Message from Michelle
The current economic climate is calling on companies to change how they conduct business and market their services. People are still buying, but their reasons for buying have changed. This means if you want to remain visible and continue to grow, you must begin to revise your marketing message to make sure you are connected to your target market’s wants. Lose that connection, and you will lose your past, current, and future clients.
In the last issue, we discussed how to improve your marketing message to attract clients and the five steps to take to refine your message. In this issue of Your Business Marketing Solution, we continue the discussion on improving your marketing message to attract all the clients you want–with the focus on the importance of your website in attracting customers.
As a web copy writer, I have the pleasure of working with some of the best web design firms in the nation and have grown to know more and more about the design and development process. But I am no expert. So I asked web designer Eric Jennings, owner of Studio Blur, if he would answer a few questions for my readers. Thankfully, he agreed. Eric and I have worked on three projects together and recently completed a website for Handsome Properties. He’s a pleasure to work with, and I am grateful to him for taking time to be interviewed.
Connecting to Your Target Market Through Your Website
Below is my interview with Eric Jennings, owner of Studio Blur, a web design company based in Charleston, South Carolina.
What are some misconceptions companies have about building a website?
I see a number of companies that don’t realize creating a website is an ongoing process and a site needs constant attention and updates. Many think the web is a magic solution where they put up a site and the money rolls in.
I also see companies that either don’t understand their target audience or they have no idea who their target audience is. They want a website with a certain function or a certain look and feel that they want, instead of what the viewer wants. That happens more often than not, although there are clients who fully understand that information and can focus on the goals of the site.
I’ve had a number of situations where we build a site and the client does not understand the target. After a few months of trial by fire, we can define the audience and adjust the site to meet the audience’s expectations. It is always an education process for every client. The most successful projects are always the ones where the client knows their audience and can take viewer feedback to make the site a successful experience.
What can a company do before contacting a designer to better understand their target market?
Research any current data they have on customer purchasing. Determine exactly how people currently find them. Research their competition, not to copy, but to find out how they are placed in their industry. When the research is complete, collect data, and then put together a refined marketing campaign to build your site.
To what extent does the site design factor into speaking to a company’s target market?
Designing the focus of the site is critical. You can have a generic design, in which you hope to persuade a customer to purchase, or you can have a focused site that drives the customer to purchase. A focused site has a navigation plan where you control how the viewer uses your site. You can lead visitors to the areas that are considered high-value content while also keeping navigation simple.
You want the viewer to be able to see your product or service immediately without having to make them work to find it. Many sites fail at this–they have a generic site that contains no call-to-action methods. The viewer comes to the site, half the battle is won. Then they leave because the message or focus of the site is not clear.
Design is very important, but subjective. The successful site is the one where the design supports the function of the site–not where the design overpowers the function. An ugly design that clearly defines the mission of the site can always be more successful than a beautiful design that has no purpose or goal. Amazon.com is not a beautiful design, but the design pushes the function of the site and executes the goals of the site, which, of course, is to drive revenue up.
You touched on navigation. How important is that to the site as a whole?
Navigation is extremely important. You never want to make a viewer have to guess how to find something on your site. If possible, you should remove the find search option out of the site completely. Everything should flow and be represented in a manner where the user can navigate through the site immediately.
Video is becoming a more prevalent way to draw in the target market. How are you using video to raise conversion rates and increase site traffic?
We are starting to focus on this area because it gives a new platform to demo the product or service a client offers. This can give the user an almost hands-on experience.
With available services like You Tube, Facebook, etc., video does not have to be of the highest quality. Video allows a viewer to engage whatever product, service, or idea you want to present. It can present an emotional response to encourage a purchase or a contact method.
If you have a product and you only have a photo of that product, then you may generate some interest. If you have a video of that product in action, then you are actually giving a demo and that could greatly increase the conversion rate from viewer to purchaser.
What are some common mistakes companies make with their websites and how can they remedy this?
The number one mistake is not spending the money, the time, and the research it takes to develop a successful site. Your website is not a magic component of the business, but it can be the most powerful one. Again, if you do not have a clear idea of your audience, do your research, and listen to your current clients. This way you will have the data to build a site to meet the user’s expectations.
The second mistake I see companies making is not updating their current website. The site should be a venture that is always monitored and updated with fresh content. It needs to be tweaked to accommodate viewer feedback and changes in the marketplace. If you build a site and then never tend to it, you will fail.
I think the most common mistake is building a site that the owner of the company wants with no foundation. You must remove your personal desires and build for the viewing audience and what they want to see.
What advice would you give a start-up company who cannot afford right now to have a professional website designed?
There is no valid excuse to not have a presence on the web. It’s important, now more than ever. My advice is to find a way to afford at least a focused single page or microsite to represent your company. It’s not ideal, but if you at least have a single page with a list of services and contact information, you will have some sort of online presence and can build on that. It is more common than not for a viewer to look up your company online before they approach you, and if they can’t find you on the web, that can be lost revenue.
Who is your ideal client?
A company that has an understanding of their business and the market they are targeting. I work with clients who have a defined goal – to increase traffic, increase sales, increase exposure for their services, etc. They realize creating a site is an extension of their business, and, more times than not, it is the first representation of their company that a potential client will see.
About Studio Blur
Studio Blur focuses on site development, whether a new start-up website or a redesign. The firm also has a strong commitment to customer service and to help clients succeed with their web endeavors. Visit their site at www.studioblur.com.
Tip of the Month
According to a December 2008 eMarketer report, the 56.7 million baby boomers make up the largest group of users in the U.S. Internet population. They view the Internet as a tool, a way to get things done, and not as a lifestyle.