Most businesses, and even a lot of individuals, have a website these days. They're a fantastic tool for providing access to your offer and/or useful information 24 hours a day, allowing you to get on with the job of servicing your clients and doing the best job that you can.
Unfortunately, while many businesses have invested in building a website (or having one built and managed for them), not all of them are taking full advantage of the leverage that a website provides and in many cases they are not seeing a return on their investment (making it difficult for them to continue to develop it long term).
Worse still, there are businesses out there that couldn't even tell you how their website factors into their client acquisition process because they are not tracking the source of their leads or conversions. However, that's a whole other topic which I'll cover separately, but rest assured, if you're not tracking and analysing your marketing efforts, you're doing yourself a disservice.
How does your website provide you with “leverage”?
Now before I go too much further, let's be clear that when I talk about “leverage” in the context of this article, I'm not talking about the typical financial leverage of borrowing money or raising capital to help finance a business, rather I'm talking about how you can leverage your time or skills to achieve more within your business (or life).
So, how does a website allow you to do this?
Well, one of the great things about a website is that it's available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. This allows you to provide information to potential, and existing, customers at their convenience, instead of limiting them to your business hours to find out about your product or service, or alternatively to get support.
This is especially useful for businesses that operate globally. Your website can be accessed at any time, in any timezone, and provide helpful and useful information to anyone that wants it. But you may be wondering how this helps you and what sort of “leverage” it is actually providing?
Warming up prospects
It's a common marketing principle that it can take up to 7 contacts with a business or brand before a customer elects to make a purchase. So, rather than having to deal with each of those directly yourself, either through a phone call or face-to-face, your website allows you to share your expertise and products with prospects, with no impact on your own time (beyond the initial setup).
A well designed website, that supports a customer's purchasing journey, will allow you to provide them with the information they are looking for, at a time that suits them, warming them up to your offer, so that by the time they are in “buying mode” your efforts to close the say are likely to have been reduced.
Take it one step further and allow them to complete their purchase online, where appropriate, and you can make sales with little to no personal interaction with your customers (although this doesn't work with all products and services). This provides you with a huge amount of time leverage, letting you concentrate on other aspects of your business (or your personal life).
Taking care of existing customers
Let's face it, customers are great, but sometimes the process of looking after them once you have made the sale can be just as arduous as getting them to buy in the first place. They may need support to start using your product, or they may have issues which you will need to resolve, all of these things can take a lot of time if you have to deal with every query personally.
Granted you can hire staff to perform these tasks, but that can add a ton of overhead and there's always the risk that they are not giving out consistent advice or guidance, meaning you inevitably have to step in anyway, and by that point you are probably dealing with a pretty irate customer.
In this situation, your website can be a great method by which to ensure your customers get the support they need, when they need it. And not only that, every customer will get the same advice, ensuring that there is no confusion being caused about how your product or service should be utilised.
Take note of the common questions that you get asked and create a set of knowledge base articles that address these. If you usually provide a particular level of training before a customer uses your service, turn that into a “welcome to Product X” series of articles that demonstrate how to get started, and make sure new customers are made aware of it's existence when they sign up.
If you can reduce the time you and your staff have to deal with looking after existing customers, this will free you (and them) up to take on new business and/or develop new products and services in the long term.
How can you maximise the return on your website investment?
Well, first off you need to treat it like an asset.
Don't just throw up a quick website to “make sure you've got one” and then leave it to stagnate and waste the opportunities that it can present you with. Granted not all businesses will benefit from massively investing in their online presence, however when it's done right and is treated as an asset, your website will be a valuable tool to help grow and manage your business.
Have a budget for maintenance and updates
Have you ever come across a website that doesn't match how a company presents itself on other platforms, or looks out of date compared to other brands you like to buy from? The world changes, brands change and your website needs to evolve alongside other parts of your business, at the least to ensure you are providing a professional face to the world.
If your products change or you are offering new services, then make sure your website reflects this. Organise your content so that it reflects what is going on in your business today and not when you first set the website up (all that time ago in some cases). Make sure you retain information relevant to “old” products or services, but keep your site up to date and fresh to reflect where your business is today.
Also ensure that if you are using a platform like WordPress you are keeping the underlying technology up to date. You shouldn't have to spend a fortune on this, it's relatively easy to do it yourself if you're a little bit technically inclined, allocate some time each month to make sure your plugins and themes are up to date.
Use it when communicating with customers
How often do you actually remind people (or tell them in the first place) that your website is a great resource for finding out about your products or services? If there is useful information available that will answer questions you are getting or can help someone to learn more about your business, make sure people know about it.
These may seem like straightforward ideas, however you might be surprised how many businesses don't do them.
- Include you website address in your email signature
- Make sure your website address appears on any marketing material you produce
- Put the URL on your business cards
- Connect your site to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn profile
Don't be afraid to use complementary technology to help customers help themselves. If you have a support email address where customers or prospects can get in touch with you, then why not take the time to set up an autoresponder that provides a range of useful links back to your website, so the customer can check them out while waiting for your response?
Integrate your website with other platforms
Many businesses make use of Facebook to communicate with customers and generate leads. Did you know that your website can be a great source of information to allow you to target people more accurately?
By installing the Facebook Pixel on your website, you can then build an audience of potential customers and target them with advertising on the Facebook platform. You've probably seen this a lot; you browse the internet checking out a range of products you're interested in and the next thing you know you're seeing ads for those brands in your Facebook feed.
While some of these ads can be annoying, the best ones are those that are highly targeted and personalised to the user. If you know they've taken a look at a particular product but elected not to make a purchase, then why not put together a personalised offer for that product as a way of enticing them back to make a purchase?
Alternatively, if someone did make a purchase, how about a targeted ad welcoming them to your business and inviting them to join a customer only group on Facebook where they can learn how best to make use of the purchase they just made? You can also use this information to ensure that they don't see irrelevant advertising in the future, any ads they do see can focus on related products or useful upgrades to their purchase.
Measure the effectiveness of your website
I'll only touch on this briefly, as the topic of analytics and tracking is a pretty big one, but the key thing here is to make sure you are using an analytics platform to track the visitors to your website. You need to know how they are arriving at you site, what they are looking at when they are there, and whether or not they are taking the actions you expect them to before they leave or buy.
Furthermore, if your website is a source for leads that are then converted through another (offline) process, then you need to make sure that you know when this is happening. If your website is successfully warming up prospects to the point where they book an appointment or pick up the phone, then it's doing its job and you should continue to invest in it.
Lastly, if you have effective analytics in place, then you can also start to test different content and marketing techniques on the site. Use A/B testing to figure out what resonates with your prospects, test different landing pages for campaigns to see if long or short form copywriting works best…
Test, learn, deploy and test again!
Your website is a valuable tool/asset and it should be treated as such. Much like an employee, if it is doing a good job then it can provide a ton of value and add to your bottom line. On the other hand, if it's not performing then you need to know why and make changes as necessary to get the most out of your investment in the long run.
Treat your website as an asset and it will pay dividends. Get it “up and running” and then neglect it, well that is not going to reflect positively on your business, so don't fall into that trap. Set aside some time and budget to keep your website up to date, full of useful information and make sure people know about it, it'll pay off in the long run.