This is the second of four posts that will prepare you to build your website.
- Part 1: Identify Your Audience
- Part 2: Tailor Your Message
- Part 3: Create Your Site Plan
- Part 4: Gather Your Assets
What is the purpose of your website? What are you hoping to happen after you launch? What do you want people to do on your website during their visit? These are very important questions that will help shape your site and identify your specific website needs.
Photo by: JeffP
Purposes of a business website:
Your message will be dictated by the purpose that you set for your site. Essentially, website purposes can be divided into a few different categories: promotion, marketing, sales, and support. Websites in each of the categories are created and organized slightly differently to achieve their goals. We’ll discuss each of the primary categories below before moving on to a very critical part of messaging: your call to action. This is where you guide your audience to the goal you have set for them.
Promotion: Generate awareness
The aim of a promotional site is to increase awareness of a company or product by offering "official" information about themselves. The primary audience of these sites are potential customers who may not be aware of their products or services or are at least not well-informed about the company. Upon leaving a promotional site, the site owner hopes that visitors will consider them when they are ready to make a purchase or that they will share the information with others, eventually resulting in additional sales.
Usually a promotion-focused site is best for companies that do not do direct sales through their website but still need to provide more information about products or services. A simple promotional website is often called a brochure site as it mimics the experience of reading a physical brochure.
When it comes to the content on a promotional website, share the specifics about your organization, your products, or your services that will appeal to your target audience. Put extra effort into keeping everything up-to-date. Try to add fresh content whenever possible as well to keep visitors interested and rewarding them when they come back. A good way to accomplish this is to maintain an active blog.
Blogging can be a very powerful tool for promotional websites. The stream of content that you generate can also be a great way to create more awareness about your company. Are there specific problems that you can help your readers solve? Can you educate them about your industry? Do you have a unique spin on a process that they might find fascinating?
Marketing: Generate leads
Marketing websites are designed to generate leads. These sites have the primary goal of convincing visitors to contact the company by phone, email, or in person. They are often used by service sellers—lawyers, tradesmen, designers, or photographers—or businesses promoting their brick and mortar store. The site owners want visitors to reach out to the them so they can start the process of becoming a customer. This could be accomplished by asking the visitor to request a free quote or by promoting a sale at their physical store.
If you opt to create a marketing website, it is important to tailor the content of the site to build trust and curiosity about your product or services. You should also spend extra energy making sure it is very easy for visitors to get in touch with you. This can be done by prominently displaying your phone number, email address, and street address. Another possibility is to use an online form to make it simple and fast for a potential customer to contact you without leaving your website.
If you decide to add a form to your site, make sure to balance the amount of information you are requesting with the amount of energy your target audience will be willing to enter into form. When it doubt, ask for less information in order to get a higher amount of responses.
If your main goal is to drive traffic to a street address like a storefront or office, consider adding an interactive map to your website. This may sound daunting, but Google maps is very easy to embed onto a page and can be set to display your address on the map and even allow the visitor to enter their location to see immediate driving directions.
Sales: Generate online purchases
Sales websites are focused on ecommerce. It is important that visitors to these site can make their purchases easily and quickly. People should be presented with information that will encourage them to make a purchase. You should attempt to anticipate and answer any questions their customers might have to eliminate any hurdles during the purchasing process.
If you create a website devoted to sales, it is a good practice to create a separate page of your site for each product or service that you offer. Put all of the details of the item on the page and focus on the benefits that it provides your audience. Try to appeal to them on an emotional level. Explain how your item or service can help them solve a particular problem that you identified, and reassure them by clearly explaining your guarantee and refund policies.
Product photos are also very important. Try to use both images of your item in a professionally lit environment and photos of the product in use. Obviously any people in the photos should resemble your target audience.
Support: Generate satisfaction
When a website is communicating primarily to existing customers, the purpose may fall into the support category. Websites focused on support should provide extensive documentation that allow customers to answer their own questions or provide an easy way to contact the appropriate people if they have additional requests.
A good support website will help you build an active community of users who are satisfied with your products or services. These sites can also have a strong impact on customer retention and follow-up sales. Your customers tend to seek you out only when they are having problems. If you are able to anticipate these by creating tutorials and FAQs, you provide them with a positive experience and make a lasting impression.
Most companies have a much better idea of who their customers are, so it should be easier to speak directly to your audience with this type of website. Share your news, changes, and improvements on your support website—but again, do not discount the importance of simple and efficient communication. Forms and other contact information are often integral parts of these sites.
The most important feature of many support pages is a good search function. Both Swiftype and Google Custom Search provide very powerful, easy-to-use search tools that can be added to any website.
Call to action
With the purpose for your website in mind, you will next want to clarify the specific task that you want your visitors to complete. This is your call to action. Here are a few quick tips to help you craft yours in a way that your target audience will find irresistible.
- Clarity is essential. Visitors should immediately know exactly what you expect from them whether it is to navigate to a page listing the specifics of your product, complete a form to get in touch with you, or make a purchase right on your website.
- Avoid vague wording. Calls to action should be concise and very clear. Don’t create vague links that say nothing more than “buy now” or “click here”. Instead try “Create your free website” or “Find out more about Acme products”. This has a dual purpose of improving clarity and also helping your site gain a boost in search engine results for those terms.
- Make your request impossible to miss. The easiest way to do this is to place your call to action “above the fold” which means that it is immediately visible on the screen without requiring your visitor to scroll down on the page. The right colors, fonts, placement, and supporting imagery will go a long way in helping you effectively communicate.
With your audience and messaging prepared, the next step is to start creating your website offline by drafting a site plan. I’ll cover site plans in the next installment of Preparing to Build Your Website.
Read part three: Preparing to Build Your website: Create Your Site Plan
Multi-talento at Jimdo
Brent Gummow has been building websites for small businesses, non-profits, artists, and educators for the past 17 years in both Ohio and California.
He currently serves as the Multi-talento in Jimdo's San Francisco office, solving problems, educating users, and helping to grow awareness about Jimdo, the easiest website builder on the web.