Your website is a window through which the world sees your business. It is your receptionist, your lead sales person and your company brochure all rolled into one. Your website is arguably the single most valuable property your business owns.
More so than the four walls that the business calls home.
It didn't seem that long ago that if you didn't have a business card and a mobile phone you weren't a serious business person.
A business card was - and for some still is - a sign that they've made it professionally. Having small pieces of card with your name and job title printed on them is kind of a big deal. Right?
It served as a credibility checker. If you attended a meeting or an expo and you didn't have a business card you were instantly eyed with suspicion. Either your organisation wasn't on the level or they were too short of cash to pay for them. Or, even worse - you weren't as important as you said you were.
Either way it was personally mortifying and professionally crushing.
Then the internet happened.
It took a few years but websites superseded business cards and headed paper as the go to credibility checker of choice.
But back then websites - once up - stayed more or less unchanged for years. The internet was a mere shadow of its current self and even sending a photo over the internet was a risky endeavour. Even having too many images on your website could crash browsers.
Websites have evolved at a phenomenal rate and some aren't just useful sources of information but works of art too.
Websites are so influential in buyer decisions that they are more important than a physical address. You can have a legitimate and fully functioning business without physical offices.
On the other hand can you have a business without a website outside of - perhaps - small independent high street stores?
But even then it's better to have a website than not purely because it's everyone's first instinct to Google a business. Zero presence online prompts just as much suspicion as the absence of a business card caused suspicion 30 years ago.
Which is why it's a constant source of frustration for marketers to hear the words: 'but we only put it up ten years ago, how can it be out of date?'. Or 'you want more money for the website?' Or 'why do we even bother with the website - we get all our business through referrals'.
These kind of comments are made because there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what a website is for.
Throw in some huge leaps in technology and a fairly seismic shift in buyer behaviour and all of a sudden you have a recipe for disaster pie with bankruptcy fries on the side.
The success of your website is largely down to the attitude of your business. If it's seen as a box ticking exercise then it won't be a success. It just won't.
Simply because your organisation won't invest the time, thought, effort and money needed to make it a success.
Your website is an asset
As much as a website may seem like a money pit that's just the anxious business owner or over worked marketing manager talking. Not the switched on savvy entrepreneurial rock star you know you are deep down.
Yeah they cost money to build, host and maintain. They even cost money to have content written for it. Either because you're paying someone like us to do it or you've got an internal content creator beavering away.
And while they're doing that, they're not doing something else with a perceived greater value.
Except they are adding value because it's that content that'll get you the prospects you want. As opposed to the prospects that'll give you 15 minutes of their time on the phone.
Buyer Behaviour has changed, whether you like it or not. Moreover no matter how unique you profess your business to be or how niche your products - you are not immune.
Chances are - if you're carrying on as you have for the last decade - you'll have noticed a drop in sales. You'll have noticed that it's harder and harder for the sales team to get meetings in the diary.
Or you may have noticed that the clients you're dealing with are the best of a bad bunch and terrible to work with.
That's because you're not attracting the right kind of clients. There could be plenty of reasons for this, but your website will undoubtedly be a factor. Especially if you've not updated it or otherwise improved it in a while.
Your website, just like the rest of your business, needs attention or it starts to under perform. Looking after your website is no different than carrying out a performance review with a member of the team.
It highlights what's working well, shows you what's not and allows you to formulate a plan in order to get things where you want them to be.
It's neither scary nor difficult to do but a surprising number of businesses never bother.
Regularly critiquing your website can help keep your online presence as relevant and as groovy as possible. And here's why that's amazing:
Your website is your best (and cheapest) Sales Person
Because we live in a world where we Google first and ask questions later, your website is super important.
In the vast majority of cases it is the first experience prospects will ever get of your business so it needs to be epic.
It doesn't have to have a swanky design - although you'll always get bonus points if it looks the part. But first and foremost it does need to do the following:
- Demonstrate you understand your client's pains, needs and wants
- Communicate your 'why' and exactly how you can help
- Add huge mountains of value with blogs and other helpful content
- Make it very easy to find all of that helpful content
- Make it incredibly, soul enrichingly easy to get in touch with you.
Then you need to bundle all that up in a user journey that makes sense to the visitor. Not to you.
That's another common mistake - websites are often designed with business in mind, not the end user. Of course highly technical page names or a convoluted user journey makes sense to you - you're the expert. Your prospects aren't, so give them a break.
If you don't they'll get annoyed and leave.
Never underestimate exactly how lazy prospects are. If you make your website too complicated or too crappy they will go to your competitors. All you need to do is consider your own behaviour when online to know that's true.
I hate to break it to you snowflake, but your business - unless you're a power player like Apple or Amazon - is not special. You cannot ignore what consumers expect because it's inconvenient, unpalatable or expensive.
Critiquing your website gives you the opportunity to take a step back and honestly - if not objectively - determine what works and what doesn't.
Chances are the data will already be telling you that anyway. If you've got high bounce rates, sucky conversions or key information pages are getting zero traffic then you've got a problem. What you then do about it is up to you.
But consider this: your website is your best and cheapest sales person. Your website - once it's live - doesn't require sick days, paid leave, a pension, national insurance contributions, mileage allowances or a company phone.
Your website tells the world how awesome you are and how you can help make people's lives better.
Every. Single. Day.
So spending some time and money on making sure it's the absolute best it can be is worth it. It's cheaper than hiring a sales person and have them bash the phones all day long.
Plus the websites that attract the right kind of customers hand warm leads to the sales team you do have. That makes them more productive and lowers the cost of sale - making the business more profitable.
Critique or die!
A tad hyperbolic perhaps but it's not far off the mark. Unless you're reviewing your website from both a user journey and content perspective you're hindering your own success.
That's of course assuming you have a strategy in place too. Because you now need to incorporate optimising your website into that too.
Think about how quickly things change within your organisation. Now consider the last time your website was updated, let alone put through a full review.
If you don't know or can't remember then something has gone wrong. The good news is that it's fixable and you can start to fix it right away.
But this isn't something you want to do on the fly.
Critiquing a website takes time. You also need to have a plan in place so you can do something with the recommendations that come out the other end.
All too often businesses go through these uncomfortable audits to only ignore the outcomes. A blissful lie being preferable to the difficult truth.
Of course it's a short term gain, long term loss approach to the situation. Claiming it'll be fine doesn't make it fine. And all the while your competitors - who do take this stuff seriously - are eating away at your market share. In increasingly bigger bites.
Except they're not doing anything special. They're simply meeting the expectations of your consumers. That's it. No secret formula, no scary marketing budgets. They're just meeting the needs of your prospects better than you are.
It's always scary when you find out that opportunities are being missed but as with most things, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
Then you can fix it.