Your website is your most powerful marketing, lead generation, and sales tool.
The website, in fact:
- is often the first point of contact between a potential new customer and your company: it’s therefore required in lead generation, because it can turn the simple visitor into a lead;
- it provides content through which to inform and educate the lead: it therefore performs a fundamental function of lead nurturing and conversion, because it helps to convert the lead into a prospect and then convert the prospect into a customer;
- all this, of course, without forgetting that you can publish promotions and product launches on your website: it therefore also plays a key role in sales;
- and if it has a blog function, it helps cementing the relationship with customers, inducing them to come back periodically to draw on new content, information, promotions, etc…
Although it can be a significant investment, it doesn’t have to be a pompous tool. The most important thing is that it allows you to communicate effectively with your market.
Designing a website
Here’s how to proceed if you want to make sure you design a useful website:
- Define your needs
Take pen and paper (not keyboard and mouse: I said pen and paper), and first decide the purpose of the website:
- Your main goals;
- How do you want the website to support your offline and online marketing campaigns?
- How the website will help generate leads, develop and qualify prospects, communicate with the market, process orders, etc…
- The information and features you think you need;
- Whether a standard design is enough, or you need something more sought-after.
The WordPress platform, for example, allows you to create websites with free layouts, simple, pleasant and functional, or to buy customizations (the so-called “themes”), which are even richer in features and graphics sophistication. But even the first ones (the free ones) can be fine.
- Think about your customers: it will help you develop interesting content
If you want your website to be full of interesting content (and you MUST WANT it, because it’s a very important thing), do the following:
- List all possible visitors to your website: new prospects landing for the first time on the website; returning prospects; customers; partner companies; media, newspapers, trade magazines; suppliers; candidates interested in sending a resume, etc…
- Write down the list of contents that each visitor may want to find on the website;
- Study the competitors’ websites, to see how they behave regarding what is written above;
- Visit the websites of trade associations, independent organizations, trade journals, to take some further cues.
- Organize your content
Now it’s time to think about how you’d like to organize your content.
If you had a shop, would you know how to arrange the different items for sale?
Try to identify yourself with a visitor who lands on your website, and make sure that he quickly finds what he’s looking for, whether he lands on the home page, or on any other internal page.
- Make a list of the features you need
Don’t worry about the technical aspects, don’t worry about the functional aspects.
What do you want your website to “do“?
- Do you need a “shopping cart” to show your products and get orders?
- An automatic messaging system?
- Do you want visitors to register and access a reserved area?
- Do you want to be able to manage movies and audio recordings?
- Will you receive support requests? Do you need a help-desk to create a case study of requests, so as to automate part of the work?
- Since you will continuously update the product catalog and content, do you need an administration tool to quickly update the content?
- What reports do you need? What do you want to measure?
- Define requirements and graphic standards
Your logo, product brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc., should already refer to a coordinated corporate image.
The same goes for the website: colours, fonts, etc.
The important thing is that the corporate image is consistent at 360°, online and offline.
At this point, if you have followed the steps, you should have a few dozen pages of notes in your hand, which represent the overall project, the idea of your website.
Now you can finally select who will take care of the development of the website.
If you have technical resources within you, the preliminary work you have just done will help you to instruct them on what to do.
If you turn to the outside world, they will serve as functional specifications and as reminders.
If you turn to the outside, a reliable supplier must:
- in case of an existing website, make an analysis of it, and suggest changes in content, architecture, page layout, graphics. Proposals for changes should not be made to criticize and seem better, nor to put in a bad light those who built the website, but with the sole purpose of improving the effectiveness of the new website;
- analyse the traffic to the website (if it already exists), and set up reports and statistics on the number and habits of visitors;
- identify and select the right suppliers and software: where to register the website, to whom to entrust the hosting, who will take care of the positioning on search engines, which is the best software such as shopping cart, etc…
- plan on which words to optimize the positioning of the website in search engines;
- suggest the ideal architecture of the website;
- write the contents of the pages (by collecting, using, and integrating the information you have provided);
- design subscription mechanisms, so that visitors leave their e-mail address and are allowed to communicate with them;
- design e-mail marketing campaigns;
- preparing for the use of video and audio;
and finally show you a draft of the project as a whole, with all the recommendations on architecture, navigability, usability, and of course the contents.
One last suggestion: the website is a business tool, not a laboratory for crazy scientists. So be wary of the following categories:
- those who use too many technical terms;
- the geeks who can’t make you an understandable diagram of the website architecture on paper;
- those who are too full of themselves.