Let me open up with the statement that in today’s economy, your website and the message it delivers whether personal, company or both is going to be the most important asset of your life.
And I say that not from someone who has grown up in an Internet and technology world, but from someone who has had to see it emerge, watch it grow and who now is so excited as to where it will take us in the future.
I can truly see a time where people will invest in websites and the opportunities they can bring, in the same way as today, they invest in real estate.
The new “real estate” in my opinion will be your primary residence (your own website) and the other properties (sites) that you own.
It’s that simple.
And if people want to find out about you, connect with you, hire you for a job their first point of contact will be through your own website and that is why it is so important to make sure that you have totally nailed your site and the message it delivers — that is what this article is all about.
However, I want to start this article with a little trip down memory lane…
When your site was not so important
Back in the day, people had websites for ego and vanity and I should know, I was one of them.
I spent £40k on my first real website design and it was littered with Flash and all manner of fancy design and meaningless information. I remember when my industry friends and competitors used to boast to each other as to how “good” their websites looked.
Nobody really had anything more than an online presence and an email address to say “we’re on the net!”
We had nothing more than expensive “shop windows.”
Receiving email was another thing and I remember when I couldn’t wait to check my email for messages and the “open rates” at least for the mails I received were 100%.
The only thing that stood between me and other punters at the time and I am talking about receiving marketing messages here, was trust and even in the least trustworthy times of the Internet, some people succeeded to get some cash from me and that of course, was the beginning of a whole new world and economy.
The Internet has revolutionized the world and today you cannot imagine a world without it — your website is just one of the aspects of being online, but for me, it is the most important one, it is your online “home” and a very valuable piece of online real estate.
Each of my three children, who range from 9 to fifteen, have their own domain name, URL’s and they will learn to build their own sites.
As they grow older, this will be where everyone can find out all about them online and if you just take a look at my youngest sons YouTube account, you can see how he naturally embraces this technology and with ninety percent of the population projected to be online by 2030, everybody should be doing the same and for their own reasons — this is future life.
I talk about this in another short article — “3 Reasons to Get Online Now,”
- Historical websites were in the main, shop windows to showcase the companies in relation to the new, Internet technology.
- The Internet has revolutionized everything we do and especially the world of business.
- Now it enables you to build your own online “real estate.”
- Children are growing up and embracing this technology.
Your website today
Today, having a website is a totally different proposition and yet still, people are not taking advantage of the opportunities that a well-designed, optimized and functional website can open up for both you and your company.
There have been many advances in technology since the beginning of the web and today, it is extremely easy to go and get yourself a domain name, find a hosting company, download a content management system such as WordPress and build the site yourself.
Think of your website in three and distinctly different aspects:
- The domain name — your unique website “name” and number
- The design — how it looks and feels
- Marketing — what it says to the world and how it makes you money
Your domain name can be your own name if you are still able to get it and I suggest that you do and in some form, because this will be essential to build your personal brand, which I talk about in another article called “Start a Personal Blog.”
If you are building a business, try to make sure the domain name is memorable, brandable and short, but not too short — research this topic or consult your Internet marketing specialist.
You can get a designer to build it, which of course (or should) look a lot better than if you do it totally yourself, but remember to keep this firmly in the camp of point 1. above.
There are companies out there that give a total solution and here, make sure you get a pricing breakdown of the two key elements and then a breakdown for each element of marketing as we will talk about later.
If you have an existing website then I must tell you to resist the desire to go and smash and rebuild it as I have had on many occasions and consult an Internet marketing specialist before you do anything to make sure that you don’t compromise any value that you have built up over the time it has been there.
You have to think of your website as a complete and dynamic company brochure — in the pre-web days, companies would spend vast amounts of money showcasing themselves in expensive and static brochures. And if you looked at your brochure one day and decided you didn’t like it, then the only option was a re-print — costly in both time and money.
Your website today is a dynamic entity and can be changed in a heartbeat and as far as showcasing your company goes, then it is easy for everyone from the CEO to the receptionist of your organization to contribute and if you are a one-man-band, then you are in heaven, as you have the ability to convey every aspect of your business and thoughts, through one simple entity.
So let’s go deeper into the key areas:
A Well-designed website
This is where in my opinion, you should spend the least amount of time and money on your site.
Before you shoot me down in flames and tell me that you need to design a logo to create a brand and have a “look and feel” that represents you, let me make my point — the market doesn’t care and neither do your customers.
Before the Internet and in the early to middle days of Internet technology, the above factors were considered important to many and for me, it was simply the overspill of traditional graphic designer thoughts into the next progression of the branding and marketing industry — and quite rightly so, why would they not continue to run with a technology progression?
However, we are now in a very uncertain, volatile and hypercompetitive economy, where the focus is on surviving in business and profitability.
Just take a look at the high streets and shopping malls that are experiencing massive casualties and they are from former household names and then look at Amazon, to see how a simple concept, with a simple logo (bear in mind they have the cash to spend whatever they want on the best designers) to see how the world has and will continue to change.
