Are you looking to bring better online branding to your business? In order to have a successful and effective online presence and website, you must think of it as a virtual Jacobs Ladder into your business. Once you have moved prospective customers to your home page you want to continue to move them to action. If you miss a step or two on the ladder, prospects will fall and will not become customers of your business. If you get pivotal steps out of order, the prospective customers will not find the steps you want them to take.

There is a ladder of information and fundamentals you need to present to prospects to make it effortless for them to become customers/clients. However, this is not what most business owners provide on their web sites. Most sites lead with a lackluster description of services and credentials. This will push prospects away, as they are concerned with understanding more about how you can help them, not simply about you and your business.

Before you build your web site or begin to revamp a site that isn’t attracting as many prospects as you’d like, take a minute to clarify the intentions of your site. Objectives for web sites for most independent professionals and small businesses should be:

I. Lead Generation

Build your list of qualified prospects who are interested in your products and services but not quite ready to make a choice. First time visitors to the site need to be able to quickly identity if they are in the right place and determine whether you can help them. Make it simple for prospects to qualify themselves and quantify you.

II. Establish Credibility

This is especially important if a prospective customer found you through popular web search engine tools. If prospects discovered your site by using a search engine, you have a lot of work to do to attest that you can deliver on what the search engine promises.

III. Sell Your Products and Services

Of course you will want to include information about your products and services, however the timing of this selling is crucial within your website flow. If you rush this step, you’ll lose prospects before you’ve created the context and knowledge in them that will move them to a purchase.

Knowing what your web site should do, now let’s delineate the indispensable fundamentals that should be on your site. Placing these in the correct sequence will drive more prospects to do what you want them to do, generating more leads and more sales.

1) Make Your Marketing Message Stand Out

At the top of your home page include a one sentence marketing message that describes what you actually do and the problems you solve. e.g. “Helping service professionals and small business owners attract more clients” or “Helping you create the ultimate wedding experience”. Please note this step is only if your slogan does not clearly state what you do. If your company has a great, conscise and descriptive slogan use it as your featured marketing message.

2) Collect and Confirm Leads

Place an opt in for a free newsletter, eBook, or catalogue on your site. The positioning of this opt in form should be at the right hand top corner of your web page. Be sure to not just instruct your prospective customers to enter their email address, but instead to offer something in a fair exchange. Make an offer, one that will motivate your prospects to give you their contact information. For example, as an incentive on my site I offer a free marketing guide to motivate people to subscribe to my newsletter. The result of this offer is that 12-15% of site visitors sign up for my updates.

3) Integrate Qualifying Questions into the Copy

Qualifying questions can help in online sales, not only in person. Below your marketing message, begin the text on your site with qualifying statements that will help prospective customers understand the problems your business can solve. These statements will also engage your visitors’ attention and create a perception of need for your product or service.

A good example of this is a business that sells ergonomic chairs. On this businesses site they ask “Does your back ache at the end of a day at your desk?” This question instantly creates a perception of need and helps the customer to know what that site is all about.

4) Show Loyalty and Expertise to Build Your Credibility

You can build your credibility by giving away valuable and helpful information. This will show your prospective customers that you have the knowledge and expertise to help them. You might provide tips or helpful ideas to customers in your area, as a great salesperson would in person, and provide the information for free. You can also incorporate testimonials from satisfied clients. Prospects will read your marketing copy with as little as a grain of salt or as much as a 10lb bag of salt. When they read what others say about the amazing results you achieve, they are much more likely to believe your claims.

It has been proven that customers look to do business with people they know, like and trust. Therefore your site must also bring the personality of your business to life. Include links to case studies, articles, and product demonstrations so that prospects can see your product or service in action. Also consider including a photo of yourself or your employees to personalize your site and make prospects think of you as a person.

5) Give Great Examples

It is always best to give your prospective customers a preview of your goods. Always include images of products and services people can click on throughout your site. Also include both video, image and verbal testimonials along with information and images of your products and services.

You want to also provide information on the product or service’s usefulness. On your individual product pages provide examples of clients and customers using your products. For eBooks, include tables of contents and sample chapters so that prospects can learn more. If you sell real estate, include pictures of happy customers in their homes. If you sell information in the form of guides or courses, feature client testimonials in video or text form.

6) Provide Instructions for Prospective Customers

If there is a particular sequence of steps you want prospective customers to take, you will need to lay out those steps on your site. If you want people to sign up for your newsletter, tell them to. If you want people to read the articles on your site, tell them to. To increase the number of people who view the pages describing your products and services, include thumbnail images of your products and tell them to click on the image for further information.

7) Make It Easy to Contact Your Business

Depending on your business structure, you will want to consider placing your contact information on a prominent place on your webpage. Place primary information like email address and phone number in an obvious location on every page. You can also include a link to a contact form or place it at the bottom of your home page.

Show prospective customers how to purchase your products or services. Businesses that are service oriented will want to provide a service inquiry form. Businesses that are product oriented should provide direct links to a place where customers can place orders.

Use the blueprint above to construct a web site that converts prospects to actual customers. By building a site that will bring prospects into your web site and motivate them to give you their name, email address and phone number or to contact them about your products or services, you will create conversions. You will also become adept at creating an online presence that moves your leads from prospects to clients and customers.

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