Two Purposes of Your Small Business Website
At its core, your website needs to convey two pieces of information.
- Who / Where / What You Are (Yes, I know I'm cheating by throwing a couple of factors together here, but bear with me.)
- How You Address My Needs (the needs of your audience)
The rest of the tactics and strategies that we bandy about in the marketing world focus in on getting across these two ideas.
I would point to one of these bullet points over the other in terms of importance, but they really do balance each other out. If you don't tell me what it is that you do — clearly and quickly — then I won't care about who you are and where you're located. If I agree that what you do is awesome and would like to obtain your products or services but I can't find you, then I'm super bummed out. I would have been better off not coming to your site at all.
Think about how frustrating that gap in communication is to your potential customers for just a moment. We'll look at the specifics of what you need to convey, but how many times have you discovered an incorrect listing in an online directory? I've pulled into parking lots of businesses that have been closed or moved for more than a year, but their listing says they should still be there. Even worse, their website may even say that they should still be there. As I sit in an empty parking lot, I'm not too thrilled. And neither are you.
Let's keep that from happening to people who want to do business with you.
Start with the Basics
If you already have a website, can a visitor take a look at your homepage and quickly tell what it is that you do / your business offers?
I used to work quite a bit with churches that focused heavily on community outreach, and they often adapted names like “Elevate” or “Stonebridge Community.” The names were nice since they weren't too stodgy, but conversations later revealed that community members couldn't tell what these groups were supposed to be solely on the name.
Was “Elevate” a dance club or a church? “Stonebridge Community” a homeowners association or a place of worship?
Maybe your business name helps cut out the confusion right away, but your site may not be as forthright as you think it is. Get some other folks that may not be familiar with your business to take a quick look at your site (maybe 10 to 15 seconds) and then see how much they were able to learn about your business in that short time.
On your homepage, you need to quickly and clearly address who you are and what you do. Right away. In as clear terms as possible. People are making decisions about whether to stay on your site far more quickly than the amount of time we allowed for your website recruits we mentioned in the last paragraph.
Here's a quick list of homepage elements you'll need if you're a small business with a physical location:
- Your business name
- Your logo (if you have one)
- Your address
- Your phone number
- A quick description of what you do
While you don't necessarily need an email contact form on the homepage, make sure you provide your customers with some means to send you a message.
You'll also want a thorough list of your services / products, but we need to view that content through the eyes of your customer. So, let's switch perspectives. We've talked about ourselves enough for now.
Tell Them How You Can Help
Customers only want to know about what you do only enough to understand if you're going to be the right solution for them or not. Of course, since customers' knowledge levels about your product or service differ so drastically, you'll need to go about answering those questions a few different ways.
The first level of your explanation is to clearly convey the "what." What is your service? Make sure that you're clear enough that you're showing people that you work with motorcycles and not bicycles. (Don't just call them "bikes," right?) Even better, let people know that you focus on classic Harley Davidsons instead of providing service for any type of dirt bike, crotch rocket, or newer Harleys.
This distinction leads us to the second level of explanation of your business. It's not enough just to say what you do. You also also have to show how you're different from the competition. Granted, you're probably not the only one who offers the product or service that you do, but you may be the only one in close proximity. You may be the only one to approach it in a certain way.
Benefits of Taking the Time to Explain
If you think about the value of clear explanations solely from a business perspective, it makes all the sense in the world. But we're busy, right? We don't have enough time to detail out everything we do -- even though we likely explained it in conversations with customers several times today.
So let's save ourselves more time by actually writing these explanations. Not only do we handle the questions of the customers we had the chance to talk with, but we also get to clarify for all of the people who wouldn't have picked up the phone or taken the time to stop by the office or store.
Not only are you providing answers to your current site visitors, but you're also providing indexable answers for search engines to offer to searchers. When your content is clearly written, then you'll start to see increased traffic from searchers.
How Far Should You Take Your Explanations?
Once you've covered your topic with some depth, how far should you take it? How many articles do you write?
Like any other aspect of business marketing, you need to focus on your ROI. Pay attention to your web stats to see if visitors are attracted to your content. Look at your site ranking for related keywords to see if search engines are placing your site in a prominent position. Check social media to see if you're getting shares, or use a service like Shared Count to quickly check across channels.
If you see that people are paying attention to your explanations, then keep getting them out there. Whether you purpose the content as a blog, a podcast, an article, or whatever. Focus on helping people understand how you can help with online content, and you'll be miles ahead of a huge portion of the market.