I was sitting back reflecting on Whitecap’s business recently and in particular the 18% growth we enjoyed last year. It was a tremendous year so I started thinking about what changed and had a bit of an epiphany – we’ve upped our online game.
In previous blogs, we’ve talked about the importance of online search to lead generation and business growth (and our experience certainly proves this is true). Last year, 93% of our new business came from customers who found us online.
The way all of us have to do business is changing (and rapidly). It’s not good enough to have a pretty website with a bit of static content and a few forms to gather contact information. Businesses need to know what job their website can and should be doing. Let’s see if you can answer some of these important questions: Why do you have a website? What is the main purpose of your website? What is it primarily intended to do?
The answers to these questions lead us to the theme of this blog series – Is your website doing its job?
Before you can tell if your website is effective (and whether you need an online revamp), you need to figure out what your website really needs to do and who you want to talk to because different sites and different audiences need a different approach.
If finding new customers and sales development is the primary objective of your website, there are some must-haves to be effective online. You might not want to hear this but if you’re not blogging, tracking analytics, doing SEO, have an active social media presence, including video content, and testing your site for usability, your website likely ISN’T doing its job.
So many people think if you have a nice looking website that is reflective of your brand and tuned for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you’ve done enough to get people coming your way. We’ve learned that’s only part of the story and is the equivalent of having your very best sales rep (which IS your website by the way) only achieving 80% of their target quota!
These days there is so much more to optimizing your online strategy for sales development that we are dedicating the next few BLOGs to examining all the different things to be considered (and need to work cohesively together) to ensure your website is optimized to do its job.
But, as I’ve said before, you first must have a very clear and well-articulated idea of what it is you want your website to do for you. Here are some ideas for your consideration:
This is the number one job of my company’s website. With the growing number of people who do online research before working with a company like Whitecap, having a strong online and search presence is job #1! (Teaser alert: we’ll talk about the importance of SEO and Analytics in a future BLOG). Consider this: 92% of companieswith annual revenues of $250,000 or less generate 10,000 or fewer monthly website visitors. For $1 billion companies, the reverse is true: 92% generate more than 10,000 visitors per month.
Beyond finding new leads, some businesses need e-commerce capabilities to sell products and services directly to customers. Having the capacity for online orders or purchases can reduce overhead since you won’t need as many “operators standing by”, and customer service and satisfaction will improve because people can buy what they need, when they need it. (And yes, having an effective e-commerce site means you can be making money whether your actual office is open or not … think of how that could help your bottom line.). The value derived from e-commerce continues to increase. Statistics show e-commerce revenue was up eight percent last month over 2015. It’s also interesting to note that the B2B e-commerce market is projected to become two times bigger than the B2C market ($3.2 trillion) by 2020.
There are companies in the enviable position of having a monopoly or few direct competitors, but they still need a solid website. Customer self-service websites can have a direct impact on a company’s productivity while greatly improving efficiency in handling customer queries, giving customers online control over their account, and providing a place to get answers to common questions or perform routine tasks. A customer self-service website can reduce the need for staff to answer calls, boost efficiency AND improve customer satisfaction. Of course, to have an effective customer service site (or really any site), it needs to be easy to use and intuitive, making usability testing and UX design excellence a must (Yes, that’s another hint about what’s to come).
AUTOMATE DATA COLLECTION
When a company routinely collects or needs to use specific information to conduct business, having online forms that easily gather that data and put it into a format your staff can use saves time, speeds response time and is, quite simply, more efficient. Ensuring that your website is responsive so that information can be submitted from any device boosts accessibility which can make your company even more attractive to customers (just look at Easy Lease’s success).
Whether we’re talking about educating customers about your products and services, or becoming a trusted source of information, an educational style website needs great content and reliable data (but more on why Content is King in the next BLOG).
Companies that are publicly-traded have strict rules to follow regarding shareholder disclosure and the provision of company information, and when it comes to bringing in new shareholders or increasing capital, providing high quality, attractive and informative information can assist with investment decision-making and attracting new investors. A shareholder or investor website can help keep investors informed of new corporate information, and become the portal for all investment information, not to mention house (and host) AGMs or shareholder conference calls.
Many businesses may find the job they want their website to do crosses a few categories but it’s critical to set priorities for your website and then tailor the structure and design to meet those primary goals.
The importance of having an effective website (or as I like to call it “a website that does its job”) is no longer a should have, it’s a must have. Your customers are looking into you with their own online research and by reading reviews about your company before they even pick up the phone or send you an email.
Consider this: 61% of global Internet users research products online and 86% of consumers say that using a search engine allowed them to learn something new or important. Think you’re immune to the online trend because you’re selling to other businesses? Even for offline purchases, 98% of B2B buyers do at least some online research.
When it comes to your online strategy, making sure your website does its job whether your customer is viewing it from a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device is no longer optional. Having a responsive site will elevate your mobile search ranking and is becoming increasingly critical given Google’s continuing efforts to reward companies who take a mobile-first strategy. This prioritization of mobile isn’t surprising when you consider mobile data traffic is projected to grow 53% in the next five years. And according to Custora, the U.S. retail on-line marketing research company, one out of four online purchases (24.5%) this past holiday season was done on a mobile device (phone or tablet), up from 18.6% in 2013.
My next few BLOGS will further explore into how to get your website working for you.�
Businesses can’t live without a website … but if your website isn’t doing its job, you need to make some changes before your customer finds someone else online.
This is part 1 of our blog series “Is Your Website Doing Its Job?” — read the rest here:
Part 2: I Never Thought I Would Blog. I Was Wrong.
Part 3: Is Your Social Media Strategy Doing Its Job?
Part 4: SEO’s Integral Role in Helping Your Website Do Its Job.
Part 5: User Experience Design: Website Friend or Foe?
Part 6: Steps to get User Experience and Design Right.