Your website needs to do more than exist.
Have you stopped to think about how many websites there are on the Internet? Latest figures put the total number at 759 million. OK, not as numerous as the stars in the Milky Way, but then you aren’t really interested in your customers being able to find one-in-300 billion stars, you just want them to to find your one-in-759 million website.
What’s more, you don’t just want them to find it, you want them to interact with it, perhaps sign up for a newsletter, fill out a contact form, schedule an appointment, or buy your products and services.
You also want your website to serve as a communication satellite for your business, responding to customers, providing them with information and customer service when they need it, even if you aren’t personally available to provide it.
Finally, because customer needs change over time, you want your website to remain fresh, relevant, and useful, even after literally hundreds of visits, because if it doesn’t, your customers will be more likely to look elsewhere, to your competitors perhaps, to get those new needs met.
The good news is, if you follow the 5 steps I’m about to recommend, you’ll be able to quickly create a website strategy that delivers results!
Step 1 – Shop your own site .
It’s easy to get complacent and think your site is just fine, but if it’s been a while (and by a while, I mean more than a week) since you’ve “visited” your site wearing your “ideal customer” hat–that means literally sitting down and pretending to be the person you’re selling to–pull up a chair, and get clicking.
Don’t just look at each page, or read through the content, pretend you’ve never seen it before. Write a list of questions your target audience probably has, and see if you can spot the answer within five seconds of opening your own home page. If not, a warning bell should go off in your mind.
Then pick the task you want your target customer to perform. Is it easy to find the starting point? Are you asking for too much, or enough information? What’s your ‘hook?’ By that I mean, what are you putting out there to entice them to complete the task, not just to start it? Imagine you have about five minutes between meetings to complete the whole process of searching, finding, and completing the task on your own site–are you going to give up halfway through because you’ve run out of time, or is it easy from start to finish?
What happens next? See what it’s like to be on the receiving end of follow-up emails, or error messages. Are they working? Etc.
Finally, how long has it been since you’ve updated the content on your blog (if you have one) or any other time-sensitive section, including your social media accounts (which should be linked to your website by the way–if they’re not, that’s content *missing* as well as opportunities lost). Even photo galleries and video libraries start to look dated and stale (and your brand along with them) if it’s been more than a month since you’ve added anything new.
Make a note of what’s broken, confusing, old, and missing (in that order).
Step 2 – Shop the competition .
Taking a look periodically at what’s going on elsewhere in the cyber galaxy is vitally important. As uncomfortable as it can be at times to look at the competition, you have to. They’re out there trying to make contact with the same Earthlings you are, and if their signals are stronger, or cross yours and cancel them out, you could be spending time, and money, silently screaming into the ether instead of connecting with customers.
Who are your competitors? Well, you can go with the ones you’ve been told by prospects are winning business away from you, or you could just Google your product or services and see who else comes up–in your region (if you are local or regional), or anywhere if you compete nationally or internationally. Be sure to check Bing too. Search using keywords, as well as the questions your customers typically have when they are shopping or searching for what you’re selling.
Take a look at their sites the same way you looked at yours. If you were your target customer, could you get your needs met easily? It is clear what they offer, and how it’s different from what you offer, or what anyone else offers? And here’s the real test: Would you be tempted to buy from them if you were a customer, and not a seller?
Check out their social media accounts too. How often are those updated? What kind of buzz are they generating? Do they have lots of likes and reviews from fans and customers.
Take notes as you go, see if there are ideas you can take away from them–not to copy, but to emulate and inform your own marketing efforts. In fact, beware the temptation to copy! You really have no way of knowing how well their efforts are *working,* but you can get ideas about the types of content you should have if they have it and you don’t, OR you can make decisions about what is and is not a priority for you given your goals and budget if you want to continue to avoid producing something they produce.
For example: Let’s say the competition produces lots of videos–a fresh one about their employees or products each month. That may be great content, and it may even make their site a destination site for their existing customers and employees alike, but if you can’t afford to produce videos regularly, or the ones you’d create wouldn’t be high-quality, copying that won’t help you, and might even hurt you. Better to focus on what you can do WELL, and use those types of content to differentiate yourself, rather than produce sub-par content to fill gaps and “match” the competition type-for-type.
Make a note of what they are doing differently that you could do as well or better.
Step 3 – Get reacquainted with your customers .
Now that you’ve looked at what your competitors are doing, go hang out with your customers. Visit their industry groups on LinkedIn, Pinterest interest groups, Twitter feeds, and Facebook groups they might frequent. Search their companies on Twitter too, see what they’re talking about, reading, reviewing. Make a note of the topics that get the most shares, and if they are sharing content produced by your competitors!
Go to online publications for their industries and fields, what’s trending there? Are there new regulations, or concerns they’re facing? What are they busy focusing on, trying to sell, etc.
Now make a note of those things and resolve to come up with some content relevant to their needs. If all else fails, share some of the their own content on your site and social media feeds with a shout-out to them so they’ll feel appreciated and “heard” by you.
