A Local Consumer Review Survey conducted in 2012 revealed that 85 percent of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses, with 16 percent indicating that they use the web for this purpose every single week. Therefore, if you’re currently online, you’re already one step ahead of your competitors who’ve decided that listening to the masses isn’t important to business growth.
However, creating any old site just to say you have an online presence isn’t enough to help take your company to the next level. As these small business owners learned, putting the right information in just the right places is critical when it comes to achieving business success.
Think of Your Website as Your Company’s Billboard
Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group refers to his website as “an online, 24/7 billboard of how I help business leaders create a purposeful, positive, productive work culture.” As such, Edmonds’ site features his blogs, podcasts, video casts, research, books, training and speaking services, and more. “The design is clean, bright, and easy to navigate,” says Edmonds.
Edmonds brings up a good point in that, though the ultimate goal of a business website is to convey information about your company in a way that increases sales, it’s just as important to keep your end user in mind when creating your site. In addition to wanting one that is appealing to your target market, “Customers today are on a mobile device and are looking for the answer to their question in a matter of seconds,” says Michael Browning, CEO of Urban Air Trampoline Park. “As a result, a site must be quick to load and easy to search.”
Having this type of website has helped Browning “provide our customers with easy access to the information they desire and to make the online booking experience as few clicks as possible.” Just as important, “We want each customer to feel as if the site is tailored to them,” says Browning. “If they are in Houston, Texas they should not be seeing information on New Jersey.”
Amada Senior Care achieves this same goal of individualization by creating “mini sites,” says Marcos Moura, their Chief Development Officer. Having individual landing pages has enabled the company to give each target audience “information we know they would be looking for,” says Moura. “This may sound like a small change but, get this, we went from converting less than 2% of our unique traffic to converting over 10% of our unique traffic into inquiries. We were absolutely shocked by the increase!”
Build a Relationship with Your Customer Base
Once you’ve captured your market’s attention, you need to keep it. Brian Sooy, President and founder of Aespire Branding and Marketing Communications, says that they use their website to do this by leading their prospective clients through something they call the “Engagement Continuum,” thus building a stronger relationship with those they want to do business with over time.
The engagement continuum “is a series of touch points between our agency and the intended audience we are trying to reach,” explains Sooy. “As a prospective client journeys through the continuum, each of these phases focuses less on marketing and more on relationship building in order to nurture and steward the relationship.” The continuum itself consists of a 4-point process which “enables us to continue to nurture prospective clients even after they’ve left our site, through a minimum of 20 touchpoints over 12 months,” says Sooy.
Anna Schwengle, founder of Finn + Emma, says that they’ve found other effective ways of strengthening the customer relationship via their website, one of which includes installing apps. “We recently installed apps (including Loox for reviews) that have significantly increased our conversions,” says Schwengle. “We also installed a search app that helps consumers easily find the exact items they’re looking for.”
Schwengle adds that they’ve also placed videos on their site “to capture the viewer’s attention and show the details and movement of our various products in a relatable lifestyle setting. We want parents to see what our eco-friendly baby fashions and toys look like and how they function in real life, and video is much more effective at conveying this than just using still images.”
Consider Blogging to Enhance Your Business Growth
Christina Nicholson, owner of Media Maven, says that one of the keys to the “tremendous” growth of her publicity business is her blog. “Having a website is needed,” says Nicholson, “but how do you expect people to find your website if you’re not blogging?”
While some small businesses use their blog solely to promote their services, that’s not the approach that Nicholson takes. “My blog posts focus around what I do to make the lives easier for my clients,” she says. “The secret to getting more traffic from an ideal client is to write about what they are searching for online.”
Once you do that, says Nicholson, you want to take those keywords and “use them strategically throughout the post to rank higher in Google.” And while social media can also drive traffic to your site, “SEO has a longer shelf life,” she explains, adding that this process has helped her increase the amount of traffic to her website and “get more calls.”
As far as how to add to blog to your site, a number of small business owners choose to keep it semi-separate from their website. Hindi Zeidman, founder of The Ollie World, says that they made this very decision after putting “literally everything on the homepage,” a move which turned out to be less-than-appealing to a lot of their consumers.
Creating a separate place on their site for their blog posts gave them “the opportunity to expand on how the Ollie Swaddle can make a difference in many aspects of a baby’s life, without overwhelming the product information section,” says Zeidman. “It was a tremendous lesson to learn that less is more.”
