Ten years ago, a website was thought of as just another channel to market a business, not much different than a newspaper or Yellow Pages ad, only with more information and color. Then along came blogging and Facebook, Twitter and Google ads. No longer is a website a lone island or just another piece in the puzzle.
Too often web designers or developers get trapped into thinking small. As an independent website creator you are not just a code monkey or a pixel pusher; you are a business consultant. A business may come to you thinking that all they need is a website, but it is your job to open their eyes to the possibilities.
A website is just the beginning. It is just a beginning to your client and it is just a beginning to the services you offer them. I can’t name the number of clients who have come my way thinking that all they need to do is put a website on the Internet. More recently, many people have heard of SEO, and it’s even become a catch-phrase, the supposed end-all solution to having a successful website for your business. If a business’s website can just get a good listing on Google, it will take care of all their Internet business needs, or so the thinking goes.
It is our job as business consultants to explain to our clients the need, not only for a website with good SEO, but also for social networking and advertising, if appropriate. Before rushing out to consult clients, it is important to have a business strategy already in place. When a client takes that step with you to create or revamp a website, you should already have a strategy to help drive traffic to their website and convert it to sales.
This strategy needs to address four needs in the following order:
- How to drive traffic to the website
- How to catch the attention of that traffic
- How to keep traffic
- How to convert visitors to sales
Wait! Stay with me now. Just because I used the word “sales” doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to you. I know there are plenty of times that you will make a website that isn’t apparently “selling” anything, like for a non-profit organization, or an informative website, BUT the whole purpose of any site is still to sell something. The something may not be a product bought with money, it could be an idea that you want someone to “buy into” or a church you want someone to attend, but the point of any website is to sell something.
Design should never say, “Look at me.” It should always say, “Look at this.”
— David Craib
Each of these steps deserve their own blog post (which I may do later), but this should get you started.
First, you must have a plan to drive traffic to the site, because without traffic all of the rest of your efforts are pointless. SEO is important, but it isn’t the end game to bringing visitors to a website. It is only the beginning. Consider some kind of strategy for your clients using Facebook, Twitter, blogging, topic articles, and Google AdWords.
Second, once you get visitors to the site you have to catch their attention. It only takes most people a couple of seconds to decide if they are going to stick around or not. This is where the graphic design aspect of a website shines. The first purpose of design is to catch the readers’ attention. Make sure the site you are designing contains graphical elements and not just text. The easiest way to add engaging graphics is to purchase stock photography. It used to cost hundreds of dollars to purchase a license for a professional picture! Now you can do it for only a few dollars at istockphoto.com.
Third, now that you have caught their attention to take a look at the site, you have to convince them to stick around by having great content. This also kills two birds with one stone, because quality, relevant content also happens to be the cornerstone of all good SEO. Of course, your client will probably need to provide this, but if they aren’t very hip on writing a lot about their area of expertise, you might consider interviewing them and writing it article-style. Or you can hire someone else to write at a place like elance.com.
If you have made it this far, then you are golden. If you were fishing, the fish is on the hook and now you just have to reel it in. Make sure on every page you have some kind of call to action “Call us now” or “Click here to buy” or “Join us Sunday Mornings at…” or “Fight along side us by emailing your congressman at this address”; something that encourages the reader to take action.
By understanding and implementing this process, you will turn your client’s website into more than just a website. Their website will be a central hub for marketing to generate leads and sales. And this will turn you into more than just a web designer!
Let me know what you think in the comments section below. What strategies or methods have you found successful in providing a more cohesive service to your clients?