Our website is central to our marketing and lead generation strategy: New leads are the lifeline to building relationships and growth. Yet, we are often so concerned about bringing people to the site – whether through search, social media, advertising, or other channels – we tend to overlook what website visitors can actually do while they are on the site. Converting site visitors into customers should be the whole point of investing time and resources into the website!

Website visits are a flash in the pan

Marketing your business, online and offline, not only means creating awareness, but moving people from grasping what you do to wanting what you do. But prospects won’t jump on board until they have a clear picture of what they are getting into.

Busy business owners are tempted to do the obvious – explain their services or products and expect people to call. But how realistic is it to expect somebody who spends a mere 30 seconds on your website to actually pick up the phone? There are times that could work – somebody with a burst water pipe won’t waste time shopping around for a plumber – but not for services that are hard to explain, or that require an investment of time and money. Usually, communicating with prospects happens with several touch points before they are motivated to make that first call.

How can you build a website that lets people get a sense of who you are – whether they want to interact with your business? The process begins with a design and content that resonates, a mechanism to stay in touch, and using data to refine the website.

Focus first on the visitor

Research repeatedly tells us that a website has ridiculously short time – much less than a minute – in which to first connect with a website visitor. Web designers know this intuitively, and use graphics, images, colors, and other elements to strike an emotional chord with the right people. When good design is supported by a headline that speaks to their needs and copy which is written to pull them into the story, everything says that they are in the right place.

Critical to this process is being aware that each website visitor arrives in search of something. Your content has got to anticipate how to answer their questions or solve their problems. Since there are different types of visitors, that means anticipating different kinds of questions. The key is to put yourself in their shoes and provide answers that make their life easier.

The only limit to what form that content takes is your imagination. Don’t feel hemmed in by what others are doing. Be daring!

Build your company’s image and stay top of mind

Giving your site visitors what they’re looking for is a great start, but once they click away how will they remember your company? The more time I spend online the harder it gets to recall what I saw, even a few minutes ago.

A positive first impression is just the beginning; a short visit is not enough. A study cited by Think with Google points out that we conduct 12 searches on average before we engage with a company. Getting a picture of a company, and what to expect, is a process that builds on itself.

Ideally, you want to create enough touch points in which a person learns about your business, what distinguishes it, and the benefits of working with you. Take people from where they are now – not knowing much about your company – to where they need to be – understanding what you’re about. All the while eliminating the underlying fear of risk and uncertainty.

Websites CAN be designed to plan for this process – with takeaways in the form of downloadable material that bears your brand and contact information, by capturing email addresses to use in reaching out, and any other tactic that creates the opportunity to build on what your prospects have learned about your company.

You have to integrate all of it – the call to action, follow up, and engagement strategy – from the beginning, when you create the site structure; not as an after thought. By setting up several ways to remind website visitors of your company, you avoid “out of sight, out of mind.” You’re creating opportunities for them to learn more and to eventually take the first step in contacting you.

See marketing as a numbers game

You can’t (and won’t) win them all, so you need to see what’s working and where your message falls flat. By installing Google Analytics on your website, you get access to a wealth of data that gives you an idea where the website needs to be improved.

Making improvements also benefits the website’s chances of ranking well: Search engines give preference to sites that people love.

Here are some data points to watch:

  • Do people “bounce,” i.e. use the back button to return to the search results?
  • Do they visit a few pages and spend a few minutes on your site?
  • Are more people coming to the site, both new and returning visitors?
  • Are people arriving via “branded” searches – searches for your company name – and “non-branded” searches, i.e. people who find the site with an array of keywords?

Google wants us to monitor our website data, and to change it up if people appear to be bored by it. A set-it-and-forget-it-mentality doesn’t help people find what they are looking for; it certainly won’t lead to the type of engagement that makes a website successful.

In order to design a website that brings in new business know what appeals to your ideal customer, and work on a winning combination of design, content, AND continuing involvement. It could culminate in a beautiful relationship!

Excellent resources to plan your strategy:

7 Rules of Content Marketing Design (a fun Slideshare about optimizing design)

Web design tips from Crazy Egg