Millions of new websites get built every year by business owners who haven’t thought very deeply about why they want a website; what it can or cannot do for them.
And after it’s up and running those same business owners silently accept that their website gets very little traffic and attracts very little business.
That’s not going to be you! In the course of this article we will take the time to figure out just why you should have a website and how you can design it to do a job for you.
“97% of shoppers research local products and services online. Your website stands a good chance of being a prospect’s first impression.”
A definition of marketing for service based businesses:
“Marketing for service based businesses: the entire process of building the relationship between your business and your customer or potential customer.”
To market your business successfully – you need to:
It is just another tool you use to meet your marketing aims. Think of nothing else when designing or redesigning your website; it’s not just about how it looks (that’s is very important as we will see later – but you aren’t creating visual art, or a set of magazine pages) and it’s not a vanity project to make you look good.
You website needs to:
In short – you need to
The action you usually want them to take is to register for your mailing list or get in touch via phone, e-mail or your contact form.
You are doing this so that you can keep in touch with them and build a relationship that shows you in a credible light. Remember —we said marketing was about building relationships.
Ok — so let’s take each of these things in turn and look at examples
Ideally you should be able to express this in no more than a couple of paragraphs. It should be easy to read and easy to understand.
It should also identify your niche, your target market and what makes you special.
Exercise 1: ignoring for now your target market and your unique selling point: write a single paragraph (or at a push two) that says exactly the service or products you provide. This should be written is such a way that it could become the introductory text on your website.
How do you make it sound like choosing you is the only logical choice? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
Exercise 2: Write down the thing that make you stand out. Your unique selling points.
Be clear about who and where your potential customers are. If that’s clear you can:
If you have identified your target market to be time-starved small business owners and you run a virtual PA service, what would be the appropriate content for your website?
Clearly there will be the basic stuff; services you can provide; your rates, contact details etc. But there should also be content that is on there because you have a very clear idea of your target market.
Perhaps publications you have written? For example, you know small businesses are always worried about costs — so you could write some publications that address exactly that issue:
Exercise 3: Write down who your target market is and how you can ensure the content on your website is targeted at meeting their precise needs.
If you don’t look trustworthy; no-one will hang around long enough to give you their email address or purchase your services. Looking credible is central to the success or failure of your website.
Exercise 4: Brainstorm ideas for content you can add to your website to demonstrate and build upon your credibility.
Visual design is very important: but website design is not about providing cool graphics; it’s about solving problems, usability, readability, accessibility – it is about standing out
There is a study titled “Trust and mistrust of online health sites.” In it 15 participants review health sites that they find via Google. 94% of the factors mentioned for mistrusting a website were design related.
When talking about trusting or mistrusting a site, design related issues were mentioned 15 times more than content issues.
Specific problems included:
Poor design means people don’t hang around for long – which means they don’t buy-in to your service.
Good design = trust = more conversions = more money in your pocket
“As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. Our offline behaviour and inclinations translate to our online existence.” Dr. Brent Coker, who studied the impact of attractive websites on human behavior.
Attractive well designed websites look professional and inspire trust in site visitors. In short, design matters.
Attracting new customers: your website is the central hub of your sales funnel
Your marketing funnel is the system that draws people to your website and channels them towards your contact form or newsletter subscription form.
Encourage signups using:
Keeping in touch via a regular newsletter; that after all is why you attracted them to your site in the first place; so you could get them on your mailing list – and develop a long-term relationship, this allows you to demonstrate your expertise.
Marketing for services based businesses is all about building and maintaining relationships with customers.
The aim of your website is to get that relationship started; to do that you need a site that inspires trust. Ideally to the point where visitors are happy to register for your mailing list, email you or fill in your contact form.
If people visit but don’t get in touch then your website is not doing its job.
A navigation menu is – if we are speaking structurally – a list.
I still see websites that don’t markup their navigations links as lists; I guess the reason for this is that designers don’t want to have ugly big bullet points littering their menu’s, or seemingly uncontrollable margins throwing out their carefully crafted layouts.
Is it possible to use the correct structural markup, and still make your menus look the way you want them to?
The simple answer is yes; you can use CSS to style lists to look more-or-less any way you want.
First, undermine your previous assumptions by visiting the Listamatic website to see examples of different list styles (with the CSS used for each).
Then visit Mark Newhouse’s Taming Lists tutorial to learn how to make your own.
And finally – if you can’t be bothered learning how to do it yourself – have a look at Accessify’s List-o-matic – where you fill in a few forms, and the List-o-matic tool does all the hard work for you.
Using the appropriate markup for all the structures in your web documents is the first step towards making them accessible; web pages need to be accessible to the ‘user agents’ people use first, before they can be accessible to the people themselves. Using valid standards based markup means you have the best chance of your pages being understood by those intermediate ‘user agents’ (usually that means computers and web browsers).
For HTML 4.01, you can indicate the character encoding in the head of your page using the following meta tag:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
ISO-8859-1 (commonly called Latin 1) is the default characters set for HTTP .1.1, and indicates a set of common English characters. Generally this is the most common character set indicated in web pages, and is likely to be the one you will use.
Creating valid HTML is one of the most important steps you can take when designing accessible websites. If you do not provide the appropriate character encoding this could lead to characters in your page not displaying correctly, which of course will have an impact on the accessibility of your content.
In a knowledge economy the thirst for information and meaningful content is never ending.
If you dig deeper into the term “social media” you will be reminded that content can be any type of media and format. Media in all its formats that was previously hidden on personal computers or buried in files offline can be published to a variety of social media platforms that host and make public your previously unpublished media.
So how do you find the inspiration for content? It isn’t hard if you start to let your imagination run free.
The development of inexpensive video cameras with high definition and now included in smart phones as a standard feature allow you to record impromptu interviews or capture presentations and keynote speakers. The mantra to keep top of mind is to “think like a publisher”
King of image uploading is Flickr but other platforms to consider is Google’s Picasa (now included in Google+) and of course Facebook. High definition images that are well produced can provide high engagement.
Slideshare is the primary site to upload your presentations and with over 50 million monthly visitors and 90 million pageviews it now ranks as one of the top 250 websites in the world. It also supports document sharing.
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I provided feedback on the WCAG 2 (as representative of Guild of Accessible Website Designers) have two decades of experience and worked with hundreds of organisations.
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