COVID upended entire economies, industries, supply chains, consumer behaviors and finances in ways that prevented a return to ‘business-as-usual’ and life as it was once known. Pressures on small business owners became heavy and immense.
The silver lining is that this crisis represents an opportunity to revisit old assumptions and see if there’s a better way of doing things. Many things will be outside of your control, but many things still remain within your control too.
One of these is optimizing your website.
There is no greater impact you could make on your marketing efforts at a lesser cost than optimizing your website. Why? Because your website is the centrepiece of all your other marketing activities and investments. At the end of the day, almost everything reverts back to your website.
You might be doing a whole range of marketing activities across a broad spectrum of channels. Maybe you do Google Ads. Maybe you advertise on Facebook. Maybe you send a weekly company newsletter… Whatever you do, each of these marketing tactics aim to draw eyeballs to your website as one of—if not the most—important goals.
With this being the case, you need to think about your website as a ‘virtual showroom’ for your business, no different to a physical showroom that customers would come and visit.
What impression do you want customers to have when visiting your physical shopfront? What impression do you want customers to have when walking into your office? What impression should customers be left with after talking to your staff?
Whatever the answers are to those questions, so too should they equally apply to your website. In fact, having a website that leaves a bad taste in customers’ mouths runs the risk of actually causing more harm than not having a website at all.
Given that it’s the 21st century, and almost every customer expects the businesses they deal with to have a website, you don’t have much of an option to do anything but to have a website that puts your best foot forward.
The good news is that creating a top-class website is relatively simple and inexpensive. Furthermore, this small investment enhances the return on investment you derive from your other marketing investments too.
An additional benefit of optimizing your website is the ongoing value you derive the more time passes by. Development costs are diluted on an annualized basis, whilst concurrently delivering an increasing return on investment the longer the time frame. This also compliments the greater return on investment you derive from all the other marketing channels that direct customers to your website too.
These days it’s relatively easy to find a cost-effective web developer able to build you a quality website for a good price. Your website isn’t the place to be cutting corners if that short-term gain comes with long-term pain.
Depending on the complexity of your business and your appetite for building a best-of-breed site, there are always a number of free website builders you may wish to consider. Some of the more popular ones include WordPress, Wix, Weebly and Site123.
When optimizing your website to win, grow and retain customers; here are a few things to keep in mind…
Keep it Simple, Clean and Professional
Your website is the online version of your bricks-and-mortar shop front. In the same way that a physical outlet needs to be clean, well-branded and easy to navigate; so too does your website. You can’t afford to leave a bad taste in prospective customers’ mouths.
If the user experience is unenjoyable or overly-complicated, then the customer is able to look elsewhere with the click of a button.
Communicate Key Information
Having a website is like having a shop that’s open 24/7—always accessible to customers whenever they want to visit. However, unlike a physical shop, it won’t be manned by staff working every minute of every day.
This creates a responsibility to ensure you’ve done everything you can to provide all that a customer might want. Pre-empt their questions and ensure you share sufficient information around your business, your offering and value drivers of interest to customers.
Make Your Website Multi-Device Friendly
In the past, people used to access websites almost exclusively via their desktop computers. With the prevalence of smartphones and big data plans, more and more people are using their mobile and tablet devices just as much, if not more.
It is therefore in your interest to not only create a website that works well for desktop viewing, but equally so for mobile and tablet devices too. The mobile browsing experience is different to sitting in front of a computer with a big screen, so make sure the end-to-end user experience caters towards technological and browsing differences between devices.
Add Social Proof
Different people are looking for different things from your website. Depending on how close a customer is to making a purchase will determine what’s required from you to get them over the line.
For customers far-advanced through their buying cycle, a major obstacle standing between where they are and making a purchase, is having faith in your business and its offering.
Social proof is the best way of providing this to them. It includes things like customer reviews and testimonials. Displaying these on your website validates past customer satisfaction in an authentic and believable way.
Ensure it’s Easy to Get in Touch
Irrespective of what stage the customer is at in their buying cycle, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to get in touch for whatever reason they need to.
They may be looking for a certain product, trying to understand features and benefits, or may simply have a question that’s not answered on your site. Whatever the reason, ensure that your website makes it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch.
Offer Incentives and Discounts
Through reviewing web analytics of the pages that get visited, you can infer things that are of probable interest to the visitors of your site. This allows you to offer incentives for things that are of likely interest too.
For example, if someone were looking at running shoes on your website, you may wish to display a 10% discount on all footwear products for the next 24 hours.
With minimal cost or complexity, you’re able to add promotional features like customized popups that play to the visitor’s interests and edge them closer towards making a purchase.
Share Great Content
Different customers will come to your website for different reasons depending on where they’re at in their buying cycle. For some, they may just be looking for your contact details so they can make an immediate purchase. For others, they may be looking for general information that needn’t have come specifically from you.
The extent to which you’re able to convincingly prove your relevance will determine whether less-progressed visitors continue in the direction of purchase with you.
Consider adding a blog, tips and resources to serve as drawcards for coming to your website and giving prospective customers a sneak-peak of your capabilities and subject-matter expertise.
Incorporate Back Into Your Holistic Marketing Strategy
It’s easy to think you’ve done your job once you’ve built a best-of-breed website. However this will amount to little if no one ever visits it.
Creating your website is just the first step of the process. The next is deploying a multi-channel marketing strategy that magnetizes target customers towards it.
This involves deploying a suite of marketing tactics; like content marketing, Pay Per Click advertising and social media marketing.
Integrate your website into a holistic marketing strategy that leverages marketing automation and synchronizes with your other marketing channels like email and social media.
Whilst your website naturally lends itself favorably to digital marketing tactics, don’t forget to reference it in ‘offline’ marketing channels too—like direct mail and print advertisements.
Review Your Web Analytics
With minimal effort and negligible costs, you’re able to integrate web tracking and analytics software into your website. You gain access to customized reports that illuminate invaluable insights into…
- Who’s visiting your site
- What they’re looking at
- Where they’re coming from
- When they’re using it
- Why they’re visiting
All of this enables you to continually optimize your website to create high-impact targeted experiences that are appealing to visitors and support your sales efforts.
COVID introduced new and unprecedented pressures on small business owners. These owners are rightfully looking for strategies to address these challenges in the most cost-effective way. Optimizing your website represents the low-hanging fruit for maximizing results at minimal cost and effort. For savvy business owners looking to win, grow and retain their customers throughout these challenging times, optimizing your website represents a logical and prudent starting point.
About the Author: Evian is the author of Coming Back From COVID – the definitive guide for small business owners to rapidly recover from the coronavirus. He is also the Founder and CEO of two start-ups: Padlifter and Ringcommend. Prior to that, he was a management consultant as well as Head of Digital Marketing for a global business consulting firm.