On the flip side, some small business owners have even determined their blog to be so valuable to their business that they’ve decided to place it front and center on their site. Kat Loterzo, an Australian-based life and business coach and leadership guru, is one of them, stating, “I realized early on in my online journey that what mattered to me most was for people to read my daily blog posts and be moved by my writing.”
“Even though it went against the ‘rules,’ I decided to make my blog posts the main feature of my website layout and design,” says Loterzo, “and to have everything else — including any form of marketing either free or paid — be secondary to this.” This has enabled her to “create a website I feel amazing about and that also naturally keeps the attention of the sort of clients and readers I truly want to speak to!”
Content Is Still King, But Make It Original
Not only is SEO and blogging important when it comes to creating a strong website presence, but so too is the content itself says James Phillip, founder and Managing Director of JMJ Phillip, a global executive search firm. “We have spent the last five years building website brands that we designed in-house,” says Phillip, adding that they do this largely by placing “a tremendous amount of effort focused around original content creation.”
YMarketing agrees, stating, “Original content, such as reports that are based on primary research or articles based on interviews, gains far more attention than information that many are sharing and regurgitating.” They learned this after creating original content on their own blog (which talked about upcoming Super Bowl advertisers), an action which increased their web traffic by “more than 100% month over month.”
Creating original content can help set you apart from your competitors, which is extremely important as “your chances of retaining or gaining market share are fleeting as more and more newcomers take their slice of the market,” says Phillip. “People that don’t adapt are getting left behind and those that are ahead of the curve are gaining market share at a rapid pace.”
Create Customer Value
Your content also has to be valuable to your prospective clientele says Tom Demers, Managing Partner at Measured SEM & Cornerstone Content. “As a marketing consulting company, we’ve seen a lot of businesses (including our own) experience growth by providing useful information and using content creation and promotion as a means to develop valuable contacts within an industry,” he says.
Demers says that he and his business partner, Ken Lyons, originally worked for WordStream, a company which has “grown to more than 20 million a year in annual revenue and is one of the fastest growing companies in the country,” says Demers. “There are a lot of smart people who contributed to the company’s growth,” he adds, “but one of the biggest drivers of growth there (particularly in getting attention, leads, and customers early on) was creating valuable and interesting content and developing relationships with influential folks in the search engine marketing space.”
The way they did this was by offering their website users free tools, providing one-on-one and group interviews with influential people within the space, and writing informational, long-form posts with helpful information that could be accessed for free. “This really helped build a brand and drove hundreds of thousands of visitors to the site,” says Demers, who has used the same process to “grow our own consulting business into a boot-strapped, 7-figure consulting company in its own right.”
Don’t Forget to Harness the Power of Social Proof
Providing your target market with social proof via your website can have an amazing influence on their decision to do business with you as well. In fact, The Psychology Notes HQ calls this approach “one of the most effective means of persuading customers to buy a product.”
Erik Scheetz, owner of Texas Best Movers, adds that you can achieve this goal right on your website. “While potential clients can peruse Yelp, Angie’s List, or similar services for reviewing local businesses, we wanted to put all our reviews in one easy-to-find place,” says Scheetz. “This provides a better user-experience for our online visitors, it keeps them engaged while staying on our site longer, and the reviews help our potential customer-base take a look into past customer experiences.”
Some companies choose to create a dedicated testimonials page on their website, but Scheetz says that they chose to display the reviews right on their homepage “as a sort of transparency to the visitor.” This has paid off for Texas Best Movers, says Scheetz, as “many potential customers convert to clients based on our reviews.”
Finally, Measure Your Results
So, how do you know if your web design is contributing to your business success? Easy. You measure your results, says Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum Car Travel Innovations. For instance, “We beta tested the site using several checkout options and colors of buttons,” explains Kelly. This is a decision that paid off for them in the end.
“Some designers advised that red was the wrong color to use for a buy button, as red spells danger,” says Kelly. “Others advised that it was the best color to use for the buy button, so we had to test all options. We found out that the red button was actually the best color, but even though consumers were clicking it, they were not converting to sales.”
Ultimately, Kelly discovered that asking their client base to input their credit card details at the point of purchase was “a major deterrent for a lot of consumers,” causing them to leave the website. That’s when it was decided to use an Amazon button instead, “so that we could measure conversions,” says Kelly, as their consumer “was buying the seats on Amazon irrespective of whether we stood on our heads or not.”
“Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to what the consumer wants,” concludes Kelly. “You just have to trial and error it and keep tweaking.”
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