Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Harness the True Power of Your Website

by Stacy Karacostas

Remember a few years ago�back before the dotcom bubble burst�when everybody was talking about online shopping? Suddenly new Internet businesses were popping up left and right, only to fail miserably.

A lot of pundits said it was just too soon. That people hadn't had the chance to get over their fear of shopping on the Web.

Now, times and technology have changed, and Web transactions are a whole lot safer. Plus the ease and convenience of online shopping has made it almost a no-brainer.

So even though it took a few years longer than expected, shopping on the Internet is now commonplace. And lots of people are generating sales and leads off their Websites.

However, that doesn't mean you can throw up any old site and expect the phone to start ringing or money to just come rolling into the bank.Plenty of businesses spend thousands on Websites that don't end up making a dime. Some sites even get plenty of traffic, but hardly any conversion to sales or inquiries.

Luckily, with a little forethought and proper planning even the smallest business can have a Website that makes them money. But first you have to understand why potential customers often click away without buying, so you can be sure you aren't making these costly mistakes.

Four of the biggest reasons are:

1) Confusing or poor site design

2) Fear of getting ripped off

3) No business or product differentiation

4) Lack of personalization

1) Poor Site Design

One of the biggest reasons people leave a site is that they simply can't find what they're looking for quickly and easily. You've probably experienced this yourself if you do any online shopping or research.

One of the keys to making your site easy to use it making sure you have clean, simple, intuitive and consistent navigation. So keep your main navigation options in one place on every page, and limit them to no more than 7 or 8 options. If you need more than that you need either secondary navigation or drop down bars. And don't get creative with the navigation names. Make sure visitors can tell exactly what they'll find once they click.

So before you build, or rebuild, your site you should also always create a detailed site plan that shows exactly what pages you want on your site, and how they'll be connected. You can draw it like a flow chart with each new box being a new page on the site. You'll save a lot of money�and get much better results�if you do the planning first.

2) Fear of Getting Ripped Off

People are always afraid of buying inferior product, or dealing with poor (or no) delivery, bad customer service, etc. And nowhere are they more worried about all this than on the Web, because it's that much harder to tell if a company is legit.

After all, just having a Website doesn't make a business reputable. Nor does it guarantee quality.

Instead you have to use other techniques to convince people it is safe to do business with you, like: Including privacy statements Choosing reputable companies to handle your transactions Providing a warranty, money-back guarantee and/or free trial Including quality testimonials Listing your phone number, and ideally physical address

3) No Differentiation

This is a major reason sales are lost, both online and off.

Basically, what you offer has to seem different or better than what everyone else is selling. Otherwise you are competing on price alone and they have no reason to buy from you instead of the competition.

The Web is a mighty big marketplace. Chances are high someone out there can beat your price. So you better come up with another way to make people want to buy from you, or they probably won't.

This is also known as your unique selling proposition (USP). And it should be at the core of all your marketing communications. In fact, a solid USP can mean the difference between success and failure.

4) Lack of Personalization

Remember the old adage "People don't buy from businesses; they buy from people they know, like and trust." The same is true on the Internet.

Unfortunately the Web, by nature, is very impersonal. So you need to find ways to make your site warm, friendly and interesting. And to remind folks there are real people behind the scenes.

How? Here are a few ideas:

Put bio's and photos of key employees on your About page

Ditch the dry, boring lists of what you do and instead write in a conversational style about the problems, solutions, features and benefits that matter most to your clients

Include free, helpful information like white papers, tips, articles or newsletters

Add audio, video or a blog

Always keep in mind; your Website is your virtual salesperson. So, just like with a live salesperson, you want it to look friendly and professional, be easy to understand, and have all the information needed to make the sale.

Sure it might take a little work initially to get your site up to speed. But once you do, you'll have a powerful sales tool working for you day and night without you lifting a finger! What could be better than that?


Practical Marketing Expert, speaker and author Stacy Karacostas specializes in taking the stress, struggle and confusion out of growing your small business. For more down-to-earth, business-building wisdom that's sure to save you cash and bring you clients, grab a copy of her free report "The 7 Deadliest Small Business Marketing Sins Are You Guilty?".

Stacy Karacostas. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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