So save your money and just get something up there that is simple and then a clear message which I will come onto later,
The design of your website is important, but you don’t need to go overboard here and if you are really strapped for cash, then do it yourself — there are hundreds of YouTube tutorials to show you this and I have taken them, just so that I can familiarize myself with some idea of the process.
When you are designing your site, make sure that it is a responsive design and looks fine on mobile devices as people are using their smartphones more and more today and that trend is only going to increase, with the development of super-fast mobile networks.
I can talk from personal experience here and in my early business career, I obsessed over everything in my business and literally wrote every word of my brochures, agonized over the copy and when it came to my first website, I would try to take over the job of the professionals.
I was literally “selling to myself” and believing that I knew what I wanted to say and the market would respond to that, rather than looking for the inspiration from my customers, which seems so obvious but we all ignore that in the “heat of business.”
Optimized and functional
Once you have gotten over the shock of realizing that you don’t need to spend a fortune on your website and it actually falls into categories, you can get on with the real work of making sure it does the job it is supposed to do.
Once you have a good design, you will need to make sure it is optimal and here we have to ensure that you have the right technology plugins and one, for example, would be a contact form where you can make sure visitors can get in touch with you and another would be an SEO plugin called all-in-one SEO.
I will explain more about SEO in the Internet marketing section at the end.
One factor you have to keep in mind that is extremely important is the load speed of your website and you as you want your site to give users a good experience, you should make sure you don’t add a bunch of unnecessary plug-ins, as I did with my first site that only serves to slow the site down, so spend a few hours researching this or get expert help.
So let’s assume you have designed the site yourself and you are happy with the basic look and feel. Next, you have to put it to work and that means you have to tell your story to the world, by pushing it to your target audience and then capturing and engaging them to turn them into paying customers and this is what I mean by “functional.”
This is an area that you will need help with and you have two choices here — gat a specialist Internet marketing service to help, or try to learn it yourself, which as you have probably tried to learn to build the site, will have given you an appetite for learning which will excite you, or like me, you will stay focused on what you do best and hire someone/a company to do it for you.
Remember the sole purpose of your website is to make money for you and/or your company and never lose sight of that objective and I will discuss Internet marketing more at the end of the article.
- It’s very easy to build a website today and you can build a simple site by watching videos on YouTube or hire a designer.
- Your website needs to be well-designed, optimized and functional.
- Make sure you get the right domain name, hosting company and a content management system such as WordPress.org.
- Think in terms that one day, everyone will have their own Internet address from birth.
- Make sure you have control of your website and that means full administrator rights.
- Before you tamper with your existing site you should get specialist help from your Internet marketing specialist.
- Remember that your website is dynamic and can showcase your entire company or you.
- When it comes to design, spend the least amount of money as you want to save it for marketing — whatever you make sure your design is responsive.
- Optimize your site for loading times and get the right plug-ins
- Make sure you learn all about Internet marketing or hire a specialist.
Your Business Message
This for me is the most important aspect of the site as if it is wrong, then all of your marketing efforts will be wasted and you will pour time, effort and money down the drain.
In my coaching business, I spend the majority of my time helping people create or re-create their business or personal message simply because they haven’t given enough deep thought to it or it does not tell the world exactly what they do.
Now you may or may not have a decent logo and I have already given my views on that…and you may have created a tagline, which is really to explain the logo further and from here we come into the business or personal message.
The key here is to explain what you do for your customers in a clear, concise and easy to understand manner, no matter how complicated your product and/or service is — in fact the more complex what you do is, the more you should simplify your message.
There are two simple ways you can approach this and that is using the “I” or “We” approach, where you lead with a description of what you do such as:
“I am a specialist Internet marketing expert, who will make sure that your website converts your visitors into paying customers.”
“We design specialist software to make the planning of mobile network more simple, faster and with better performance outcomes.”
These are two simple statements just to give you an idea of how to lead with you or as a company.
We can also flip it to talk about the customer first:
“Your website may have a great design, but it if it is not performing properly, then you are potentially losing customers and money. My custom Internet marketing services will make sure that you convert X % of your visitors into paying customers and keep the rest where you can connect with them again.”
“Your mobile engineering team is already maxed out, so help make life easier for them by giving them our simple to use, fast software that will ensure the best accuracy and improved performance and delighting your leadership team.”
In both examples, you can see that the visitor has a clear idea of who they are visiting and what the person or company can do for them, but if you look at the latter examples, it is easier to “tell a story” and if you are selling anything, the most effective strategy is to tell a story.
This is because we are all conditioned to read and hear them from our childhood days.
The next and final part of the message is to explain how you do what you do and then to prove it.
I will give you an example of the mobile industry as we will talk about Internet marketing next:
“Our software has been helping the industry leaders improve their planning processes for ten years and we have delivered these solutions from our proprietary methodologies that have been built and developed by world-leading teams of mathematical experts and computer scientists.
