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10 Ways to Improve Your Business Web Site

 

Over 80% of all business Web sites are not even making back their cost! That means that a lot of businesses today are wasting money. A big part of that problem is the poor or naive planning of the site and its marketing strategy.

This article is based on my new book, "101 Ways to Improve Your Business Web Site," and a seminar I recently gave at the Arizona Computer and Internet Expo. The ideas it contains should help you focus on the fundamental principal of e-business: It is still the individual customer that counts. Whether they are dealing with your clerk or your electrons, they want to be treated right.

1. Do I really need a Web site?

Owning a Web site is like owning tractor. If you don't know why you want it, you shouldn't get it in the first place. Many small businesses now believe that if they don't have a Web site, they're being left behind. And, in fact, in the minds of many Web users, that's the case. For a growing number of businesses and consumers, the Web is the first place they look for information, including facts about businesses they may want to patronize.

This fact alone will force tens of thousands of small businesses to develop a Web site or be left behind. It is a decision that requires a great deal of thought and planning. It is very, very easy to spend a lot of money and see nothing in return. It is your planning that will give you the best chance to succeed, not how pretty a designer makes your site look.

2. Is the site designed to satisfy your targeted customers' buying motives?

The two most dangerous assumptions of most Internet marketers are
(a) "If I built it, they will come." And
(b) "Everyone is my customer."

They won't come unless you have a strong online and offline marketing program -- one that promises them something they want. And once they show up in your ‘virtual store,' they must see at once that you really do have what they want.

People want different things, even when buying the same product. Teenage girls want something different in jeans than seniors do. If you tried to sell girls using the same pitch you successfully used for seniors, it wouldn't work.

So why would you think your Web site will do any better with a "one size fits all" approach? Whatever your goals, be sure the site is specifically designed for each of your specific customers, not some general, nebulous group of ‘everyone on the Internet.'

3. Does the site seem to be information rich?

Research shows that most people visit Web sites for information. This is especially true for adults. Information rich sites score highest on "must bookmark" and "will return" scales. Those are two critical factors for creating new and repeat business.

An ‘information-rich' site is one which provides helpful ideas, facts, recommendations, stories, humor, entertainment, contests, and other content which visitors will find interesting. The opposite of an ‘information-rich' site is one which does nothing but pitch your product or service, or just looks like your brochure.

4. Does the site tell visitors that the company recognizes their motives for dropping in, and wants to help?

If you are looking for a special pair of shoes, what do you want to see first when you approach a shoe store? A sign that says "We have a huge variety of styles and sizes." That sign tells you the store owner knows the shoes you want will not be like most other women's, they must be in a particular style and size. It also tells you that their big selection means you'll probably find what you're looking for.

Your Web site is like a shoe store. Your visitors are looking for special information. And they won't stay one second longer than they have to if they don't think you've got it. After all, some other store is just on the other side of a click.

Knowing their buying motives tells you what to say at the top of your homepage. For example, if they want to grow their business, your first words might be "Looking for some great ways to grow your business? You're in the right place! We have hundreds of them!" The trick is simple: Just stimulate their desire, then promise to satisfy it.

5. Can visitors get to where they want to be within 3 clicks?

Visitors will give you two or three clicks to get them to the information they want. Then they will try someplace else. Can they get to any page on your site in two or three clicks? If not, fix the problem. One way is to use more navigation options, or give them a drop down menu when their cursor moves over each of your basic navigation options.

6. Does the look and "feel" of the site seem ethical and honest?

People don't know you from Adam. But they do know a lot of shysters, and they've been disappointed by vendors before. That makes them leery of you and your products. How do you convince them to trust you? One (of many) way is to make your site look trustworthy. What does that mean? It means looking professional, not like a site put together by high school kids. It means not using overblown rhetoric (like "Be a millionaire in less than six months!", "Lose thirty pounds in thirty days!" or my new favorite "Make $4,000 a Week Sitting By Your Pool!")

It means having policies which not only are ethical, but sound ethical as well. If you offer a money-back guarantee, don't hedge or fill it so full of caveats that it sounds dishonest. Your promises must not only be honest, they must sound honest, too.

7. Does the site treat visitors like individuals, rather than a mass audience?


Many companies think of their visitors like a TV audience, a mass of millions of people who might look at their Web site. Television viewers think of themselves the same way, one of millions watching a program.

But that is not how they see themselves on the Web. Online, they see themselves like a single shopper who has dropped into your boutique and find they are the only customer in the store. They want to be treated with all the patience, consideration, and personalized attention that you would devote to them in your boutique. They don't want to be treated like a number. ("Number 14. Now serving Number 14. Next?")

How would you help them in that situation? Personalized service? You bet. The more you can make them feel special, the more they will like you, and want to buy from you. If you treat them like a number, they'll treat you the same way.

Remember: When products and services are bought like commodities, the way to get an advantage is through good customer service.

8. Do you ask the visitor to place an order or make a call?

The most fundamental rule in selling is ‘ask for the sale.' Your Web site should do the same. But it is amazing how many don't.

You might be direct, like "Click here to add this item to your shopping cart." Or it might be more indirect, like "Would you like to select a top to go with your jeans?" You might be asking for the order, or just for them to take the next step -- "Get more information on this offer. Click here now."

Researchers have found that using commands like "click here" and telling them to do it "now" increase the response rate. Banner ads that contain the words "click here" get a better response, too.

Remember, your site isn't a library. You want them to buy, not just browse. So ask them.

9. Do you have 128-bit encryption security for sales transactions?


Most people have no idea what that means, but they've heard it, and they know that is the code word for the most secure type of transaction. Chances are your merchant account provider offers it. If so, tell your customers that you have "128-bit encryption security, the most secure way to use your credit card online." Try to use the words ‘security' and ‘secure' several times.

10. Do you ask for their e-mail address?

If you have an e-commerce site, research shows that the average consumer will come back six times before buying something from you for the first time! You shouldn't rely on the chance that they'll remember to find you again. Get their e-mail address so you can remind them.

How do you get it? Ask for it, then promise to give them something in return. They are doing you a favor, and trusting you, so you should provide a reward that will make them feel good about your company. Information, like an Insider Report, is always a good bet, as are discounts, free samples, and contest entries.

You want to build a positive, personal relationship with them. To do that, you don't really need anything now but their e-mail address. Don't lose a possible customer by asking for too much. And don't lose a possible customer by failing to get their address.

Creating a good Web site is like designing a good store. It can't be done in a few hours, and it shouldn't be done by your son who had a computer course. This is a very important, costly investment. Take your time. And use the business sense you've developed over the years. Just because the Web is a new technology doesn't mean the old lessons of retail sales don't apply, they just take on a new shape. You're smarter about all this than you might think.

 
This is just an excerpt from Dr. Witt's new book "101 Ways to Improve Your Web Site."

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The cost is $7.95 -- that's less than 8-cents for each professional tip that will give you a more productive Web site, and help you make more money online! The Printed book is just $10.95 -- with FREE SHIPPING AND HANDLING.

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