Originally published at Hoovers.com
Your website is much more than an online storefront for your small business. If properly optimized, your website can become one of the most important resources in your marketing toolkit. It can help your customers find you online, generate new leads, enhance your authority in your industry, and significantly increase overall profits.
If a website is so important for running a successful small business, why do so many business owners overlook it? You’ve probably seen many bad websites: poorly designed, poorly planned, with little-to-no value for the visitor.
Many small business owners believe that creating a great website is too expensive. Others simply don’t know how powerful and impactful a website can be when the right tools are used.
Boosting profits with your website isn’t just about using the right website design. In order to increase your website’s ROI, it’s crucial to include five core website essentials throughout your site. These essential items will help…
- Enhance the value of your site for the visitor
- Make it easy to follow up with visitors who truly interested
- Position your business as a thought leader in your field
A great website is an experience. It allows your audience to connect with your brand in a meaningful way. That connection, above all else, converts visitors into subscribers, subscribers into fans, and fans into paying customers.
Here are five easy-to-implement, cost-effective essentials that every small business website should have:
1. A Clear Value-add
Many small business owners think of their website as a glorified shopping cart or contact form. This is a mistake. The main job of your website is to add value for your visitor. When you provide your website visitor with something of value, you immediately engender trust. It is this trust that helps them get to know your company and ultimately leads them to purchase your products or services.
So what do I mean by “adding value”? That means you offer something – whether it’s information, a sample product, or an experience – that the visitor can benefit from right now.
Use your website to…
- Answer common questions with a comprehensive FAQ page
- Educate your visitor on the ins and outs of your industry
- Solve common problems facing your end users
When someone visits your website and their life is made better because of the visit, not only will they return again and again; they are much more likely to convert into a paying customer.
2. A Customer-centric Interface
Your website should be easy to navigate, and should be set up in such a way where the visitor can easily find what they’re looking for.
Use big buttons, easy-to-read fonts, and intuitive design to lead people where they want to go. Don’t make them think too hard, and don’t get too clever in an attempt to be unique. You’ll have plenty of chances to be unique with your brand messaging and content. When it comes to site setup, keep it simple!
3. An Email Opt-in Form
You could have the most valuable, most intuitive website on the internet, but it does little good if you have no idea who’s stopping by. An email opt-in form allows you to capture visitor information so you can follow up with prospective customers in the future. It’s a way to capture leads without being pushy or salesy. Most email opt-in forms are simple forms placed prominently on the pages of your website. Visitors fill in their name and email address, and are then ‘subscribed’ to your community.
An email opt-in form lets you track which prospective customers are interested in your business, and which customers should be placed into your sales funnel. In fact, depending on your type of business, you can combine an email opt-in form with email marketing to deliver marketing messages that inspire your subscriber to the next step in your sales funnel.
By placing email opt-in forms on your website, you can begin to grow an email list. This list of prospective and current customers will allow you to send important updates to those most interested in your business. You can also send special offers via email, as well as subscriber discounts, newsletters, and other types of valuable content that will keep you top-of-mind with your customers.
An email opt-in form gives you the opportunity to deliver even more value than what’s already on your website. It also allows you to grow an email list that can be marketed to independently in order to drive more business and increase profits.
4. A Lead Magnet
A lead magnet is a tool you can use to offer even more value to your website visitors. Some lead magnets include free downloads, whitepapers, infographics, eBooks, or any digital or physical freebie your target market would find valuable.
By giving away a gift that solves your website visitor’s problems, you position yourself as an authority in your industry. Authority engenders trust in the user, which is needed in order for them to make a purchase.
- Make sure your lead magnet is very high quality. If you give away your best content for free, the user automatically assumes your paid products and services will be even better
- Incorporate your lead magnet with your email opt-in form. When users opt-in to your email list, reward them with a valuable freebie as a ‘thank you’ for subscribing
- Offer a lead magnet that solves your target market’s most pressing problem. If you sell skincare products, you could give away an eBook entitled “Top 10 Skincare Secrets for Busy Moms,” or a sample of your product. If you own a flower shop, you could give away a “buy one get one free” coupon for an upcoming holiday.
5. Lots of Fresh Content
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s important to use your website as a platform for publishing valuable content.
“Content” is another way of saying “value-add” for your prospects. Your content might be in the form of a blog post, a video, a podcast, or a digital download – anything your user would find helpful, entertaining, and educational.
Your website is not a static painting. Once it’s been designed, you’re not “done.” Instead, your website should be a living, breathing platform used to deliver value to your prospective customers on a regular, basis.
Original content transforms your website into the go-to place for answers and information. The more you publish, the more your audience will return to get the answers they need. Before you know it, you’ll have built a loyal following of prospects.
Perhaps the simplest way to regularly publish great content is to write a blog. Blogging is a fast, cost-effective way to…
- Share your knowledge with your audience
- Solve problems and answer questions
- Establish yourself as an expert in your field
- Drive traffic back to your website via social media
You can also incorporate your blog with your email opt-in form. When people subscribe, you can send them regular updates every time you publish a new blog post. This keeps you top-of-mind while increasing website traffic and further solidifying your relationship with the prospect.
Think of your website not as a storefront, but as the beginning of your sales funnel. It is an active place where you go to connect with current and prospective customers, solve their problems, offer endless value, and earn your prospects’ trust.
Consider updating your website with the following five items:
- A clear value-add
- A customer-centric interface
- An email opt-in form
- A lead magnet
- Fresh content
If you include these five core essentials on your website, you’ll be able to swiftly move prospects through your sales funnel and increase profits. But even more importantly, you’ll be able to position your small business as a leader in your industry – a position that is sure to lead to even more profitable ventures and opportunities. If you’re interested in how to make your website look similar to Fortune 500 websites, check out this article.
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