Pride or Profit? 6 Steps to Avoid this Common Business Website Mistake

vanity website
My mom loves my website but my customers…not so much?”

Do you have a vanity website or one built to sell?

If you are like most small business people, you are probably still saying, “I just wish I could get my name out there!”.

Unfortunately, the days of web design when you could just ‘build it and they will come’ are long over.

Nowadays, you need a website that creates profitable leads or brings in-store traffic – not just brand recognition.

But unfortunately that is not what is happening.

All the time I meet with small business people who have what I call “branded brochure” websites. These are the websites that were solely created to promote the company’s online “brand” and increase awareness or name recognition.

These site are frequently just very beautiful digital versions of the company’s sales brochure. They are NOT very effective at bringing in leads or getting new customers.

Which do you need? A Pretty Website vs. a Profitable One?

Do you need more sales? If so then your website should be built to sell. Yet most web designers are NOT trained in web marketing.

They aren’t interested in becoming “internet” marketers. In fact, the majority of them just simply want to do their web design and programming work in peace. They want to create beautiful websites, not get their hands dirty with marketing “crap”.

I know web designers because I have been in the same classes as they go to.  And I have seen that technology school instructors never talk about marketing – online or offline. EVER.  Marketing was some foreign language taught over at the business school.

Mention business or internet marketing and you will have most of them hissing and spitting.

Despite this, technology school instructors often have backgrounds in graphic design or commercial art. They have either worked with advertising agencies or been part of an in-house marketing department at some big corporation.

Their job is to help get their students jobs. So they only teach how to create “corporate-style” websites for enterprise-sized companies.

These sites are very visually impressive, with smooth running, glitch-free coding that are often simply amazing.

But these same enterprise-style sites (what are called brochure websites) are not made to sell or promote much of anything. They are designed to be run by an ad agency or by a internal marketing department.

Think of them as finely crafted race cars with lots of styling and power under the hood … sitting at a standstill on the track … being passed by slower cars because there is nobody willing to sit down and DRIVE.

And the “driver” behind websites that sell is the site’s web copy.

When it comes to online marketing success, words equal wealth.

Your Ego vs. Your Results

I recently attended a WordPress conference where a speaker who was a developer at a big design firm told us, “I no longer create content for websites.” He went on to say,”Now I ask them [the client] to provide the content [web copy] and I will wait until I get it before I start a new project…”

There is nothing wrong with this practice. I get it. They want to focus on what they do best.

Designers and web developers are not online marketing experts and usually don’t have training or the interest in the field to become one. Just like car mechanics and automotive engineers are not race car drivers.

So the web copy that appears or doesn’t appear on a website in their minds is really not their problem.

This means the website content ends up being done by the business owner. They often struggle for days or weeks to create web copy that they think is good enough…

Or they dump it on the closest family member they have, who likes  to write. That person often writes poetry or essays for their personal blog. Seriously.

Hint: poets can’t write to sell any better than web designers.

Because the website’s content is done by marketing amateurs it frequently ends up as “look-at-me” copy.

Web copy that is:

  • Just blatant bragging about the owner’s company and it’s achievements,
  • Full of self-aggrandizing B.S. about the owner’s life or work experience,
  • Or text that is so unclear, and poorly formatted that visitors get confused & just click away.

The lack of in-demand, consumer-focused content makes the website virtually useless as a marketing hub.

And…

if your website doesnt generate leads

I also believe this is the main reason why so many people end up wasting thousands of dollars trying to bring in new business with advertising and spending countless hours doing social media drudgery.

By now you might be wondering if brochure websites like those mentioned above, are so bad for business, why do web designers still create them?

Because they still make money — for the designers, at least.

You see, as a web designer it is much, much, much easier to sell a client a “look-at-me” brochure website than one that actually works to brings in new business.

If you build a business website with lots of high-end logos and visual branding with wickedly cool looking programming tricks,  you will never run out of “me-too” clients.

This is because more business websites have been built to satisfy a client’s vanity and ego (or building “brand name awareness”) than ever have been built to increase a company’s profits.

Here’s quick quiz to prove my point.

Which do you think is the easier website headline to sell to a small business owner:

“YOUR NAME & FIRM LOGO GOES HERE”

-or-

“YOUR CUSTOMER’S PAINFUL PROBLEM GOES HERE”

Most small business people will pick the first headline. What business owner doesn’t like to see his/her name in lights?

I, myself have had a obsessive on-again, off-again love affair with my branding ever since I created my first website blog. My first blog site was beau-ti-ful. It had a great looking theme with rotating sliders with my logo placed up high at the top: for the world to see.

I loved my first WordPress site because it made me feel “slightly famous”.  I was proud because I was “getting my name out there”.

If an picture (or logo) is worth a thousand words, I should have been rich by now because, I eventually changed my brand visuals (logos and color schemes), some 23 times…here’s a few:

Yes, 23 times … I did mention I had gotten a wee bit obsessive, didn’t I?

It was a great looking site but it never made me a dime … until I stopped messing around with my “image” and changed out the web copy to reflect the needs of my potential customers..

As you might have noticed, now I favor a more text-based website that hopefully persuades interested people to stay longer and learn more about how to use a website to market and promote their small businesses.

No one likes to be overlooked. So we all have a strong desire to be seen and to celebrate and feel proud of our successes.

Unfortunately, this natural desire for “visibility” is often used to sell websites.

