Your Website May Be Doing You More Harm Than Good.

I was driving down the business loop a couple of months ago, and I noticed a great billboard. The design was simple: XYZ.com (in huge letters), a slick, short tag line and the company logo. Obviously, the purpose of the billboard was to direct me to their website to learn more. Well, it worked. I got to the office and brought up the website on my computer. Utter disappointment ensued as I attempted to navigate around the horribly designed and outdated website that this company had spent so much money to get me to.

I searched for relevant information such as prices and services offered to no avail. As a marketing type, I also noticed the absence of a sales message – there was no call to action and no real sales pitch. I wondered how much money and time had been spent leasing this billboard and designing the layout. More importantly, I wondered how many folks visited their website as a result of the billboard and actually became new customers. If I had to guess, I would say none. I have not seen this billboard again. It was only there for a month or so. My guess is that the company experienced increased website traffic during that month, but did not see an increase in sales, and decided that the billboard was a waste of money.

If that's what happened, then they're right – the billboard was a waste of money. It probably never occurred to them that more attention to their website could have converted some of those visitors into customers. The hard part is getting people to the website – the rest should be a slam dunk! A well designed website should direct people to relevant information, show them the benefits of the product or service and give them a simple and straightforward way to make a purchase or to contact you.

Its been our experience that most local businesses don't realize how powerful and effective of a sales tool their website can be. After surfing local websites for the past several months, I have a sense that most of them are doing more harm than good. In today's world, your website is often the place where a potential customer or client forms their first impression of your business and, if thoughtfully and properly designed, is a place where they can find the product or service they are looking for, and perhaps even make their purchase. Many local businesses seem to be resisting the use of a website as a marketing tool, and its costing them dearly. Sometimes a great website can even make the difference between success and failure.

I was doing some research with a realtor client of mine not too long ago. We were looking around at what her competition was doing. We found two websites from two different realtors from two different companies that had the exact same web design. Not only were the colors and the site navigation identical, but so was the text on many of the web pages! How are they separating themselves from the competition? They aren't! They don't seem to care enough about their website to make sure it isn't the same as the next guy's. Their website isn't important to them. Well, maybe it should be.

Maybe they should ask themselves: Is my website driving visitors away, or is it converting them to customers? Does my website reflect my personality and the personality of my company? Does it look professional, or is it an eye sore? Does it contain up-to-date information and images? Does it function properly? Can visitors to my website easily find what they want and /or make a purchase? Was my website custom designed specifically for my company with my goals in mind, or was it a cookie cutter design that I got on the cheap? Does my website bring in new customers or clients, or does it just sit there?

Your website may the first and only impression a customer gets of your company. Just because we live in a small city doesn't mean that people aren't using technology to find what they want or need. The question we all need to ask ourselves as business owners is whether or not we are taking advantage of that technology.

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