Marketing technologies and tactics are changing at a whirlwind pace… but one of the things that has remained true for years is that a company’s website is – and should be – the foundation of its marketing.
It’s the first place a prospective client will go to learn about your business – your services, team, history and latest news. It’s where resources like blogs, articles and eBooks are stored and accessed. It’s the starting point for communicating with your firm – either directly or as a place to connect with your social media sites. Bottom line: it’s the centerpiece of your brand… the primary element around which all other marketing should be based.
Then why are so many websites in our industry so bad? And in some cases, not just a little bad… but embarrassing!
In this article, we’ll outline the 13 most common website mistakes we’ve found that will impact a site’s usability or the visitors’ perception of your firm (in no particular order):
- No “elevator pitch.” Just like at a networking event, you’ve got 10-15 seconds to grab a visitor’s attention and clearly explain who you are and what you do. So that means the message has got to be front & center on the home page. If it’s unclear, vague or if they have to go hunt for it… you’ve lost them.
- The site design is a little (or a lot) dated. The most egregious contributors to this are:
- The site uses an out-of-date, boxy design
- The fonts and colors are no longer in favor
- It has little or no imagery (images of people are best!)
- It has too much Flash – for website animation. Flash is not only out of favor these days, it also dramatically slows down website load times.
- There is very little white space; it is so crowded with information that the “eye” doesn’t know what to do
- Visitors have to hunt to find things; that is, it has user-unfriendly navigation
- It’s slow to load – due to poor design or a lousy hosting company
Take the time and make the investment in a professional design/development firm to help with this. Too many sites in our industry look homemade and/or amateurish – and neither is a perception you want visitors having of your firm.
- It’s poorly written. The text is just a blathering of facts and most sentences start with “we.” WE do this… WE are great at this… WE developed this… and so on.
- The key: People care less a about what you can do – and more about what you can do for them. As they are reading through your site, they keep asking themselves – “What’s in this for me?” Answer that question on every page.
- Don’t write just about the features of your business (what you do) – but more about the benefits (what prospects gain by doing business with you).
- Remember WHO you’re writing for and talk about how you solve their problems. If you’re a research agency, for example, think about it this way… your clients don’t have research problems… they have business problems that they need research to help solve. So help them…
- Don’t bury them with too much data. You’re not trying to explain everything you do in the minutest detail… you just want to showcase what you do, intrigue them a little and get them to connect with you.
- Yeah… you’re smart… and your prospects are also smart… but you’ll communicate more effectively if you write like you’re explaining your business to your 12-year-old daughter. Keep it simple.
- Not differentiating your business. Most websites highlight what a firm does and who they serve, but very few in our industry express how they’re different and why they should be chosen over the competition. What is your true point of differentiation? Communicate that and you can gain a real competitive advantage. Note: “We have great people and we do great work” ain’t it! Everyone says that.
- Not promoting your team. People in our industry want to get to know the team they’ll be working with… so make sure to include photos & bios of your staff.
- No “reason to believe.” How do you convince new sales prospects that they should take a chance on your firm? Easy… prove to them you’ve done it before. Make sure you provide the following kinds of “proof sources” on your website – a client list with logos, client testimonials, case studies and white papers. Without this kind of proof, it’s like you’re saying to a sales prospect, “Hey… trust me!”
- No links to social media sites. Assuming you have a couple of social media sites (a LinkedIn corporate site and Twitter account, at a minimum), make sure there are links (using the social media icons) to them on every page.
- The site is not optimized for mobile use. I don’t know what your Google Analytics say, but if your site is anything like ours – about 1 in 4 visitors is on a mobile device… and you don’t want them leaving your website because it’s hard to read or navigate. And according to Google, starting on April 21, 2015, mobile-friendliness becomes a factor in search engine ranking.
- You don’t have a blog. A blog should be the cornerstone of any content marketing that you do… it effectively positions you as an industry thought leader… and it positively impacts SEO. And the key to blog success is in its consistency.
- No other resources available. We’re in the knowledge business… providing content – good, useful content (articles, eBooks, infographics, etc.) – builds awareness, positions your firm in the marketplace and differentiates you from the competition. It also gives people a reason to keep coming back to your website, can be used effectively for lead generation and helps with SEO.
- Not measuring your site’s effectiveness. At least once a month – weekly would be better – use Google Analytics to track and monitor your website’s activity. At a minimum, make sure you keep an eye on how many people come to your site, where they come from, how long they stay and which pages they visit.
- Not making it easy to get in touch. Congratulations! Your website’s done a good job of convincing a sales prospect that they should include your firm in their RFP (or RFI) process. Then make it super-easy for them to do that. Provide a phone number, an email and an online form for getting in touch with you. Why all three? Because it’s not what you prefer… it’s what they prefer!
- Not using a CMS (content management system). If you have to pay an outsider (web developer, your nephew, etc.) to do simple things on your site like adding a blog post – you need a new website! Or at least a re-build of your current site using a popular CMS. There are so many proven platforms available that not keeping website management in-house (for the simple things) is just bad business.
The moral of the story: You only get one chance to make a first impression – and in nearly every case, it’s with your website. Don’t blow it because you’re not paying attention to these common website mistakes. Now that you know what to do (and what not to do)… go make it happen!
Good luck and good marketing!