From the late ’90s until recently, the prevalent thinking among businesses of all shapes and sizes was that if you didn’t have a web site, you didn’t really have a business. This resulted in a wild proliferation of billboard and “brochure-ware” web sites that provided little value to either the business or its customers, clients, and constituents. These sites represented a poorly conceived attempt to hang a shingle out in the information marketplace and try to build awareness to attract customers.
It’s the modern-day equivalent of taking an ad out in the yellow pages… only many orders of magnitude worse.
The serious problem for small to mid-sized businesses is, how do you stand out from the massive crowd of all other businesses – and especially your competitors – scrapping for eyeballs?
Today, web-based technologies have developed and evolved such that the tactical role of a stand-alone web site is no longer so clear. We cannot even safely assume that having a web site is really a necessary or advantageous business decision.
The common approach we’ve seen in recent years is to establish the web site as the central business hub that all other web nodes (social media, mobile apps, video platforms, and paid search) feed into.
It’s totally valid, but it’s old-school thinking. The web site becomes your virtual store or office. In this model, customers still have to “come in” to do business with you, except they lose the benefit of face-to-face interaction. In addition, even with tools like Hootsuite to help you consolidate all your social media activity, it’s still a lot of work.
We’re not convinced this is the right approach, although we’re not totally opposed to it.
Your web site is more than a storefront
First, let’s talk about how a web site can be really useful, beyond just promoting your products and services and inviting customers to contact you. A truly effective web site delivers functionality and benefit to both you and your visitors. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
- A real estate web site with neighborhood search for current listings and a mortgage calculator
- A service business web site with a secure customer login area where your team and clients can share files, schedule meetings, communicate privately, and so on…
- A product or eCommerce site with a live chat module so customers can ask questions about a particular product (eg, “does this shirt wear long or short”) and get answers from your service team directly and immediately
I think you get the point. Thoughtfully building interactivity into your site elevates it from a hands-off pitch-and-sell (or don’t!) experience to a hands-on, business and relationship-building engine that’s going to help you create happy customers.
Why drive all your business through your site?
The more taps and clicks a potential customer has to perform to get to you, the less likely they are to actually make a purchase. Say they see your ad on facebook [TAP] which takes them to your YouTube video [TAP to play] which ends with a call-to-action to go to your site [TAP] which they have to navigate to learn more or find the thing they’re looking for [TAP TAP TAP]. They get there, decide to buy, and then there’s a whole bunch more tapping. Painful.
As much as you can, do business with people where they are.
Instead of making them traverse multiple platforms and then navigate your site just to buy something from you, run your facebook ad, point it to a funnel specific to a single product or service, which has your embedded YouTube video right there, but without the embedded call-to-action, because that’s right there on the page… and it’s “BUY THE THING.”
They click or tap, and are taken right into the transaction. Did you keep track? That was two taps (three if they play the video). They’re happy because you got them to what they wanted efficiently and without wasting their time or making them work for it. You’re happy because sales are coming in more easily and frequently thanks to the removal of barriers.
I intentionally used a provocative rhetorical question at the outset of this article. It’s certainly not a simple yes or no answer. Rather, approaching the question of a web site is nuanced, and takes some serious thought about how it can fit into your business. More often than not, the answer will still likely lean toward yes, but it’s important to think seriously about what you want your web site to accomplish, so you know what to ask for.
Feel like you need a web site – or already have one – but aren’t exactly sure why? We would love to spend 30 minutes with you to explore the question together. We’ll listen to your business situation, and provide suggestions and guidance that will help you clear some of the fog. No charge.