Thinking Outside Your Website

sam hollis

Sam Hollis is a Web Designer, Business Owner, Dad,  Digital Marketing Expert and Podcaster

‘I’m always happy to chat and advice is always free’

As a web designer, I know exactly how it feels to get a website on the internet. You’ve stuck a flag in the ground, claimed your place and told the world you’re open for business. It’s exciting, it’s apprehensive and, above all, it’s a proud moment.

Then come the questions: What do I do now? Where is the bonanza of customers knocking on my virtual door? I’ve got this great site. How do I get it to generate great business?

Although a good site is a big step on the way to getting torrents of business online, it is still the first step.

People say a good business website is like an attractive shop window on the internet.

However, it’s more like a beautiful country hotel. It’s wonderful, but few people just see it in passing. No-one will come by until you build a road to the front entrance, signpost it, and spread the word far and wide.

Getting customers into your site means getting into their heads

“Build it and they will come.” – This famous quote is unfortunately not true. Getting ‘them’ – the customers – to come to your site is a major challenge of online marketing. Once you’ve got your customers there, you face the fundamental challenge of all marketing – getting them to part with their money.

For this, you need to think like the customer.

Ask yourself ‘If I wanted to buy my product or service; if I wanted to visit my website, what would I do? What approach would I take?’ Then you need to ensure that the customer can and will take that approach and get to your site. If the customer would google a certain term, ensure your site comes up first for that term. If the customer might look on social media, ensure your business is there to greet them. I’ve laid out a few ways of getting customers to your site and then selling to them below, but this is the thing to keep in mind throughout.

The path to your site

There are many ways to get people to your site, varying from the very easy and intuitive, to the complex and technical.

We don’t want to jump the gun, so let’s start with the simple ways. First, there’s socialising, both on social media and in terms of networking, which I explain in detail here. If your site is clear, informative and sales-focused, directing associates to it with the help of a business card should be a good way of getting a reliable lead.

Social media is another early port of call. I’m sure many of you have pointed your friends and followers from there to your site early on. It gets harder from there, but regular, chatty, interactive updates and attention with links to your site can generate a steady stream of good prospects. Just remember – it’s a conversation, not a broadcast.

From there, things get a little more technical. Another of my blogs deals with things like email and site links, as well as search engines and advertising. I could write an encyclopedia on this, but let’s focus on how they can and should lead to your site.

As far as I am concerned, it’s a case of choosing the best tool for your objective then designing the whole journey the customer takes around the tool.

Paid advertising platforms, such as Google Ads, are relatively quick, reliable and trackable ways to get people to your site. Major benefits include only paying when someone actually clicks through to your site, easy budgeting and effective targeting They work best when they advertise a clearly defined product or offer. The customer then clicks through to a page with more info on that product or offer and an easy, attractive way to buy, either online or by contacting you.

Of course, advertising isn’t the only way to bring people to your site through Google. There is the traditional way of getting web users to search and hopefully come up with your site. You want to get your site in front of as many interested people as you can. That means ideally hitting Google’s first page. The way to do that is to figure out what kind of customer is going to buy your product – rich, poor, business, individual, regular shopper or one-off buyer – and then start thinking like them.

If you were looking for your product, what would you search for?

Ask yourself, ‘If I were in front of a search engine looking for my product, what would I search for?”. It’s not going to be technical and it’s going to be about the product the buyer wants, rather than the seller’s business.

Then make a list of terms they are likely to type – The more specific to your business the better. “Engagement rings” is going to put you in competition with everyone from Pandora to Jenny’s Jewellery in Tottenham, but “Hand-crafted diamond engagement rings in Hull” will catch the right people who are looking for those products.

That done, you need to distribute the terms throughout your site frequently and naturally, especially in titles and page descriptions, without turning your pages into repetitive robotic spiels.

On your site

We’re thinking beyond your website, but where does it fit into things?

All of your marketing efforts are like a funnel. At the wide end is everyone you reach and at the narrow end are the people that choose to buy from you. Naturally, you want to draw people toward that narrow end like water caught in the funnel and your website should pull them that final little bit of the way into the sale.

Two things do that above all else: contact details and calls to action, which tempt users to take an action.

Calls to Action

A good call to action combines two things: What you want the customer to do and what the customer wants to do – the hard part. Asking a customer to buy your product or call you is easy, making them want to is harder, and you do it by offering something they want in exchange. Free stuff is a good example. Everyone likes free stuff and it can be given away with newsletter signups, sales or almost anything else.

For example, what would you rather click on, ‘Email Sam Hollis’ or ‘Contact Sam Hollis for a free site MOT’?

Note: I actually do this, and it actually works.

Talking of free stuff, lead magnets are very specific types of call to action that ask users to sign up for free information, getting their contact information and a free lead in the process. They’re good for building email lists and keeping in touch with customers who haven’t decided to buy but might in future. Find out more in my blog on the subject.

Because customers might decide to buy at any time, it’s worth having calls to action and contact details all over your site, including direct email and call links.

Beyond your site

What happens when the user has visited your site?

That depends on whether they are a buyer and whether you are in contact.

For buyers – do you want them to return regularly or is it a one-off purchase, such as a wedding ring. It’s rare that you won’t want any kind of follow-up business. Even a wedding ring might be followed by an anniversary necklace. To make sure it’s you selling that follow-up item, keep in touch online, offer great after-sales service and stay at the front of the customer’s mind. Do that with further newsletters, blogs and notifications of offers.

Before that though, get some feedback, preferably in a way that helps your online marketing setup. Customers can leave reviews on Google, Facebook and a range of other platforms and positive ones can set a site’s marketing alight.

Non-buyers also need to be attracted back with new content that is interesting to them. If you have their contact details or have them hooked on a lead-magnet, this is much easier but even people who don’t do these things can be attracted back with good content. You’ve tempted them once, so you can do it again.

For buyers and non-buyers alike, the best way to keep in contact and keep up interest is regular, interesting email content, such as a newsletter. This is where the contact information gathered on your site comes in useful. As long as you’re in contact with a person, you’re likely to be close to the top of their priority list for your product or service. Additionally, they’ll see that you know your stuff, so you’ll be a natural go-to-guy or gal when they want something. More on email marketing here.

Think outside the website

Your site is a giant leap forward for your business on the web, but it is only the first in your journey. Too many people see it as the last, leaving their sites and wondering where everyone on the internet is. The truth is that everyone on the internet needs a reason to go to your site, and you need to give them it.

There are many ways to do that, from social media to ads, emails, search engines and site links. A good mix is best in case one stops working for you.

When you get them to your site, your job is to keep pulling them toward the sale with links and calls to action.

And finally, when they leave your site, your job is to pull them back with new content, emails and a little business savvy.

It’s quite a process but get it right and it pays off handsomely.

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