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Small Business Marketing

When it Comes to Your Small Business Website, Think Like a Retailer

As a small business marketing consultant, I see a LOT of really bad websites.  If I had to guess, I’d say that about 60% of small business websites aren’t worth the money that was paid for them.  There’s many reasons for this, but in my opinion one of the most common reasons is that websites are often designed by artistically-minded graphic designers under the direction of a small business owner who knows nothing about online marketing (that is, if they were even professionally designed at all).

In other words, the business’s most powerful marketing tool (their website) is being designed without the input of a marketer.  This is how you end up with very beautiful websites that are pleasing to look at, but have a terrible conversion rate because somebody forgot to put the phone number or any other contact information for the business on the website.

When I teach small business owners how to create a good website for their business, I tell them to “think like a retailer”.  What do I mean by this?  Think about the last time you walked into a Walmart, or a department store, or a Barnes and Noble.  Think about what you saw as you walked in, shopped around, checked out, and left the store.  Do you think that anything in those stores gets to be where it is by accident?  Of course not–the layout of those stores is designed by psychologists with the goal of getting you to spend more of your hard-earned money while you are in the store.  They take advantage of the way that people think and act while they are shopping in a retail store, and use that to get us to do what they want (and trust me, it works).

Small business owners should do the same thing when they design a website.  They should use available data about the way that people think and act when browsing the internet, and use that information to build a website that converts well.  For example, people often will not scroll down to the bottom of a page, so all important information should, when possible, be placed “above the fold” where it can be seen without scrolling down.  To get an idea of how people act when viewing websites, take a look at this excellent article about eye tracking studies.

Not only should business owners think about where to put content on their website, they should also think about what actions they want people to complete while visiting the site.  In marketing-speak, we call those “calls to action”.  Typically on a website those will be things like watching a video, filling out a contact form, or signing up for an email list.  Those calls to action need to be readily identifiable and easily accessible.  It’s my opinion that you should have at least one call to action on every single page of your website.  For example, on the page you’re reading right now (or any other page of my website) you can complete the three calls-to-action that I want visitors to my website to accomplish–watching a video, downloading an ebook, and completing a Signature Brand Audit–by clicking in the appropriate place in the right sidebar.

After you’ve designed the layout of your site, test it by showing it to friends, family, customers, and even strangers at a site like FiveSecondTest.com. See if they were able to pick out the information that you wanted them to see, and if they know what calls to action they are supposed to complete while on the site.  If they saw what you wanted them to see, you’re on the right track.  If not, you’ve got some work to do, but that’s ok–better to know you message is not getting across than to publish a website that won’t be effective.

If you need help thinking like a retailer when it comes to your small business website design, complete a Signature Brand Audit and I’ll help you think through a few ways to improve your website and increase your conversion rate.