What Does It Take To Make Websites Effective?

So is there anything more confusing or seemingly futile than marketing your business these days? The good old days of sending out a postcard or placing an ad in the paper or renewing a yellow page ad seem so easy now. Easy yes, but effective? Today it seems as though nothing is working. Direct mail, newspapers and most definitely yellow pages are all diminishing in return. Of course you have that website of yours…..

Yes, the website. You know- the one your nephew’s neighbor set up for you for next to nothing, but now he’s moved to Cleveland and no changes have been made for 3 years- it still features two people you let go in 2008. Or the site you paid a highly recommended web designer to build for $2,000, but actually paid $3500 for and it felt like you were doing most the work. You meant to change it regularly, but you can’t seem part with another $500 just because you need your store hours updated. Yea, that website. You know you need it, but your just not sure why. They say it’s necessary, but how can you make it an effective tool for marketing your business?

An effective e-marketing program builds stronger relationships because you’ll be focusing on the needs of your customers.

First of all, it is necessary. The internet is the reason the yellow pages have become ineffective. It’s now THE way customers find you. But it doesn’t stop there. Using your website as a cyberspace business card makes it a certainty that it will only be used once and that it will never become an effective tool for your business. Using your site to talk about your business and tell people why you are the best framer in town doesn’t help much either.

You see, e-marketing – marketing over the internet- is vastly different in style and purpose than the traditional marketing we have all grown up using, and that’s what makes it so hard. We (most people over 45), don’t really understand it. We don’t know how it works.  But we have to learn about it. We have to understand  internet marketing because it’s the future- it’s now obvious that it will be around for a long time and it will continue to evolve in its effectiveness. In fact, it will be the MOST effective form of marketing ever created and it’s affordable to the smallest of businesses!

The problem is that unless you understand it and understand what people want when they use it, you will not get the huge benefits it offers. Here is the basic difference between traditional marketing of the good old days and e-marketing:

Traditional methods of marketing involved the company constructing and pushing out a message to a wide audience. E-marketing works the opposite way- a much narrower, but far more interested audience dictates to the company what it wants from them. One simple way to say this is that e-marketing involves a lot more listening by the company to the people who want some of what the company has. The customer is in control. Actually they always have been, but most businesses acted like they didn’t know it.

Here are some important things to understand about your website:

  1. The website is only one part of your e-marketing. To be really effective, your site must be supported and reinforced by the two other legs of the e-marketing tripod: emails and various forms of social media. All three areas must work together to make each other stronger and more important to those interested in your business.
  2. Most websites feature the wrong subject. They talk about themselves. This is an easy trap to fall into because that was the subject of traditional marketing. Strong websites – sites that customers enjoy visiting and visit often – feature the customers they serve. They use client-focused content which visitors enjoy reading. Remember it’s more about listening than it is about telling.
  3. Good websites reflect the current happenings in business. This means they are changed and updated regularly. They offer something new and interesting on a consistent basis. That’s why it’s very difficult to have someone outside the company responsible for creating content that reveals what is happening inside the company. It just doesn’t work well. Great sites are controlled by those who work with the types of customers who will be using the site. You must gain control of your site to make it interesting and effective.
  4. Effective websites get that way by being monitored for their performance. The only way you know if something is working is to check to see what it is doing well and what it is not doing well. It’s easy with websites. A free tool like Google Analytics tells you more than you’ll ever want to know about how many times your site is being viewed, how long viewers are looking, what they are look at, how they are finding your site, where they live, the list goes on and on. Chart the most basic information and add to it as you begin to learn from it. You’ll be amazed how this information will shape your efforts.

Websites are here to stay. Businesses with bad websites may not be here to stay- that’s how important it is to learn to use effective e-marketing tactics. Learning the ins and outs in not easy- in fact to many of us it seems to work counter-intuitive to the ways we have learned to market ourselves.

Why work so hard to have an effective website? First, because other methods of marketing- the kinds that have been around for so long- are expensive and offer less and less return for your investment. Secondly, e-marketing is very cost effective. If you can condition your customers to open your emails and visit your website to print the coupons they want, you can drastically reduce your marketing costs. You’ll also build stronger relationships because you’ll be focusing on the needs of your customers while being in position to communicate with them more often. A strong e-marketing program makes huge sense to a small business, but it also takes a commitment to a new direction and a lot of work to get it started. One thing I’ve learned is that most great things take a lot of work. Dive in, and start learning about this new opportunity to grow business- it’s a rewarding adventure.

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