5 Action Items that Will Turn Your Website into a New Business Workhorse
If I were to place a bet on what your company’s managing partner, management committee, and shareholders want from the investment they made in the website, I would put my money down on “show me the ROI in terms of direct new business."
I’m pretty sure that “make our website brighter and shinier” would be a distant second in terms of desired outcomes. But before I get trolled by legions of angry graphic artists and web designers, allow me to make clear that I consider website look/feel/beauty issues to be extremely important.Take a look, for example at the recent website design winners named at the 2016 Association for Accounting Marketing conference earlier this year: Shinn & Co (76), Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough (89), and Schenck SC (79).
These sites are beautifully designed, easy to navigate, uncluttered, and visually appealing. And, in terms of their performance, mobile, SEO and security characteristics, as measured by HubSpot’s Website Grader, they earned well-deserved grades ranging from 76 to a phenomenal 89 out of 100. (Click on the link to get a grade for your website—it’s free.)
Which Website is the Workhorse?
Of all of these sites, however, there’s only one that I consider to be a workhorse: Schenck.
Here’s why. They’re posting gated content for lead generation as part of a larger content strategy that works hard to establish their thought leadership credentials. I also like the fact that they’re using gating in a discreet way—not every lofty Schenck thought is tucked behind a form that requires a visitor to give contact information.
Here are the characteristics of a work horse website: it will have a combination of (1) a strong content management program with multiple visitor-to-lead conversion tactics, (2) a stunning visual presentation, and (3) a high Website Grader score.
Taken together, these characteristics are nothing less than the formula for getting more sales coming directly from your website—sales that can be traced, documented, and measured. In effect, a workhorse website is one that gets the cash register ringing frequently and a bigger bang from the bucks you invested in your website design.
Here’s another behind-the-curtain look at a couple of other workhorse websites.
What you’re seeing are metrics that actually show how much work each website is doing to generate sales that can directly be traced to the website. Does your marketing technology have the capability to deliver this type of data?
Action Items for Creating a Workhorse Website That Will Deliver More Sales, Faster
Here are five action items for turning your website into a workhorse, along with a set of very blunt and direct questions that owners, partners, and management teams should be discussing at strategic planning meetings.
1. Go well beyond “contact us” forms and increase the number and types of opportunities on your website to convert site visitors into leads. This action step lies at the heart of a content marketing strategy, and smart marketers know that they need to present offers that will convert site visitors to leads at the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel. Way too many firms do a fantastic job at creating and posting content on their website, but fail to gate some portion of that content.
Discuss this: What are we doing to convert traffic coming to our website into leads beyond our "contact us" form?
2. Invest in SEO to maximize the opportunity for getting found first. In order for a website to reach the level of workhorse, it’s going to need visitors—lots and lots of visitors. Your action item here is to develop and manage search engine optimization strategies and tactics, including a backlink strategy that gives you the highest possible search engine rankings for capturing organic searches.
Discuss this: What is our SEO strategy for the website, who is managing it, how much does it cost, and what return are we getting on our investment in terms of increased site rankings and/or visitors?
3. Develop and implement a comprehensive content marketing program based on your firm’s unique and differentiated thought leadership. A workhorse website is one that has a significant amount of helpful content—not advertorial content—written by subject matter experts. This thought leadership can be published in the forms of blogs, articles, infographics, whitepapers, video, and the like. In some cases, content marketing will serve as a key part of your SEO strategy, and in other cases, will serve as a key part of your lead generation strategy when you gate a piece and require submission of a form.
Discuss this: Articulate our firm’s content marketing plan—objectives, strategies, tactics, tools for measuring results and results to date, especially in terms of how effective we’ve been at converting visitors to leads.
4. Use your digital marketing assets to give fans, followers, connections a link and valid business reason to visit your site. Another part of driving more visitors to your website is to use and link your digital assets—social media accounts, paid media, newsletters, email—to specific sections of the site. Firms that are masters at online lead generation, for example, use their digital assets to bring people to landing pages. Firms that have a best-in-class content marketing program are using these assets to bring readers to blog posts, articles, and other thought leadership. The formula is pretty simple: more visitors brought to the site = more opportunity to convert them into leads and sales.
Discuss this: How are we using our digital assets to bring visitors to our website and how effective is our strategy for making this happen?
5. Follow up on leads. Seems simple, right? You’ve done all of this hard work to get your website to workhorse status. You’re getting more visitors than ever before. You’re exceeding expectations of conversions of visitors to leads. But if you’re not closing the loop and seeing more sales, then you’ve got a problem that can be the result of a poor sales process that’s most likely underpinned by a lack of accountability. Why would you ever want to make the significant investment in creating a workhorse website if you don’t have a way to close the barn doors?
Discuss this: Who is following up on leads, how are they reporting pipeline progress, and are we making the cash register ring?
A Glamorous Thoroughbred Website or a Glamorous Workhorse Website?
You may have a stunningly beautiful thoroughbred website, but that doesn’t mean it’s a workhorse. I see too many cases where firms invest in website glamour for branding purposes, and not enough in website strategy. You can always distinguish a workhorse website by virtue of the fact that they’re presenting gated offers.
But, you can have both.
It may be that with a modest amount of strategic redirection and a bit more surgery, you can have a stunning website that also creates and delivers sales opportunities.
It’s time to hitch up!