How to Build a Website that Connects With and Motivates Your People
When it comes to your website, design is the last thing to consider. Even though most will start and end there when building their own website. This article shares the components any website needs before you start working on the design.
Move in the right direction.
It pays to start with the end in mind. As Malcolm Gladwell said, "Knowing my ending makes the beginning super easy. It's clear what I have to do!"
The same is true for your website. You have to know what you want your website to do for your business. What is the goal for it? With that goal in mind, you can identify what is necessary to support its achievement.
For my own site, the goal is to have people who resonate with my work and process schedule a call with me. I like the more personal connection a phone call makes and it lets me get to know the person behind the website.
My entire website focuses on building trust. I do that by being transparent about my process. And by showcasing a bit of my personality. After all, I'll be their collaborator on the project. It helps them get to know me a little better too.
Take their feelings into account.
Once you've got direction, think about the emotions your client has working with you. What are they feeling before, during and after the process?
Now think about which of these feelings need a presence on your website. How will they show your understanding of the client's struggle? How will the client feel once their pain is gone?
Like it or not, everything in your business comes down to how the customer feels. Even their decision to hire or not hire you. That's right. Although cost comes into play, it doesn't matter until they know how they feel about you.
Tell them a great (true) story.
At the center of human existence is connection. We all want to feel loved and taken care of by people we trust. Listing the features and benefits is never going to create the same lasting impact of a great story.
Your client wants to know their pain - the thing that sent them searching for you in the first place - is temporary. They want to hear about others with the same pain that you helped resolve. People connect with the stories of other people. What stories can you share that relate to the feelings of your potential client?
Show them you're the one.
This one is pretty straightforward. Why are you the one for them? You need to understand how you meet your client's needs. And once those needs get met, what is the transformation they experience?
You don't have to be dramatic or over-the-top with your description. Sometimes we find our greatest gifts to others come from the simple interactions. For my own business, the transformation I offer clients is this:
The experience of working with you brought to life in a brand + website.
It's not fancy. I don't make bold claims of high conversions and unlimited traffic. But I do offer the one thing they and their client's need the most ~ how coming together changes both of them.
Give it some structure.
The biggest mistake I see business owners make time and time again is copying someone else. They search for "coach website" and add in all the same pages to their own. Yes, there was a time when websites centered around the transfer of information. People didn't care (or know) that it could be so much more. Those days are long gone.
Every person who visits your website expects an experience that meets their needs. The best part? Every person visiting has different needs to meet.
Yes, this makes my job (and yours for the DIY crowd) very difficult.
It also creates an amazing opportunity. You get to understand how the customer experience exists in a virtual space. No matter where a potential client starts on your site, they must know where to go next. If they get lost or stuck, their needs go unmet. And they leave.
So you have to challenge yourself in two areas:
Knowing what they need.
Knowing what they need next.
And if that wasn't hard enough, you have to express this in a way that resonates and feels in the right order to the client.
This is where purpose steps in.
I like to tell my clients that every click is a gift. We tend to think of a website as a map to navigate, but for a client it is a new world to experience. Every click is a door to something more exciting and deeper in meaning.
In your navigation menu, you are creating a “choose your own adventure” game. In your pages, you are placing hidden gems waiting for discovery (also known as links). When we ask too much, or make the game too complicated, we lose the player.
And don't forget, this entire adventure is leading them to a single ending no matter which path they take. Or have you forgotten about the business goal you are building the site around?
They say content is King, but I'm not convinced.
There was a time when the Internet was our information capsule. We jammed everything we could on it in the hopes that people would consume. But like too many pancakes at breakfast, we jammed too much in. There's no more room for the same old song.
I explain it to my clients like this. The website is a home for your business. The house you live in likely has a front door, that when walked through, greets your guests with a cozy living room.
That front door on your website is the front page. A lot of websites these days clutter that room with collectibles. (Ads, sidebars, opt-ins, pop ups, etc.). If I were to come into your actual living room, would I see such a mess? Unless you're my mother, no. But then even she has started decluttering.
My point is this: don't crowd your guests. Let them come in, sit on the sofa and visit a bit. Give them some space. Make them feel welcomed and invited to stay awhile.
The living room usually connects us into the other rooms of the house. These are your pages. You want to think about them this way. Each room serves a greater purpose to the house. Without one, something would be missing. Too many, and you don't know what to do with the extra.
Be a diligent architect. Build your house on a strong foundation with every room serving a purpose for your guest. Hungry? The kitchen is right over here. Tired? Let me show you to the bedroom. Potty? We've got one of those right there.
What makes content writing “mission impossible”?
