When a client or prospect comes to us to create a new website, our first question is why? The reasons typically vary from the following: our site is dated, we have broken links, or our design does not compare to competitors’. While these reasons do influence how your prospects and customers view you online, they are not the root of the old website’s limitations.

More often than not, B2C and B2B consumers look online before contracting a service or making a significant purchase. In fact, GE Capital Retail Bank conducted a study reporting that 81 percent of B2C consumers go online before going to the store. In a study on B2B online activity, CEB Marketing Leadership Council recorded, “on average business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete.” That means nearly two-thirds of your customers’ buying process is done online. They are forming opinions, matching your services against their needs, comparing you with competitors and eliminating those deemed unfit – all with minimal influence from you.

In today’s marketplace, whether you sell shoes, mechanical seals, or metal surface solutions, you need an online strategy to maximize impact and drive further communication.

1) Set Measurable Goals

Everything you do online is measureable. Having clear goals for what you want visitors to do once landing on your site will set the tone for the overall user experience. For instance, if you were Zappo’s, your goal would be to provide every customer the ability to easily view a selection of shoes in their size, preferred color, style, and price range.

To get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your creative vision?
  • What do you like or dislike from competitor or industry influencer websites?
  • What online tools and resources can you provide your clients or prospects to highlight your capabilities (e.g., digital portfolio of your work, case study of client successes)?
  • Will your clients benefit from a mobile version or an app?

2) Design for Your Visitors

If you don’t know who is coming to your website, why do you even have one? A great place to start is determining your buyer persona. Hubspot defines buyer persona as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” Consider this buyer persona with every website decision you make.

What do your customers want? Have you asked them? A critical miss for any website design project or marketing strategy overall is not having a handle on why people buy. This infographic created by the Buyer Persona Institute shows how making assumptions can cost you. Invest wisely in creating buyer personas and design a user experience tailored to them. Unless of course, you only want your employees and family members to visit your website.

Lastly, is the information your customer seeks easily accessible? Is it information the customer even cares to see? Last year, we were honored to win two 2014 W³ Awards, a web competition “recognizing the power of web creativity.” The judging criteria can be considered when evaluating any website: creativity, usability, navigation, functionality, visual design, and overall experience.

3) Develop Your Site Strategically

You now have set goals, you understand who your buyer is, and you know what type of information they are looking to find on your site. These answers ensure your website content will be a success. Now, how do we steer the customer towards the path to conversion?

One of our clients that does this very well is Bi-Link. After conducting a strategic analysis of who they were trying to target, they determined their prospective buyers tended to be in one of two stages. They were either engineers with a product idea and ready to start tinkering, but have not yet taken action; or they know exactly what they need, are prepared with specs, have files to attach, and are ready to place an order.

When you land on the Bi-Link homepage, all of the information is easily accessible for whatever your needs may be. Bi-Link states who they are, what makes them different, they tease their service offerings without giving too much away, and they provide the following calls to action – “I HAVE SPECS READY” and “I HAVE AN IDEA.” These links provide the user a contact form to further communicate with a Bi-Link representative who can best support their needs.

Since launching their strategic website design, Bi-Link has reported success in converting web traffic to sales.

4) If You Build It, They Will Come …

… I have only seen this work for Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams”. The rest of us need a plan for getting visitors to our site and having them take action. This is a highly competitive and ever-evolving challenge, and there is no single solution.

But the following efforts are low-hanging fruit that everyone should consider:

  • Make your website launch a big deal. You worked hard for the end result, so brag about it.
  • Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Don’t let Google bury your site back on page 17.
  • Share the news via social media with links bringing people back to the site.
  • Frequently develop valuable content and always link shared content back to the website.
  • Consider Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

Invest in excellent user experience for your customers, and you’re one step closer to closing the deal.

Did we miss a great tip? Please share your ideas below.