Click the link below to get an instant demonstration of how we can help you and take the next step in getting the XXX planning experience.”
Again, I am just giving you an example here, but you can see the idea — you are building a story to tell the world and your audience and one that is an anchor point for the rest of the website and to map out your customer journey — vital in teaching your customers how to buy from you which is another story…
Whatever style you use and I have used both, make sure that you are able to flow naturally into the next stage and ignore people who tell you there is only one way to market — there are hundreds, but you have to articulate who you are and what you do for your audience and then you have to prove it!
- Your business message is critical and the most important part in my opinion of the whole site
- The wrong message will lead to wasted time, effort and money.
- It will follow from your logo, tagline and should articulate exactly what you do for your target audience.
- The more complex the service or product, the more simple you should make the message.
- You can lead with “I,” “We,” or start with the customer which I feel makes it easier to tell a story.
- Telling a “story” is the best way to sell as we are all conditioned to hear and read them since childhood.
- Once you have created the “who and what” part, you have to then explain the “how and why” and prove it!
I’ve talked about getting a marketing specialist to help you if you don’t want to learn the trade yourself and it really boils down to:
- Your appetite for learning
- The time you have to learn
Let’s take me for example and I have been in the Internet world from the beginning, have been exposed to Internet marketing since it began and even owned a specialist agency, but with all of that experience, I couldn’t today tell you the “in’s and out’s” of precisely how to run an Internet marketing campaign and that’s because I haven’t had the time to learn, but more importantly, I am better putting my energies into the skills I have.
You may or may not be the same, so it is entirely up to you, but whatever you choose, remember that it is a skill that is ever-changing.
Now just as I told you it is important to have full administrator rights to your own website if you are using a designer or outside agency, it is also critical to have your own email marketing list to keep control of your customers.
One of the strategies used in Internet marketing is to offer free information or even goods, in exchange for a valid email address. In this way, you will build a list of customers who you can interact with via email and launch various campaigns to sell products and/or services as well as keep your customers engaged with regular information.
You must be in control of this process and one product you can use to get started is MailChimp and it is free.
Internet marketing is no different from traditional marketing in concept, it is just using the Internet and all of the associated technologies to deliver the marketing messages.
The goal in any marketing campaign if you want to hear the real truth is to make selling redundant and that is displayed excellently by the way Apple market their services.
Their campaigns and in-store facilities are so good that the products only really need a technical demonstration as they look and feel so good — at least in my opinion.
But the chances are you are not Apple and you don’t have anywhere near their budget, so you need to mount an Internet marketing campaign to attract, engage and ultimately sell to them.
Internet marketing is far less intrusive than traditional marketing methods such as advertising and that is because people simply view an advert as annoying, especially if it pops up continuously on that YouTube video that you are watching!
One excellent online strategy is content marketing and this is where you can really differentiate your marketing efforts from your competitors if you do it correctly.
We have discussed the importance of the message and now think of that message as one trapped into that proverbial bottle and now it is time to get it out!
One final word of warning about marketing and you will hear many people talk about Social Media marketing campaigns and how great they are, which is true, but please do not put all of your efforts into this area exclusive as you are not the owner of these platforms and therefore you have no control.
So let’s start at the beginning and talk about building a strategy so that your website can be picked up by the ranking it has on the search engines.
You absolutely must start this process and the goal here is to get yourself and/or your site to the first page of Google and without paying any money to do it.
This is where you need to focus on your SEO strategy and put in the hard work to do so. Many people talk about how SEO is not important today and they are totally wrong, because as long as there are a Google and other search engines, there will be a place for SEO and I for one, always go the pages that have naturally ranked the highest when I am searching, rather than the paid advertising that appears at the top, depending on what I am searching for.
Once you have started that process you can go on to look at paid advertising and this is where you need to make sure your message and offer to the world is right as you are now going to spend your hard-earned dollars!
Paid advertising is a specialist field and I would suggest that you hire an expert to do it, but I would also make sure to learn the concepts of paid advertising yourself so that you can manage the person or agency concerned effectively.
Lastly, make sure that you measure the effectiveness of everything you do.
These are the basics of Internet marketing and you can use this solely for your business or as part of your overall sales and marketing campaign, depending on what your business is.
- Make sure to understand the basics of Internet marketing and hire a specialist or do it yourself if you have the time and inclination.
- Make sure you build your own email list of customers.
- Be careful about Social Media marketing as the owners of the platforms can change the rules whenever they want.
- The ultimate role of marketing is to make selling redundant — look at Apple.
- Learn about content marketing.
- Make sure you learn about and take action to get your website optimized so it is found in the search engines.
- Once this process is actioned look at paid advertising.
- Measure everything.
So I hope now you can see the real importance of your website and particularly the online message.
Your website is an extremely powerful piece of real estate and it is only going to get more powerful…if you use it correctly.
Contact me if you want to discuss anything more about what I have talked about here and if you need specialist help in creating or re-defining your message, content marketing, and building pages that convert visitors to sales!