In my 20+ years of experience, the hardest thing to talk about is your business. At first I thought it was because writing is hard. But now I know it's because you’re too close to it. You LOVE your business. It's your baby. Everything about it is so fun, new and exciting.
When you are in a state of infatuation, everything seems important. So when I work with a client, my first mission goal is to get them out of their own head and into their client’s. What is the client's experience of their business? What do they love? What is fun and exciting for them?
And if that jump isn't hard enough, you then have to find the words to express it! This is why I don't recommend client avatars. They are too centered around your own biased view. And people spend way too much time on them instead of on selling. Or creating a better experience for their clients.
So, how do you know who you're marketing to? Start with these questions.
Who's already paying you?
Do you like working with them?
What do they say about you?
And if you're new to business.
Who's willing to pay you?
Do you like working with them?
What do they talk about with you?
I spent 14 years in (and running) a marketing department. When I started my business, I knew I wanted to work with other individuals who owned their businesses. So I found them.
Some of them were jerks to work with. Some of them wanted me to do things I didn't enjoy, but was capable of doing. Along the way, I made some changes in regards to whom I wanted to work with. And exactly what I wanted to do for them. All based on the knowledge gained from people I'd been working with.
The point is - have conversations. Lots of them and anywhere you can find them. With people who are willing to pay you and with those who are not. You will learn so much more from people than you ever thought possible. We all love talking about ourselves.
This is how you write great content for your website.
Ah technology, so beneficial and so frustrating.
I want to let you in on a little secret. Your website will go down. Your email will get lost. Your launch may have issues. Technology is not perfect. Expecting anything else is naive.
That said, the biggest mistake I see people make with technology is paying for what they don't need. They're dumping thousands of dollars per month into systems that bring ZERO sales. Mostly because they have no idea how to set them up.
I keep it simple.
- SquareSpace hosts my website and does all the SEO work for me. They also give me an SSL Certificate at no extra charge. (In case you don't know, Google now uses this as a ranking factor.)
- MailChimp is my customer relationship manager and my email marketing software. By using groups, I can completely manage my engagement with every single client. Did I mention it is free for new accounts up to 2000 subscribers?
- YouCanBook.me handles all my appointments with potential, new and existing clients. All through my website! And it does all the reminders and follow-ups for the different types of appointments. You can even take payments through them. (Coaches . . you hear that?)
- Google handles my files and emails. And syncs everything with my laptop hard drive.
- Zoom lets me share screens and video calls with my clients.
- FreshBooks houses my bookkeeping, project tracking, timesheets, invoices, estimates and client payments.
- Stripe takes my clients’ credit card payments so I don't have to worry about protecting sensitive data.
- And Zapier makes the whole system sing by linking everything together. This keeps all my information up-to-date without me having to lift a finger.
How much does this technology brilliance cost? Less than $60 per month.
Why does this matter for your website? Because your website doesn't exist in a vacuum. It is an integral part of your entire business. Thinking about what you want your website to look like? I say challenge yourself to diagram what it looks like within the workflow of your business.
Let's draw some blueprints!
The last step before design involves sketching the blueprint of your website. This is where all your hard work starts coming together. As you're deciding what goes where, keep in mind two things.
First, people read in an 'F' pattern. We start left to right. Skip down a bit. Go right a bit. Skip down some more. The most important parts of your site need to be "within the F."
Coming from a background in journalism, I am all too familiar with "above the fold." When I hear people say this about websites, I correct them by saying, "It's above the scroll." The truth is it's nonsense. We scroll. Without conscious awareness in doing it. Microsoft and Apple trained us well. Facebook made it permanent.
What is important in today's Internet is page flow and responsiveness. Laying out your site pages, consider how each piece of text and image will stack on a mobile phone. And in what order. Your site visitor needs it to still make sense.
The second is to use sidebars only when necessary in the structure, content or navigation. Otherwise, they are distractions to your visitor.
And now we design.
With all other elements in place, it's time to think about design. What colors will you use to create the mood of your site? What images best evoke the desired emotional connection with your visitor? What length should your content be? (Spoiler: short) And finally, where will you place those coveted call to action buttons?
Congrats on the new website!
It's been a lot of hard work, but you've launched a well-planned site that serves your clients well. Now that the fun is over, the tweaking begins. What? You thought you completed the job? Oh no. A website is a living, breathing entity of your business. Now it comes time to pay attention.
Is the navigation working as you hoped? Are people getting lost?
Are they completing the actions necessary to achieve your site goal?
I've seen many websites thrown up in a weekend then abandoned. The first question I'm asked by their owners? Why isn't anybody contacting me through my website! This member of your sales team needs support in making sure they are doing their job right. So keep a close eye on your site and remember to make those tweaks and revisions as you and your business evolve.