All too often, we head to the Website of a company that interests us only to find that the site is nothing more than brochureware. The term “brochureware” was coined early in the Web era, according to Forbes.com, to describe business Websites that were little more than a marketing brochure presented online in a set of static pages.
Many Websites are still just that, unfortunately, because they lack any real interactivity with visitors: they do not include a Call-to-Action (CTA) that collects pertinent information about visitors, they overlook keywords and search engine optimization (SEO), and they are not mobile friendly. This is perhaps the biggest problem since more than 50 percent of all online content today is consumed on mobile devices.
A recent survey conducted by Automatic Merchandiser among vending, OCS and micro market operators revealed that 49 percent of respondents believe that their Websites are the most important element of their company’s marketing efforts. Yet nearly 60 percent of respondents also said they do not have a CTA on their Website that enables them to collect any information about visitors, and 50 percent said they need more education and training on CTAs.
So, let’s review the specific elements of a successful, marketing-driven Website, including CTAs.
There’s no place like the homepage
Undeniably, the most important page of your Website, the homepage, is your opportunity to make a great first impression. To do so, it should have minimal copy — primarily who your company is, who you serve and what benefits you offer — complemented by bold and striking visuals.
If you offer multiple benefits and want to communicate them on the homepage, then consider a slider (or carousel) that rotates great visuals with attention-demanding headlines embedded in them.
The homepage objective is to minimize the bounce rate, or the percentage of visitors who come to your homepage and leave without engaging with any content, filling out your CTA, or clicking through to an inside page. It’s people who saw the homepage and said, “Nope… that’s not what I’m looking for.” You want this number to be as low as possible. You want to keep people around, get them to engage and take the next step into your sales funnel.
That’s why your site navigation needs to be clean and simple. Gone are the days of complex nav bars that click through to Website sections that contain page after page of dense paragraphs of copy. And your navigation needs to use the same words and be roughly in the same place on all of your inside pages; ideally your site visitors should always know where they’re at and how to get where they want to go.
Less (copy) is more
Your sales copy and images of your products (or services) on the Website’s inside pages can and should provide more detail than your homepage, but again, be careful not to overwhelm your visitors with too much information.
The copy should draw the reader in with exciting benefits and enticing offers that push them deeper into your sales funnel. That’s why a competitive analysis of your closest competitors’ Websites can prove to be very effective. You want to be sure your sales copy differentiates your company from all others and delivers benefits they can’t get elsewhere. And it should always reinforce your “brand.”
The same holds true for your photography and other images. If you have dozens of products you need to feature, consider using thumbnails that click to larger images, if necessary. Select high-quality images (from a reputable stock photography house, or have them taken by a professional photographer) and use them to help tell a story that keeps visitors engaged.
Finally, don’t be afraid of white space. Often, we’re compelled to fill every corner of a Web page, when in fact, the skillful use of white space can draw a visitor’s eye exactly where you want it to go.
Optimize, optimize & optimize again
By now, if you’re involved in developing Websites and marketing your vending, OCS or micro market business, you’ve been bludgeoned with the notion of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) . That’s why I will make just a few key points:
- Do keyword research: Find an SEO expert who can determine what are the highest value keywords and key phrases for your business. There is a distinct formula for doing so. Once determined, make sure every page of your site contains those words and phrases. If your keywords are relevant and well placed, your SEO will pay off.
- Make sure the back end of your site is well programmed for SEO efforts. This includes not only your keywords and key phrases, but metadata, H1 and H2 tags, and alt image tags for each photo on the site. A good Website programmer will know how to get this done.
- Make sure your site is listed with all the key search engines, such as (surprise!) Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. If you don’t tell them where you’re located in cyberspace, they won’t know to find you and to “crawl” your site using their algorithms.
And the most critical aspect of SEO, since Google’s announcement in April 2015, is optimizing your Website for mobile devices, including all the options in tablets and smartphones.
Opting in not out
When a visitor or prospect comes to your Website, they come for a reason, and they’re typically curious about what you have to offer. There are many ways to drive them deeper into your sales funnel, but to begin a dialogue with a potential new customer, you have to persuade them to “opt-in” to an offer (of value) you are making on the site.
In the sidebar — “Calls-to-Action Available To You” — we provide prepared Calls-to-Action and the deliverables associated with them for your immediate use. (Click here for OCS) (Click here for Vending) (Click here for Micro Market). If you’re among the 60 percent of respondents to our survey that don’t use CTAs, we hope you will use them or adapt them to your company’s culture, and start building your opt-in database today.
Where to place them and how often they’re seen by your Website visitors is up to you. More aggressive marketers place their CTA on every page (but typically not in pop-up form because that can just become annoying to your visitors). Those who are less aggressive typically create a pop-up box that appears on the homepage, and every time someone clicks back to the homepage.
Some final words on marketing
Your Website is a marketing tool, to be sure. As such, there are a few additional pages you can consider including on your site to make it work harder for you.
About Us: You know the adage all too well — people buy from people. So make your About Us section personal, compelling and absolutely up to date. No 10-year-old photos. No boring copy about the decades and decades you’ve been “in the business.” Tell a story, draw people in, seek to really connect with them. And be sure to revisit it often, freshening it up and improving how you tell your story.
Testimonials: There’s no better way to establish credibility with prospects and new customers than allowing others — your current customers or industry partners — to brag about you. A great way to get started if you don’t already feature testimonials on your Website is to ask your best customers if you can write one for them, then submit it for their approval. And be sure to use their name, title and company name; there’s nothing worse for your credibility than an anonymous testimonial that most people will perceive as fake.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions can be a tough section to write but a very worthwhile one. Anticipating your prospects’ questions and answering them reflects that you’re in touch with your customer base. You understand their questions and concerns…and you have answers for them. If you’re not sure about how to get started, send an email to your best customers asking them what questions would be best in a FAQ section. This section can be an awesome place to subtly point out your differentiators, competitive advantages and company culture.
Most importantly, keep your Website fresh. Spruce up the copy and change the photos; replace the testimonials and FAQs with new ones; create new CTAs. Why? Because a prospect may come to your site several times before jumping into your sales funnel. Therefore it’s important not to disappoint them with the same old stuff.
John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications Inc., a traditional, digital and social media marketing firm that strives to ensure its clients’ relevance while fueling their growth and success. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.