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USING YOUR WEB SITE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS By Charlie Cook A snowplow operator in a New Jersey suburb was hailed by a woman asking him to plow her driveway so she could get out. Wading through less than a foot of fluffy snow to her SUV, he asked her why she didn't put it into four wheel drive and simply back out. Her puzzled answer was, "Four wheel drive, what's that?" A web site is just a means to and end, like a car it will get you where you want to go only if you know how to use it. Too often independent professionals and small business owners spend their hard earned cash on a web site and get little return on their investment. - What is the purpose of your marketing? - What is the purpose of your web site? - What do you want your web site to do? The first step to creating or improving your web site is to clarify the role it should play in your business and its marketing. If you are like most independent professionals and small business owners you can benefit from constructing your web site on the basis of the following four objectives. 1. ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF YOUR TARGET MARKET This may seem obvious, yet most small business web sites don't do this. Instead of leading with content that will attract prospects they focus on information about themselves. Typically they are boring to others than their creators. Too often web sites focus on the firm's services, products, processes and credentials. These sites are a turnoff to prospects and can keep you from earning money. If your web site shouldn't feature your firm, what should be the primary content? To get prospectsÕ attention, whether with your web site or with your other marketing materials, feature content that interests them. Your clients and future customers are always looking for solutions. For example, if you're a lawyer, your site could focus on legal tips and strategies which your target market can use. If you're a graphic designer, include ideas on using design to improve communications; if you're a computer systems expert, give your site visitors tips on keeping their computers from crashing. A writer could include a tutorial on writing, with examples of copy makeovers of web pages, press releases or brochures. - What is the content you could use on your web site that your target market is searching for? 2. BUILD CREDIBILITY Just because you have a web site, have impressive credentials, a client list of Fortune 500 companies and even know what you are doing, isn't necessarily going to convince prospects you can help them. To help prospects trust you, you need to find ways to demonstrate your expertise and qualifications. Chances are you have many satisfied clients. Ask them for comments on how you helped them and feature their testimonials on your site. Comments from others are perceived as having much greater credibility than the descriptions you write about your own products and services. Write articles and distribute them widely to demonstrate your knowledge. Tell personal stories or describe actual situations to showcase your ability to solve problems. - What can you do differently on your web site to build credibility? 3. GENERATE LEADS One of the most important roles a web site plays for service professionals and small business owners is to help generate leads. When people come to your web site and are interested in the problems you solve, you want to have as many of them as possible contact you. You want your web site to help you identify people not ready to buy and people ready to make a purchase. - Is your web site attracting as many new prospects and clients as you'd like? - How many leads per week does your web site generate? - Does your web site motivate people to give you their contact information? - Does your web site prompt people to tell you what they need and want and to contact you? - What do you need to do on your web site to increase the number of leads it provides on a weekly or monthly basis? 4. SELL YOUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES The goal of your web site is to help you make money. If you sell services or products, make it easy for prospects to find them and include comprehensive information about each and the benefits or using them. Consider showing a list of products and services in a side navigation bar on every page of your web site. You'll want individual sell pages for each product or service. One way to grab prospectsÕ attention on these pages is to lead with one or two questions clarifying what prospects want. Follow these with testimonial quotes, and visitors will be more likely to read the rest of the copy describing your products and services. - When you provide information on your products and services, do you first create the context, i.e. clarify the problem it solves? - Is your site effective in convincing prospects you have the product or service they want? - Is your site helping you sell more of your products and services each month? Whether you are trying to get an SUV unstuck or grow your business with your web site, if you know how to use it, you can get where you want to go. - 2004 © In Mind Communications, LLC. All rights reserved. - The author, Marketing Coach, Charlie Cook, helps independent professionals and small business owners attract more clients and increase their earnings with the 5 Principles of Highly Effective Marketing. 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