1. The Message
Your website is an extension of your business, sometimes it is your business. You are trying to communicate some sort of message about your company or products/services – what is it? If you’ve never considered this question, chances are the fundamental purpose of your online presence is being missed. If you don’t know what your core message is neither do your customers. Users who can’t identify this message in a matter of moments look elsewhere. Their time is precious and you’re not getting to the point. If you’re certain you know what that message is and you’ve tried to implement it on your site, have friends or family look at your site and tell you what it is. If they don’t know then you need to rework your content, perhaps even your site, to clarify.
Example: A pet shop owner has various accessories online, but what sets them apart from their competitors is a full service package of grooming and dog training. Within seconds of arriving on their home pageThis is the main page of your site and the URL is domain name you buy for a website, such as onlineimage.com (without prefixes). The homepage URL is also known as the root domain., a user should see the full service package, their eye drawn visually to the words with a button to “learn more”. From there it can take them to a page that is optimized for that package listing everything included, touring users as though they were actually talking to a sales associate.
What action do you want your users to take when they get to your site? What do you consider conversionWhen a visitor does what you want them to on your page, that’s a conversion. You can set any conversion goal, but common ones are phone calls, form submittal, newsletter signups and purchases.? Do you want them to call you? If the answer is yes, is your phone number easy to find? Is it large and does it stand out from the rest of your content? Again, do some testing, if your friends and family have to physically be shown where your phone number is, the site is failing in directing your clients and won’t convert. Do you want them to fill in a form to get information on your market? Is the form the first thing a user sees when they come to your site? Are they being told directly to fill out the form? Is it simple and direct? Remember, their time is precious, so get straight to the point.
Do they need to share a promotion with family and friends in their social networks? Have you made it easy for them to do so? Should they buy your products? Does your site say anything like “Buy Now”? Do you want your site to be the authority in your industry in regard to information? Have you developed what they would likely be coming to your site to learn?
Of course, have you even asked what you consider conversion? If you don’t know this answer, your users likely don’t know what they’re supposed to do on your site and will move on to someone who does.
Once someone has seen your site, it generally requires new content and updates to bring them back. Why is this important? If you become one of their favorite or most useful sites, they’ll tell anyone else who also has need of you that you exist. Do you take the time to update features, new products, best services, this month’s coupons and the like? 81% of consumers research online before they make large purchases and this is bleeding over into your average purchase. The time of building a website and walking away from it is over; it’s an important extension of your business.
What you put into your site is what you will see returned. Like an employee, without management it won’t work for you.
4. Identifying Your Audience
Does your website talk to teenagers but is actually meant for middle aged home owners? Or worse, meant for teenagers but speaks to middle aged home owners? This concept seems like common sense, but having been in the business for ten years, I’ve seen this get violated often. There is a lot of in depth research that can be done here in terms of the psychology of color, typography, design and more, but as a basic, test. Ask others just from a glance who they think the site is communicating to; age, location, ethnicity, interests, wealth, etc.
Has your target audience changed? Did the look and language of your site change with them?
Example: The cartoon “Star Wars: Clone Wars” was targeted and marketed for an age range of about 8 – 14. Halfway through airing their first season they realized the people actually watching their show were much older, 20 – 35. These were people who had grown up with the original movies and needed more complex plot-lines and conflicts. They adapted to the understanding of their audience.
5. Consistency of Branding
Would a consumer who had been in your store recognize your website as belonging to your business? Or would they assume they’ve gone to the wrong website because it looks and feels nothing like your store? Part of branding is also creating a bigger picture. Insurance agencies sell financial and future security, not policies. Clothing stores sell style, confidence and identity, not shirts and pants. Car companies sell reliability and safety or luxury and class, not transportation. What is the bigger picture of your brand and are you communicating that to your customers?
Your online image is a reflection of your brick and mortar location, if you have one and should be designed thusly.
If your business is purely online, do your letterheads, emails and other marketing materials sync up with the look and style of your website? What is the bigger concept you should be aiming for to differentiate you from your competitors?
The Purpose of Marketing
Marketing is communication, helping your clients understand you and who you are and why you can satisfy their needs. As websites increase in mobile presence, there are many in your community searching for you right now. You are speaking to them 24/7 whether you are there or not, so knowing you’ve constructed your side of the conversation well is paramount to a successful online presence. Taking the time to make sure your message is being delivered is an investment well worth the effort.