Everyone needs a website.
For those of us building a platform, a website is our storefront. There are a lot of ways you can leverage your website to drive revenue in your business if you know what you’re doing.
I’ve been helping my clients build websites for the last 14 years, and a LOT has changed since we started building them in straight HTML! And it keeps changing. 14 years is like, 4 lifetimes in the technology world (or more!). If it weren’t for the fact that keeping up with this space is a significant part of how I support our clients, there is no way I’d know how to navigate it well, particularly because things shift so quickly!
There are a few key “rules” I abide by when we help our clients build out new sites. A website can be a money pit, and frankly, there are only a handful of things that are worth spending money on as it relates to your site. And how you prioritize and spend money on them depends on the strategies you’re executing and the channels you are leveraging.
The main purpose of your website: drive your funnels
A website can (and should!) be so much more than an expensive brochure. Your website should be driving people to join your list (more on this as we get into the MarketectU Model) and supporting your conversion goals (getting you booked, growing your list, selling stuff).
Unsure of how to structure your site so that you’re able to convert more? Well, there you have it: the work you need to do before you waste money on a website!
There are several ways your site should be set up to drive your funnels:
- Strategic opt-ins that push people to your list. I love Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, and one of the things he teaches as the most important “rule” for growing a platform is always be building your list. He’s so right on.
- RSS functionality if you’ve got a blog. RSS functionality will allow people to subscribe to your site’s feed so that your new content shows up in their blog reader (my favorite reader is feed.ly).
- Lead Generation – Contact Forms to allow people to request information on services, media or booking inquiries, or general questions. It’s ideal to use forms provided by the “engines” that manage your business (I like Highrise, MailChimp, and Office Auto Pilot). Many of these pages should be set up using a landing page-type template for best conversion.
- Social Sharing which allows people to like and share your content easily in their social channels.
How can I waste a lot of money on my website?
Want to know how your website can REALLY become a money pit? Order up all the bells and whistles when you aren’t clear on who your visitors are and what they’ll want to opt-in to or buy. Spending money building your tools (like your logo and website) before you’ve mapped your funnels and developed your strategy is NOT going to grow your business. Creating beautiful covers for your products, great logos or marks to brand your services, a beautiful website and business cards … it’s fun. It’s very fun. But it’s meaningless unless those activities are window dressing for a really solid strategy,product or offer.
There is a lot of work that goes into building a website “on paper” before you ever build out a live site. And if you can’t slow down in your business long enough to do the proper due diligence ahead of time, save your money. You’d be wasting it trying to build out a website without the proper groundwork.
The other way you waste a lot of money? Changing your mind mid-stream. I had a web developer colleague tell me once, “People ask me if building their website is going to be expensive. I tell them that the most expensive thing they can do is to change their mind.”
The MarketectU strategy for building a website hub for your business
So, how do we build websites that are going to effectively support our marketing strategies and grow our businesses? I follow a few “rules”:
- Build your site in WordPress. I know there are other CMSes out there (like Joomla and Drupal), but if I client comes to me and wants our team to help, we’re building their site in WordPress. WordPress is free. It has a huge community of developers and admins that support it, which means you can find help managing your site fairly economically. As the web is shifting, the WordPress platform is keeping up because of their huge developer support community: they’re developing plugins all the time to integrate new functionality into WordPress. No other platform even comes close to WordPress.com’s affordability and support.
- Employ the Law of Crawl-Walk-Run. The Law of Crawl – Walk – Run has been my saving grace in business. Before I go gangbusters on a new idea or direction, I embrace crawling. Starting slow, test and measure, and scale with success. In Good to Great, they call this the Walgreen’s philosophy.
After you’ve sketched out your site on paper, gather up (or create) your web content and collateral (like graphics, PDFs, video, etc). Then, have your site developed with a very modest programming budget – we start our clients out at $500-700, plus the cost of the theme.If you’ve aggregated your content well ahead of time, the initial build of your site should only take about a week. This is where I start with every client. After we get the basics set and tested, we’ll scale it.
- Start with a very basic site using a solid, responsive-design theme. Responsive design is a theme format that optimizes websites for desktops and provides “app-like” experiences on smartphones, tablets and e-readers. People are viewing your website on more devices than ever, and there was a time that in order to ensure a good viewing experience on a multitude of devices, you would need to build out a separate design or framework or theme for each different size.No more! Responsive design is awesome, and it really cuts down on your optimizing costs (there was a time we’d have to build out several templates for mobile viewing … it racked up costs). Make sure the theme you choose to work with on your new project is responsive design. We are using the Mineral Theme and Michael Hyatt’s Get Noticed Theme and really like them. They provide a ton of flexibility, and are letting us scale out functionality slowly, over time, as our clients are continuing to expand their platforms. (Check out this great scrolldeck from John Polacek explaining responsive design.)
- Integrate key functionality so your site supports social media and direct marketing efforts. Add plugins to make it easier to “like” and share your content. Make sure your theme links to your social media accounts. Integrate call-to-action functionality like “download” buttons and contact forms (most mail programs will give you the code to embed a form on your site).
- Consider “branding” your offers visually with clean graphics to help visitors acclimate to where they’re at in your site’s “experience.” Many people have multiple opt-ins and offers, and it can be confusing or even overwhelming to visitors to keep track of what’s-what. And when people are uncertain, they don’t take action.A simple visual graphic can help streamline their experience and orient them to what they’re participating in so that they feel confident about interacting with your site. When you shift gears between these different offers, the visual mark helps visitors connect to the “thing” you’re discussing as they travel through your site. Remember: you know what all this stuff means. They don’t necessarily.
Starting with basic infrastructure is best. Once you get your theme and “starter” content into place, you can do some usability exercises to see where you can make improvements and develop your funnels.
My favorite thing about building a site this way is it allows you to engage, to “get into the game,” without needing a crystal ball to show you the photo finish of your site at the outset. You do need to have a sense of who your target market is, the funnels you’re building, and what your main conversion goals are. And of course, some visual branding and good photographs are necessary to get you started. But growing your business is a marathon that ebbs and flows and twists and turns. The more flexible your website’s foundation, the better you’ll be able to respond to the market, take advantage of new ideas and trends so that you’re monetizing your platform as powerfully as possible, and build out conversion funnels that keeps your audience engaged and adds a tremendous amount of value. This paradigm “eats the elephant one bite at a time.”
As you make progress with your proactive marketing strategies (like interviews, speaking, list building, and social engagement — a website is not a strategy), you can build out additional functionality like a slider for the home page to showcase multiple offers or key content, or landing pages to drive your funnels, or fully-developed media and speaking pages. Bit-by-bit, your website can scale with you, allowing you to control your cost and avoid paying for functionality you end up not needing or using.
Tell me: what are some of your challenges or frustrations with building and managing your website? Any burning questions as you think about your next site design? Share with me in the comments!