Website building is an interesting craft. With such low barriers to entry, the web design industry offers no shortage of options for businesses seeking a new website. At first glance this may appear to be a luxury for consumers, but it may be just the opposite.
In 2009, as a young company just entering the market, it was easy to gain a small foothold by turning over low-cost websites for local businesses. However, this just wasn’t fulfilling for us or our clients. We quickly realized that we needed to find a way to distinguish ourselves as a creative web company. We wanted to create something bigger and better.
A familiar scenario often repeats itself in this industry:
- The client asks for a quote on a new website
- The design shop immediately throws out a price
- The client either walks away (to shop lower prices), or they accept the price and work begins
- The website is completed and handed over to the client
- The website quickly becomes stagnant and out of date with little to show for the effort
After observing this tendency in our industry, we began to wonder: why does this happen so often? What separates successful website projects from all of the others?
When I think back to the early days of Hatchit, and look at where we are now, I can trace our (sometimes tough) path to the answer. There are key lessons that we took hold of, and were able to grow from.
Lesson 1: A website is actually part of a much bigger conversation
Simply launching a well-decorated online brochure will not revolutionize your business. Sure, a great looking website is vital to building a successful brand, but it’s only one piece to the puzzle. People may find you online, but what will convert them into customers? What will keep them a customer for life? It’s these big questions that led us to re-think our approach – we had to zoom out and look at the bigger pictures. In fact, we restructured our entire business with that vision in mind- the pursuit of finding answers that grow businesses and increase customer conversion.
Lesson 2: Know who you are
In order to stand out, you have to offer something new and original. Every business is unique – every business has a culture, a value system and a distinguished vision. The problem is that most business owners can’t tell you what or who they are. Identifying your story, your point of differentiation, your value or your voice are all critical aspects to making a real connection with people on the other side of the screen. You’re not just selling a product or service, you’re selling yourself.
To quote Brent Weaver:
“When Apple sold the original iPod, they weren’t selling an MP3 player (those were already on the market), they were selling 5,000 songs in your pocket. The simple shift in value statements changed the game. The net result was that Apple’s product not only cost a lot more, but it became one of the first devices to be sold worldwide with universal love.
Apple proves that with the right vision and value statement, you can sell the same thing for a higher cost at a higher demand.“
When your communication is genuine and clear, people will connect with your brand and want to give you their business.
Lesson 3: Know where you’re going
Just like you wouldn’t plan a vacation without a destination, or build a house without any blueprints, you shouldn’t build a web presence without a plan and end goal.
What is your goal for launching this website? What is the end result that you’re looking for? How can we measure the success of this site? Is your identity unified? Have you nailed down your messaging? Have you defined your audience? What are you saying to customers? Many times, I’ve been met with blank stares when I ask clients to answer these questions. It only makes sense to take a step back and dig out these answers before beginning a website project.
A successful web presence requires design that is centered on reaching goals, and a communication strategy that genuinely reflects your identity and connects with customers on a personal and emotional level.
Lesson 4: Keep moving – leverage your advantages
Far too often, business owners are handed the keys to a shiny new website without knowing how to use it. Launching your website is a very exciting time, but it’s only one step in building a great online business presence, and more importantly, a more powerful brand. To effectively leverage this great tool (that you just spent good money on), you need a road map for the future. Create a blog schedule, content management strategy, monitor analytics and seek professional advice on how to continually improve conversion. The best websites are monitored, measured and modified over time.
And take it a step further. Now that you’ve uncovered what your business is really all about, you can leverage this information in every communication channel. Is your physical brand collateral in line with the new and improved website? Your signage, advertisements, print material, etc. should all line up with your new identity. A unified, consistent brand is a powerful one. A brand with multiple personalities is off-putting and tough to trust. A consistent brand allows your business to utilize every communication channel to drive business.