Virtually everyone and every company has a web site these days, and for very good reasons, i.e. it is an effective, low-cost, flexible tool to attract new customers and serve existing customers, no matter what size your business.
However, the web has been misused and abused by the many suppliers hoping to gain competitive advantage. However when some one goes to a web site, they want to know ‘What’s in if for me?’; or ‘Is this ‘stuff’ useful to me and my business?’
An effective web site must create two important dynamics, namely:
- Repeat visits by the same people, until they are ready to make a purchase.
- Referrals to other people whom the original visitors believe would appreciate your site and products.
How do you achieve this? By providing value, not just advertising, plus maintaining an orientation toward the customer, not yourself or your/ company.
Here are some doable techniques for creating and maintaining such a web site:
- Test your site for its downloading ability for the average computer user. Access and downloading should be relatively fast, as visitors travel among the pages. And remember many users still use fairly slow networks and devices compared to your designer’s modern equipment.
- Allow the web designer to provide the correct graphics, connections, and layout, but never the content or wording. You must represent your own customers.
- Provide value. But, how? Include articles, techniques, manuals, other web sites, reviews, and anything else relevant to your products and services that help the customer. The site should be a place of value which compels people to visit, not an advertising site which people avoid.
- Provide testimonials from happy customers. There are few marketing approaches as effective as having customers sing your praises. It’s usually a good idea to spread these around your pages, rather than isolate them in one spot.
- Change the content frequently to compel repeat visits. One great way is by posting a regular blog, an “article of the month” or “weekly techniques.” These can be cooking tips, floral arrangement photos, catering ideas, etc. that pertain to your products and services.
- Make the site easy to navigate. Ensure that a visitor can travel from one page to another without going back to the home page each time, and that no one is “trapped” in your descriptive pages.
- Have an obvious and easy way to send an email or message to you.
- Create effective index words that can be used with the major search engines so that people can find you quickly. Use both your own name, company name and your content.
- Establish reciprocity with other sites that don’t compete. If you’re in the catering business you might have a link to a bridal gown shop; if you’re in the stationery business the link might be with a secretarial service.
The web provides the ability to market locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. You have the option to determine how narrowly or widely you want to cast your net. But the important consideration is to keep the visitor’s needs in mind, and to create a site that provides value, endorsements, and the obvious potential to improve the customer’s business, not just your own.
One final technique: Surf the web yourself and visit competitors, people you buy things from, and random other sites. Ask yourself what you like and don’t like about their sites, and what the impact would be on your own customer base. Don’t reinvent the wheel – just improve it.