Your website is a revenue earning machine that generates income for your business 24/7. Not all websites are created equal though. This is especially true for any small to medium-sized business that builds its own website without having a real goal for it, or that chooses a designer who knows little about copywriting and UX (User Experience).
1. Have a goal for your website
Your website needs a goal: a purpose for being. That goal should be tied to something financial. To accomplish any goal you set, your business’s website will need to attract visitors. Second, it will need to get a percentage of the people who visit your website to take some sort of action.
When you reach out to an agency and say, “I need a new website,” the designer should respond, “What are your business goals for the site?” If their response more closely resembles, “I can do that. What would you like it to look like?” you should seek out another agency. Otherwise, you’ll put a downpayment on something that won’t return money to your business.
You don’t have a goal
You may think to yourself, “I don’t have a goal.” If that’s true, you don’t need a website. There are plenty of people who will tell you that your business needs a website to prove it exists. They’re trying to sell you a website. However, if your business is attracting the types of customers you want and earning all the money it needs to satisfy your growth ambitions, you don’t need a website. Just keep doing what you’re doing. A website will distract you from working on your business. Your ideal customers are already finding you and augmenting your outreach through a website might strain your capacity, lead to service failures, and leave some customers wanting.
It’s more likely that your inner monologue will say, “I don’t have a goal. I just want people to find me.” It’s true. You don’t have a goal...yet. You do have the basis for one though, because you’ve already drawn a connection between being found and your business’s earning potential. How many people are finding you now? Are they the type of customers that you want? Are the people who are finding you within your service area? Of the people who are finding you, what percentage of them buy from you? Do you want to be found by more people? When you start asking yourself questions, you begin forming a tangible goal. You identify a gap between your current state and a target, future state.
You do have a goal
“I get 1,000 visitors to my website every month but none of them actually contact my business.” That’s a performance gap that you can turn into a goal. For example, you may target that 3 out of every 100 visitors to your website will contact your business. It depends on your business, but maybe 1 out of every 3 people who call you will typically buy from you. In that light, a goal for your website — which attracts 1,000 visitors each month — is that it will earn your business 10 new customers every month.
Now that you know how many new customers that you want your website to earn every month, the next question to answer is how much the average customer returns to your business over the course of their lifetime. As an example, we’ll say that every new customer is worth $300, meaning you want your website to earn $3,000 in customer lifetime value each month.
2. Know what you should spend
The average life expectancy for a website is 5 years. In addition to upfront development costs, a business will incur charges for maintenance, new features, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). If a website is creating $3,000 a month in customer lifetime value every month, it will add $180,000 in 5 years. The benchmark Customer Lifetime Value to Customer Acquisition Cost (CLV:CAC) ratio is 3:1. For every $1 spent to acquire a new customer, the investment will ideally return $3 in customer lifetime value. In the case of our example website, which is delivering $0 in value to the business, the growth to $180,000 in 5 years is worth a $60,000 investment. This is not a one-time, upfront investment, but one spread across the life of the website.
Not every business should plan to spend $60,000 on its website. That amount makes sense in the context of our example, but every business will have a different goal. It’s likely that a business’s website is starting from a position better than earning $0 for the business. It’s nonetheless true for every business; it should plan to make an investment in its website that’s proportional to its practical revenue goals. That’s true whether a business is building and maintaining a website on its own, or it’s hiring an agency to do it for them.
When evaluating all your options, be prepared for value-based pricing when working with a qualified agency. If you want your website to return $180,000 to your business over a period of 5 years, you can expect to pay more than $1,000 to earn that $180,000. While that would be a fantastic return on your investment, it would be an equally unrealistic one. Instead, you can expect to pay $30,000 for the website and another $30,000 over 5 years for maintenance, features, and SEO. You’ll be paying as much for the expertise to deliver your customer acquisition target as you will for the website itself. If you have the capabilities — marketing and technical — and time, you can do it all yourself and save your business some money.
3. Have a strong brand presence on your website
As a general rule, a business’s investment in its brand is relative to its size. Big businesses spend more money on marketing because they earn more money. Additional investment is required to achieve the scale and reach that the business needs in order to acquire new customers.
Regardless of a business’s size, there are some brand features that every business must clearly define, and those features must be clearly expressed on every business’s website.
Brand position is the space your business occupies in the consumer’s mind. It’s how your customers perceive your business. Said another way, your brand position is where you connect to your customers based on the traits of your business that they value most.
Your website must loudly communicate your brand position, or it will fail your business. It either won’t attract the right customers, or it won’t attract customers at all. For example, if you’re a premium provider and your brand position doesn’t reflect that your products are premium, your website won’t attract customers who value premium goods. Your target market will regard your offering as low-end. You may attract people who shop on price and will think you’re too expensive.
Walmart connects to its customers on price. Its customer audience values low prices more than anything else, and its website communicates that Walmart is the place to shop when you want to save money. Walmart’s website says, “Are you here because you want to save money? Then, you’ve come to the right place!”
