Did you know that there are nearly 1. 2 million websites live on the internet right now? Those of us who have spent a fair amount of time surfing can attest to the fact that the vast majority (90+%) are not designed in a way that is useful to the end-user.
Perhaps they satisfy some other need for the builder (I wonder). But, while missing-the-mark on a personal website is not the end of the world, doing so on your venture’s website is a costly mistake. To set your website apart, you will need to have a clear idea of your unique value proposition. Additionally, you need to know what your customer is looking for and the questions they need answered.
How do you create a website that does that and also facilitates sales? Here are 6 key elements to consider for your venture’s outreach program.
1. Establish Goals for Your Site
Many ventures never even consider, articulate or define their overall goals for their site, before or even during its construction. Frequently, they are an afterthought, or you see something that your competitor has done and decide that you want something like that for your website, much like a kid in a candy store.
Establishing key goals and objectives for your venture’s website in advance is a critical component to ensuring that the site does what it needs to do; trust me when I tell you that this will save your team endlessly cycles of their time producing the site.
A properly organized site with appropriate features to support a product launch can take the sales process one step further by enabling a customer to walk through some common problems and use cases, and potentially even “test drive” the product to solve these issues.
This type of planning, design, and development will produce a website that generates pre-qualified leads and customers who drive revenue and sales. Now that’s a whole lot better than a bunch of “likes” or “tweets” or “hashtags” any day of the week!
Advice: Do NOT let your venture’s website fall into the “vanity” project trap. Start with a clear set of goals and put driving revenues at the top of that objectives list.
2. What is Your Customer’s POV?
During the design and construction phase, walk through your website (multiple times) from your customer’s POV and do your best to simulate their “clicks.” Get as much input as possible up front. You want to anticipate how your customers are going to react. Think about how you respond when you go to other sites as a customer – what irritates you, what do you like, what works for you, and what facilitates engagement?
A rule of thumb is that customers, much like you, have a low threshold for clicking around websites. Ensure that the major areas of interest to your customer are available from your home page and that all useful, interesting content is no more than 2 clicks away. Keep in mind that your competitor’s site is literally just one click away!
Check out this useful research on website design for more information.
3. Drive Revenue
If the vagaries of the market, from boom to bust to boom cycles, have taught us anything it’s that successful websites keep driving revenue (either direct or indirect) at the forefront of their minds. The implications of this over-riding principle on your site are numerous and varied.
For example, one thing this means is that you don’t want to bury the qualified sales lead generation tool 10 clicks into your site. It also means that you have to think through how a customer casually browses your site and build-in a content and engagement current that moves them through the purchase cycle to begin or hopefully even complete their transaction online. Your goal is to create an undertow!
Last, but not least, you have to be crystal clear about the value proposition that your venture’s products and services deliver, so that any random web-surfer could potentially become a revenue generating customer.
4. Appropriate Resources to Build and Maintain Your Website
Some enlightened ventures go through a large and robust website planning and development effort to ensure that the previous 3 items in this blog are addressed. However, when it comes to the long-haul effort of keeping their site looking fresh and interesting over time, they fail miserably. This is because ventures often overlook the time, effort, budget, focus and energy it takes to maintain a fresh look and feel on an ongoing basis.
If you think about it, a website is NOT meant to be a one-and-done effort. During the build-out and launch, it may feel like the only objective is to get it out there and be done with it, but there is hard work that will need to be done regularly throughout the life of the product. For example, you will learn more about your customers needs over time and will want to roll those changes into your website.
If the budget for launching the site is X, over the life of the site – at least as long as the venture itself will be operational – you could need 5-10X in funds to maintain it. If you don’t plan and budget for this level of activity, then you are short-changing your venture in a critical area. Your UX can make or break your venture, so plan to grow and morph your website along with your customer’s expectations.
How do you keep those maintenance costs under control? Here are some tricks that you can implement to keep expenses down:
- Reduce the areas of the site that you need to maintain
- Utilize more evergreen content
- Implement self-updating content
- Create the ability to take advantage of user generated content – don’t try to replicate ESPN.com, Fox.com, or any other high-end content websites, unless you are willing to invest in that kind of an infrastructure.
Candidly, keep your site’s focus and scope within your budgets. Be smart and don’t set wild, unrealistic expectations with your customers. You will need plenty of budget left over for R&D, PR, sales & marketing, and product support.
5. Refresh, Revitalize and Renew on a Regular Basis
Plan to refresh or update of your website on a regular scheduled basis. As noted earlier, often there is so much focus on getting the site up and launched, that there isn’t any effort put into how and when to refresh the site. This can be a huge mistake.
In this day and age, with so much content on the internet being published per minute – a venture’s website that doesn’t have a pre-defined upgrade or refresh cycle will suffer by comparison. Therefore, as part of your website planning efforts, ensure that your venture maps out the refresh schedule, and revisits the resources and objectives needed for your site moving forward. This will ensure that your site doesn’t get left behind.
6. Simple Do’s and Don’ts
Here are some valuable design DO’s and DON’Ts. DO make an About Us section on your site with bio’s for your key venture positions and include email addresses or other contact info – you might be surprised by what leads come your way. On your Home Page DON’T flash, blink, beep, slide or pop out at your users; I can’t find words strong enough to describe how irritating and disorienting this can be for your users. If you land on this kind of website, what is your reaction? You probably immediately click away to a competitor.
DO regularly monitor and track where your customers actually go on your website, not where you want them to go or where you think they will go. Use a good website traffic mapping and analytics tool to track this. By examining where your customers are actually going, you will gain key insights into how and when you need to refresh your site, and it will ensure that your refresh adds value exactly where your customers are going to find and consume it.
DON’T let your site go down during production or expected live times. While this may seem like an obvious point, ventures often forget that their customers are worldwide and, as a result, there is a very small window during which a site can be pulled down for maintenance or updating. Plan wisely and ensure that your site is back up for your global customers. After all, you don’t want to be offline for an extended period of time and miss valuable sales opportunities!
If you have any questions, please drop me a note. I’d be happy to provide you with advice and guidance. Please read and share all of my blogs at LeadingVentures.com.
About this blog – The goal of this blog is to share my experiences, to capture and reveal valuable insights, and to draw from my serial entrepreneur-ship through 7 ventures over the past 20 years. I have encountered many impressive entrepreneurs along the way and I hope to share our collective experience with you to help teach and perhaps motivate you to launch your own B2B or B2C enterprise.
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I liked the 5th Point – very valid and well said! Also you should display a ‘Lead Magnet’ on the homepage that would provide ‘free stuff’ to your visitors. This free stuff should be a good value add for the prospect visitor though!
Thanks for your positive feedback. I think that’s a great idea! In the retail world that’s called a “loss leader” – think bread, milk or eggs – these are the things that “draw” in your customers – with the intent (and hope) that they’ll subsequently buy more than just the loss leader, its the same way that newspaper advertisements work. In that regard a Lead Magnet as you describe it would also work. But the KEY and you nailed it here, is to ensure that the thing – whatever it may be – is something of value and interest to those for whom it is intended – else you could have a very undesirable outcome.
Please do share the blog with your friends and extended network.
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