As a business owner, would you spend thousands of dollars to rent a store or office if no one came to shop or buy? Probably not. So why do so many business owners spend thousands on websites that don’t help generate income?
Your Business Website: Asset or Expense?
I’m shocked when business owners tell me they have a website but don’t think much about it. They view it as an online brochure and a necessary evil. In fairness, brochureware was state of the art way back when (like 5 years ago). Many small businesses “invested,” hoped for the best and went about their work. But the web marketing world has changed drastically. Today’s business websites should convert vistors to leads, and ultimately, to customers. Many owners are sensing it’s time to rethink their sites. I love the happy reaction when they realize their website can, and should help generate income!
When considering a website makeover, remember these five essential functions:
1. Content Management System (CMS)
Dynamic content fuels Internet marketing; a CMS is the engine. Actually, the CMS is necessary for our remaining four steps. A CMS allows non-techie people to easily publish web content without programming skills. No more waiting for the Webmaster.
The CMS helps prepare and organize web pages, so visitors can access content using search, links and navigation menus.
CMS’ value also extends outside your site. Once, we waited for visitors to find us and passed out direct links like business cards. Now, content marketing (aka Inbound marketing) lets us reach our markets whenever, wherever they prefer. We then invite people [inbound] to our sites to learn more.
The CMS helps in two ways:
- Optimizing web pages so search engines & visitors can find us using keywords.
- Allow visitors to subscribe and get content automatically delivered to their device of choice.
There are many good CMS options available from low-cost examples like WordPress and Drupal to those included in complete marketing automation systems like HubSpot. There is one for every budget, and business. Bottom line: Don’t get caught without a CMS.
2. Blog: Every Business Should Blog
That’s my mantra. Business blogs are mission critical for connecting you with your market and converting visitors to leads to customers. Because blogs are personal and interactive, they offer three key benefits:
- Position you as an industry thought leader
- Put you in front of prospects earlier in their buying research
- Increase your visibility with search engines
Potential customers search the Internet to research, and make decisions about businesses long before you meet them. Blogging puts you out there to show how much you care. Blog posts should educate, not self-promote. The best ones address industry issues and answer commons. Especially for local businesses, there is great opportunity to stand out from old school businesses that brag about their features and client lists.
3. Conversion Paths – The Road to Sales
Solid content brings interested visitors. A selling website “converts” the right ones into leads and moves them toward closing sales. Acquiring leads involves inviting people to join our e-mail list. Then we can stay in touch, educate and build relationships. Notice I didn’t say, “Sell to them.” That will drive people off your list, fast!
The conversion path; has 3 main steps:
- Offer: In exchange for contact information, give visitors something valued that further teaches and moves toward solving their problems. Offers might include: White papers, eBooks, templates, how-to guides, tutorials… Ultimately, create multiple offers relevant to visitors at different stages of the buying cycle.
- Call-To Action: Present each offer with a visible, clear, inviting button or image that compels visitors to accept it. We’ve all clicked these at some point. The goal: At least one CTA on every page and at the bottom of each blog post.
- Landing Page: Sometimes called squeeze pages, these load when you click a CTA button to close the deal for the offer. They focus the visitor solely on accepting it. Even the navigation menus should disappear. Landing pages further explain the offer, stressing its value to the visitor. Each CTA should lead to a landing page.
4. E-mail Management
The e-mail list is one of your business’ most valuable assets. E-mail management tools help you understand your leads, tailor offers to their specific needs and guide them through their buying cycle. Most of this can be scheduled and delivered automatically, so your website can sell while you take some time relaxing!
E-mail systems are also necessitated by law. The Can Spam Act of 2003 regulates e-mail marketing. Visitors must voluntarily opt-in to an e-mail list, and they must be allowed to opt-out any time, no questions asked. It’s illegal to send marketing messages to people who haven’t opted-in.
With constant change, it’s impossible to manually manage subscribers and suppression (do not e-mail) lists. Services like AWeber and Mail Chimp are easy to use and start around $20/month. Marketing automation systems like HubSpot include comprehensive tools for managing e-mail marketing that integrate the whole marketing workflow.
5. Website Analytics
Successful content marketing is all about experimentation, testing and continuous improvement. We can’t improve what we can’t measure, right? Fortunately web analytics are easily accessible and let us make informed marketing decisions and investments. We can see exactly how our marketing is paying off.
Even free tools like Google Analytics and Google Keywords can instantly tell us things like: Who’s visited our site, when they came, from where, how they heard about us, which search keywords they used, what pages they visited, how long they stayed, and what they downloaded. Marketing automation systems, like HubSpot or Eloqua offer similar analytics, but they also help you tailor offerings and build campaigns based on the measured results. Be sure your business website is linked to an analytics tool.
Your turn! How are you building these essentials into your business website strategy?
Are you ready to take your Internet marketing to the next level?