Whole Foods is the exact opposite of Walmart. It has a reputation for being expensive. When customers visit Whole Foods’ website, there’s little mention of pricing.
Whole Foods connects with its customers based on the feature they value most in the Whole Foods brand: social and physical wellbeing. Even the “Whole Foods” name evokes a feeling of health.
Walmart and Whole Foods serve different customers. Each is clear in its brand position and speaks directly to the type of customers it wants to attract. They’re differentiated.
Brand identity is how a business reflects its brand position as; how it looks, sounds, and acts. Your website will likely be the place where most of your customers interact with your brand most frequently. In fact, you may never meet the majority of your customers, and you will never meet most of the people who visit your business’s website.
Your website must make your products and services look visually appealing, and it should make your customers feel good about themselves when using them. Yes, your website should help people envision how their lives will be better after purchasing one of your products or services. To achieve this, your website needs a visual identity and tone that both complements your products and resonates with your customers. Think hard about how your website will appear to consumers and the voice you’ll use when making the case to them.
4. Customer journey and UX
A website can have more than one customer journey. It's critical that you define the most important ones before you start building your homepage or any other page of your website. Customer journey mapping begins by answering a simple question. What is it that you want visitors to do when they visit your website?
At a high level, the two most common customer journeys are; to create a new account and to buy something. They’re simple enough. It’s how you move people through each of those journeys that makes the difference. Simplicity and speed are your friends. Complexity and effort are your enemies. You need to remove as many consumer barriers as possible.
Apple manufactures computer hardware and sells related services. By far, its most popular product is the iPhone, in terms of both volume and revenue. The iPhone is also the gateway to consumer services. People buy the iPhone, then subscribe to one of their services; not the other way around.
Whether someone has an iPhone or not, everyone knows what an iPhone is. Apple understands that, so when someone visits Apple.com, they’re immediately prompted to buy an iPhone and transition directly to the checkout process.
Apple doesn’t burden its customers with complicated options. Choose the color you like, the storage you need, and your preferred carrier. Then, pay Apple and receive your new phone in a couple of days.
Spotify wants people to sign up for its subscription music streaming service. When someone visits Spotify, they’re immediately given an incentive to subscribe as three months of free service. Visitors are also told exactly what they’ll get for their subscription dollars, “Endless ad-free music - even offline.”
If cost is a barrier to Spotify’s Premium tier, a customer can choose a second customer journey lower on the page. Visitors to Spotify’s website can subscribe to an ad-supported Free tier. The free customer might be less valuable to Spotify than a paying one. However, should the free subscriber have more disposable income in the future, their playlists will already be with Spotify. It will be easier for the individual to pay Spotify for an ad-free experience than move to a competitor for a similar ad-free experience at a similar price.
To make things easy, new customers can sign in with a social account they already have. The friction of creating and documenting a new password is eliminated.
Conveniently, once a person signs up for Spotify’s Premium service, they only need to enter their payment information once. Spotify will charge its customers automatically every month. Customers don’t need to worry about paying a monthly invoice. In fact, if customers did need to login and pay Spotify each month, many of them would allow their subscriptions to lapse.
Morning Brew is a free newsletter. Its website is a simple landing page landing which explains the newsletter’s value in a sentence. It will make you smarter, and becoming smarter will only take 5 minutes of your time.
Since Morning Brew’s newsletter is free, it doesn't need to do a lot of explaining. A person can subscribe or unsubscribe in a matter of seconds. There’s no commitment, and the words, “Try it,” say exactly that. Morning Brew’s customer journey is as fast as you can type your email address.
5. Copywriting for your website
Copywriting is the act of writing text to create brand awareness and motivate people to take action. “Copy” is the words you say to your website visitors to get them to buy products, subscribe to services, contact your business, or give you their email addresses so you can send them marketing material.
Your website needs to convince visitors to become customers. Remember. You won’t meet most of the people who visit your website. If your website’s messaging isn’t compelling, visitors will simply leave it and go somewhere else. They will have no reason to learn more unless you motivate them to do so.
The homepage for your business’s website has to be especially good. Customers will only visit other pages of your website if your homepage has captivated them to do so. Its copy must do several things:
- Clearly communicate the value that your business provides.
- Motivate visitors to take action. Testimonials can help.
- Differentiate your business from competitors.
- Inspire visitors to see themselves as better for using your products or services.
- Give visitors more than one opportunity to engage with your business. If a customer is unwilling to pay for your offer now, they might be willing to give you their email address in exchange for some value that you will give them for free.
- Get your message across quickly.
- Provide an easy path for visitors to get their questions answered. Incidentally, as you answer questions, you can incorporate those answers into your website copy to make it more effective.
Maximize your website’s earning potential
Your website is a powerful sales tool. It must attract customers and earn money for your business. How you design your website and what you say on your website impacts your business’s bottom line. Drawing an analogy to a brick and mortar retail establishment, a website is a business’s storefront. It can have attractive signage with enticing window displays, or it can have a sign that says, “Beware of dog.” Make your customers feel welcomed to your business and give them several reasons to come inside.