about you. Done correctly, your website will convey that you are, indeed, a vendor of choice and one a customer can trust. If you can do that, you'll win business and create even more happy customers.
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