Frankly, many web designers aren’t interested in the results a business website produces unless the client is interested in the results.

This means they completely ignore the importance of website copy.

And because of this, far too many small companies end up with “me-too” web copy that sucks at helping them stand out from their competitors, generating leads or motivating people to buy their stuff.

It is the persuasive writing – the website copy – not the your site’s visual appeal or your logo that convinces people to do business with you!

But often ego overrides results. Hey, I did 23 times before I learned better!

Here’s another example. When I first started creating websites, I did one for a local potter.

He kept telling me he wanted to mention that his family had been potters for multiple generations – on the front page.  I told him, “Nobody really cares about how many generations of potters your family has had. Customers just want to know if you have pottery pieces nice enough for them to give to their mommas.”

Well, I learned the hard way that’s not really true. There is at least one person who cares a great deal about how many generations there were: the potter. And he was the one paying for the website.

So I changed the logo to mention that their company was run by 10th generation potters.  Most web designers would have left it at that. After all it was not their website, not their problem.

But it frustrated me. Because I knew he wasn’t going to get the results (leads, sales) that he wanted.

I decided right then, to take a a different approach to building business websites…

I strongly believe that for most small businesses, your company website should mainly function as an online marketing hub.
vanity website

You can stop waving that pitchfork around and set down that torch!

Now wait, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not telling you that you should turn your website into an ugly mish-mash hardcore sales messages or use tricky internet marketing gimmicks.

I’m not not even suggesting you use “truthful hyperbole” as Donald Trump once recommended in his book “The Art of the Deal”.

Your website should be never be just about pitching your products or services. Nor should it about boosting your ego, either.

  • Your website should engage your audience’s attention,
  • Your website should educate them about the problems you can help solve,
  • Your website should contain all helpful information they need to make a good buying decision.

And then – and only then – when you are done all of these things, you should ask them for their business.

Now a customer’s decision-making process can take just a few seconds or a few months, depending on how urgent their problem is or how expensive and complex (confusing) the solution is.

All this means is that the timing of when a customer decides to make a purchase is always out of your control.

Which is why your company website must always be ready to capture their attention, pull them into your circle of influence and get them to stay long enough for your web copy to persuade them to take action.

If you are like most small businesses, action really means “getting the phone to ring or the door to swing”.

When done right, web copy actually increases trust, builds your reputation as an expert and increases your conversions, so you get more leads and sales.

6 Steps to Building a Profitable Site (Without Getting a Big Head)

1- First off, your website should be planned and designed from the beginning to attract the right customers to your products and services.

From the intital website design, topics and page titles to the overall layout and structure, you’re looking to get your website in front of your ideal customers and then get him or her to start moving through your site’s conversion system or sales funnel.

2- From the beginning, mainly on your home page, you need to establish quickly that you understand your customer’s problem or challenge, and that you can help them solve it. You can do this by creating a compelling headline and follow it up with a sub-headline that packs an emotional punch.

It also helps to tell a little story that agitates the pain of not solving the problem, to make people feel at a gut level that they need to find a solution to this problem quickly. Then introduce yourself an an expert (or at least a specialist or problem-solver in the field).

3- Now your website needs the right type of content so you can educate your audience and help them understand all their purchase options. Your job is to explain what existing solutions are available (including those of your competitors) and which ones you believe are better, even if it’s not yours.

It helps to be helpful. But by using this kind of educational-based content, you will also be setting up the buying criteria that favors your products or services.

You should time to highlight in detail the products/services that your company offers. Every of your products or services has its own pros/cons and you should create content that helps people explore and compare each one in throughly.

4- Use blog posts to tell people what to do. Make them useful. While the idea is to use blogging to bring ideal customers into your sphere of influence, you don’t want people who don’t buy from you to feel like them have been bamboozled or hoodwinked either.

And offering free information doesn’t mean you have to tell them every little thing on how to solve their problem. Companies that offer professional services always worry about this.

You only have to give people a useful overview of how the process works – not an depth tutorial. Occassionally, you might get complaints becasue some people always want “something for nothing” – well, you gave them “something” and it didn’t cost you “nothing”.

Don’t stress over these folks because this type of person makes for a very, crappy customer.

You just need to be clear and explain that you do offer your professional services as a solution that has several advantages and benefits over struggling to do everything on your own.

5- Use blog posts to answer people’s questions. Don’t be afraid to answer consumer questions (no matter how silly). There are million dollar businesses that have come from the brink of bankruptcy back to success because they were willing to answer people’s questions truthfully and openly online.

Answering customer questions is critical whether you sell products or services. If you notice that people are having problems with one of your products or services, give an explanation right now.

Why wait until someone gets pissed and then you have to answer to them while fighting a nasty online review?

And did you know, search engines like Google are now giving traffic boosts to websites that answer questions better than their competitors?

Of course, there is no guarantee that Google will showcase one of your questions – but like the lottery, you can win if you don’t have a ticket.

6-Finally, make sure you’ve loaded up your website with stories of successful clients and testimonials or reviews from those who’ve used your products or services.

One neat trick is to pepper your website copy with quotes from satified customers. These happy quotes makes your web content easier to read, more interesting, and more believable. Plus, people like to see or read aobut examples of others like them who’ve been success with what you’ve to offer.

Well, there is more at work to getting your website up and running as marketing machine that will do your selling work for you but I don’t have enough time to write about it today.

If you are interested getting a new website? > Feel free to just drop me a line here.