Whatever business decisions you make, whatever path you choose to follow, it is always best to begin with the end in mind.
Let’s look at how this relates to your website. It is important to realize that every audience has different needs. For a website to have the most impact, it must cater to the needs of its audience. Your audience is made up of individuals who, for one reason or another, need to put ink on paper. To engage your customers or prospects it is your responsibility to provide items that are of interest, such as articles on marketing, what makes an effective mail piece, how does e-mail marketing work, etc. You need to make your website an indispensable marketing and business tool.
That’s easier said than done. Many printers share with me how much they struggle with how to use their website in a manner that will make an impact on their company. All too often, they underutilize what they have; making it more difficult than it has to be. To create an effective website, you simply have to remember two things: 1) start with the basics, and 2) have realistic expectations.
Take a look at the websites you use every day. Which sites, if they were gone tomorrow, would make your life more difficult than it is today? The reasons you use certain websites all the time will hold the keys to making your website the best it can be. Let’s put printing aside for a moment. Think about what you do as a consumer and take a look at websites you likely use on a day-to-day basis—the movies, online banking, or perhaps catching up on your favorite sports.
No Business Like Show Business
Let’s say you’re going to a movie tonight. How are you going to find out what’s playing, show times, etc? Most of us with quick access to a computer or mobile device will probably visit the movie theater’s website. When you use the theater’s website, the entire experience is centered on you. Not only can you search for a specific show, you can also uncover a wealth of other information (but only if you want to). You can find out about food choices, read film reviews, or even watch a trailer.
What’s even more brilliant about most movie theater sites is how they provide offers that you may not have known about otherwise. It could be a coupon for a local restaurant or a great deal on gift cards. This is marketing at its finest; providing value without being pesky or bold.
What you won’t find on your visit to a theater’s website is a page that talks about the equipment and technology the theater uses. You won’t find this page because it is not directly related to the reason you visited the site. It won’t help you find your movie time, decide which film to see, or how much spare change to bring for popcorn.
Take That to the Bank
If you need to check your bank balance, transfer funds, pay bills—what do you do? The majority of you would head to the computer. You can still go to the bank to make a deposit or cash a check, but we choose to bank online because of convenience and ease.
How has the banking industry, which handles an element that is vital to our existence (money), evoked so much trust that the majority of the public has become comfortable in managing their wealth and business online? The answer is simple—your online banking experience is focused solely on your needs. Why call the bank for your balance when you can login and see to the penny what your balance is? Why write a check for the mortgage when you can set up an automatic payment? It boils down to simple, efficient access to everything you need to accomplish your banking tasks as quickly as possible.
What you won’t find when you login to your account is a message from the bank president explaining how long the bank has been in business. Their entire focus is on you as a client and products or services you use. Again, a brilliant marketing tool.
Get in the Game
Where do you go to catch up on the latest sports news and scores? More and more of you are going online. According to many of my male counterparts, ESPN.com is their destination for information. Whether this is your site of choice or not, you can learn the same valuable lessons from your favorite sports site.
ESPN has scores, headlines, and breaking news. You can watch highlights over and over again. The site is completely interactive. What’s key here is that the newscasters will say while broadcasting, “For more details on this story visit ESPN.com.” Talk about a great job of knowing your audience and providing tools that keep you coming back.
When you visit ESPN.com, you won’t be greeted by the company’s history and you won’t get a lesson on how they hire their sportscasters. That’s not what you’re after and ESPN knows that.
Apply These Lessons to Your Site
The only commonality to these examples is that each industry does an outstanding job of catering to the needs of its audience. So how do you use your website to cater to your customers? Be sure you are following Stephen Covey’s advice when it comes to the way your site functions: “Begin with the end in mind.” Ask yourself, “Why is my audience visiting my website?” Is it to place an order, send a file, or to learn more about your company?
Personalize the content as much as you can. Make it all about the customer, not about your business. Explain what benefits you can provide, why doing business with you will save them time, money, or headaches. Provide proof of these savings and benefits around every corner. The word “you” should fill every page, and “we, us, our” should be few and far between. Are you a variable printer? Use language like “personalizing your direct mail piece will increase your response rate by 40%” instead of “we provide variable printing services.” See the difference?
Make sure you and your customers are using the technology (tools) you have. Most people tend to use only about 30% of what is available to them. How many bells and whistles are on your cell phone that you don’t take advantage of? Determine the balance between what you have and what your customers could really use.
Simply monitor your website’s statistics for a few months, determine your most visited pages, and then make sure those pages are incredibly easy to access with as few clicks and red tape as possible.
Please don’t focus on reinventing the wheel. Instead, stay laser focused on your customers’ needs, remember what you love about the sites you visit most, and then take a look at your own website to see what you have done to keep your clients coming back. If you honestly feel your site doesn’t do anything to keep people engaged, then take steps to correct it. Remember, any step from good towards great is better than no step at all.
Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence. She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. In 2005, she received the Industry Award of Distinction from NAQP for her service as a consultant and educator to the industry. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.