The important thing is to make sure you keep pace with how your customers needs are evolving too. If you don’t, they are less likely to think you “get” them, and therefore less likely to connect with your brand. If they don’t connect with your brand, chances of them doing business with you at all–never mind taking action on your website–are slim indeed.
Make a note of changes in your customers’ needs and wants, as well as new interests or questions they are asking. Step 4 – Critique your content creation process Sit down and look at how you are creating content for your site NOW? Do you even have a process? Is it orderly and organized, or is it random and haphazard? If you are like most small businesses, you may create content on the fly, whenever you can get around to it. You probably don’t have a strategy mapped to specific metrics or goals, aren’t really sure how many leads you’re trying to get, or how best to go about getting them.
Do you have a content calendar, or a list of possible topics? How are you finding topics to write about for your blog right now? Do you curate content using Scoop.it or paper.li? Are the tools you’re using keeping up with your needs, in terms of how much time you have to produce content, and how many places you need to push it (website, social media, newsletter)?
Have you reached critical mass, where creating content is a separate job you might need to outsource, even part time? The bottom line is, be brutally honest with yourself. If you haven’t updated your blog, or edited your site copy itself and it’s outdated, or if nothing gets posted to your social media accounts because you simply have no time, you’re not doing your business any favors even to have them.
That’s right, it can harm your brand MORE to have an outdated social media account or website full of incorrect or irrelevant content than to have none at all. That’s because the old adage is true: it’s very hard to change a first impression. If a customer comes to your brand, wherever they might find it, and gets the impression you just can’t be bothered to create messaging and content to communicate effectively with them, they are going to generalize that impression to believe that you will provide products and service of similar value.
Rather than assuming you’re too busy creating fabulous products and providing awesome service to your customers, they will wonder if you are even still viable, never mind credible in your industry.
In other words, if you “build” it, they may come, but they’ll quickly go away and likely STAY away and never come back. It would be like calling your customer on the phone, and rather than leaving a short message precisely geared towards what they want and need to hear, complete with a compelling reason to call you back, you instead ramble on and on until you’re cut off before you have a chance to leave your number.
Make a list of ways your content creation process is and is not working well for you; pay attention to the time and money you’re spending creating content right now.
Step 5 – Find ways to create better content .
Why am I assuming you need to create “better” content? Because, that’s why. We all do, all the time. There’s no such thing as “good enough” that you can just STOP. Better simply means “content your target audience wants and needs today.” Not yesterday. Not last week, or last month, but today. Even if your site is up to date and getting tons of leads, it can always do better, if not for your audience, then for you!
If you followed the previous 4 steps, you have the information you need to help you decide what you need to improve, and what’s working already. You know more about your competitors and customers, and how well your current content creation process is or is not working. You should also know how much all this is costing you–either in terms of how much time or money you’re spending to create and publish content, or in terms of how much time or money you’re losing by not having the right kinds already, or having the wrong kinds communicating the wrong messages to your target audience.
Now you need to find ways to fix or improve your messaging, and one way you should consider is outsourcing.
Let’s say you are creating fantastic content that puts your competitors to shame, and that your customers are sharing all over the social universe. GO YOU! Congratulations! Now how about capitalizing on that success to streamline your process, give yourself breathing room to focus on creating new products or services, or just more free time to enjoy your success with family and friends?
If things are going so well, maybe it would be worthwhile to hire some outside help to do the content creation for you, maybe even help you find some ways to do it faster, less expensively, or who knows? Perhaps add those videos you couldn’t add before because you didn’t have the budget to do them well?
Let’s say things are not going so well…Let’s say you started off with a bang, but being a small business, or entrepreneur, you quickly got caught up in the nitty gritty of running your business, and before you knew it, it had been a month since you updated your blog. Maybe you don’t enjoy writing, or have no idea how to make your site show up on Google? Or perhaps you are rarely at a desk, and can’t afford to spend non-billable time creating content when you need to be out in the field serving your customers. You know you need people to find you, and connect with your brand to grow your business, but you need to focus your time and attention on serving existing clients, and that doesn’t leave you much time left for marketing.
Outsourcing can do several things for you:
- Help you create a process that works for your time and budget
- Keep your pipeline of ideas filled with fresh, relevant topics so your time can be spent producing, not researching
- Produce timely, audience-relevant content you don’t have the time, skills, or tools to produce
- Optimize the content so it will be found and (hopefully) shared more often
In today’s marketplace, no matter what business you’re in, communicating effectively through high quality content means every business owner–small as well as large–is a “content marketer” too. It may not be your core business, but you can’t run your business without doing content marketing.
At the same time, when it’s not your core business, it may be better for you to find people to help who specialize in content marketing, or who can help you do it more efficiently and cost-effectively. Not doing it is simply not an option, and doing it poorly can do you more harm than good. But if you follow these five steps, and arrive at the conclusion that you would benefit from outsourcing in some way, I can help!
To learn more, get in touch to set up your FREE 30 minute Discovery Session. We’ll talk about what’s working, and what’s not, and I’ll create a customized plan that will help your customers connect with your brand–no telescope required!