The following is an excerpt from “Make the Website Work: The Small Agency’s Guide to Creating Effective Marketing Sites for Themselves and Their Clients,” Mark O’Brien’s forthcoming book to be published in 2011 by Rockbench. O’Brien is the president of web-development firm Newfangled.
You’ve heard from O’Brien before. I interviewed him last October for “Five Web Development Myths Debunked.” And on Feb. 10, O’Brien will present “Cure for the Common Website: Using Personas to Boost Site Performance,” right here at MarketingProfs—$129 well spent, free for Pro members.
O’Brien says planning a website is hard to do, and most people miss the mark because they jump right into “doing” before giving enough attention to the planning. He suggests that the next time you start a web project, try starting by asking yourself these three questions:
- Who am I trying to attract?
- What do they want from my website?
- What do I want from them?
These deceptively simple questions will get you started on the right track for planning your site and the criteria by which you’ll measure its success for years to come.
1. Who am I trying to attract?
Your site is your most important marketing asset and as such it has one primary audience: your prospects. Whether you realize it or not, every audience consists of many subgroups. Each subgroup can be defined by its “persona.” To fully understand your audience, you’ll want to undertake an exercise to identify and understand each persona. For now— so we can answer the next two questions—let’s just agree that your site exists to serve those who might eventually hire you.
2. What do they (those who might eventually hire me) want from my website?
They want answers. The better job your site does of answering the questions that prospective customers have about how they can solve their marketing problems, the more leads your site will generate. Once buyers realize how thoroughly your site answers their questions, they will begin to see it as a valuable educational resource and will become willing and even eager to sign up to receive your input on a regular basis in the forms of newsletters, blogs, web seminars, white papers, e-books, podcasts, videos, etc.
That’s assuming buyers can find your site. To lure in prospects that desire your expertise but don’t yet know you exist, you must diligently add content to your site that describes your expertise in detail so that Google can direct the right sort of prospects your way. Your prospects find your site essentially by asking Google about the marketing questions they are struggling to answer.
3. What do I want from them?
You want two things: their information and their attention. Both of these things are acquired via “calls to action”— copy on your website that tells people to do something very specific. Working off the example above, the prospect that found your site through a Google search, and then identified it as being an educational resource should be presented with a clear, concise, and a compelling offer to receive your content for free on a regular basis. If they landed on a page from one of your newsletters, for example, they should see a call to action in the right hand sidebar, above the fold, that invites them to sign up to receive your newsletter via email. They should be asked to give you their name and email (and that’s about it) in exchange for a promise to send them an email alert every time you add a newsletter to your site— along with a solemn vow never to sell their information to anyone else.
However, if they haven’t identified your site as a valuable educational resource, there is not a thing you can do to entice them to sign up for anything—iPad giveaways be damned. So work on making sure your website is a good resource, first.
Getting prospects’ information is valuable but actually it’s the getting of their attention that is invaluable. Even if subscribers only read a portion of one out of every ten newsletters, they will be reminded of your firm and your expertise every single time. At the very least (if they do not unsubscribe) they will see your name at least once monthly. This regular, subtle and helpful reminder will help keep your firm at the top of their mind when the need to hire a firm like yours arises and confirm the value of your website as a powerful marketing asset.