Over the last few weeks I’ve given you my thoughts on how to use the different media types for advertising. So far we’ve covered Television, Radio, Billboards, Newsprint, Magazines, Email, and Social Media. All of these are choices. You don’t have to do all of them, or any of them, for that matter.
In fact, I would recommend that if you want to do any of the first five, you choose only one of them and do it incredibly well. You likely don’t have the budget to do more than one well.
Email and Social Media are more about time than money. If you have the time, do both.
There is one form of advertising, however, that I consider a must in today’s business climate—the website. You gotta have one.
Whether your customer base prefers to shop online or shop in brick & mortar stores, he or she uses her smartphone or computer to look you up. You need to claim your business on Google so that you show up in their map app, but that only helps the people already looking for you in your area.
Your website is the tool that convinces people who don’t know you that you’re worth a visit.
First Rule of Websites
You don’t have to have eCommerce on your website to be successful.
Right now the buzz words in retail are phrases like “seamless omnichannel shopping” and BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store). Those are important for big chains with multi-million dollar IT departments (and zero customer service training). If you have the means to do that, either through your industry partners, trade organizations, or your own team of coders, all the power to you. If you sell online through your own website, that’s a bonus. But it isn’t a requirement for having a successful website.
You can have a site that is purely informational, one that shows customers what you do, where you are, when you’re open, and (most importantly) what to expect when they visit. Just make sure you follow Rule #2 to the letter.
Second Rule of Websites
Every single page must have a clear and distinct purpose.
Before you create the content for a page, ask yourself why the page exists. Ask yourself who you expect to visit that page and how you expect they will find it. Ask yourself what is the single most important point you want that visitor to draw from the page. Ask yourself what action you want that visitor to take next after visiting that page. Your answers will shape the content and look of the page. The more clearly you define each page’s purpose, the more value you bring to your visitors.
When I was creating the Toy House website, my goal for the site overall was to drive traffic to the store. Phrases like, “when you visit …” peppered the site. But each page had its own goal in mind. For instance, our About Us page started with a series of “I Believe …” statements to show our Core Values and make an emotional connection with people who believe what we believe.
“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” -Simon Sinek, Start with Why, TEDx Puget Sound
Third Rule of Websites
Your website is your silent salesperson. Make it your best.
It is the first impression a customer has of your store. It is the first step in creating that relationship with your customer. You need to put your best foot forward.
If I told you that you could only have one salesperson working the floor today, would you pick your worst or your best person? If I told you that you could only have one person in charge of greeting all customers, would you have your worst or best greeter? If I told you that you could only have one person answering your phones today, would you pick your worst or best phone answering person?
You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression. Your website has to reflect the best of you and your business. Put the time, effort, and money into making the best impression you can.
Fourth Rule of Websites
Your hours, phone number, and address have to be prominent and easy to find.
If you want to drive traffic to the store, you have to let them know where and when. If your goal is strictly eCommerce, you can bury that information in the Contact Us section of your website. If your goal is to drive traffic to the store that info has to be everywhere. Don’t make your customer go look for it.
People browsing websites at home on their desktop the night before a shopping trip might take the extra steps to find that info. People browsing on their phones in the parking lot of their previous stop (or outside the school where they just dropped off their child) aren’t going to dive very deep to find the info they want.
Fifth Rule of Websites
It has to be compatible for mobile platforms.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, the font will be too small for anyone to waste their time reading it. You will have lost most customers before they even began. Nowadays it is hard to find a web-designer who doesn’t make a mobile-friendly website, but if you have an old site on an old platform, you need to look at it on your phone, your friend’s phone, a tablet or two, and a desktop to see how it looks on those devices. If it isn’t clean, easy-to-read, and simple to navigate, it is time for you to upgrade.
Follow those five rules and your website will be a useful tool for your business. It is a necessary tool. Customers expect that you’ll have one. Since you’re going to make one, make it a useful tool, too.
PS Just to overwhelm you a little bit more in thinking about your website, here are some other things to consider …
- Post a video tour on your website. People only do what they have already pictured themselves doing in their own mind. Give them a quick visual of your store (two minutes or less, or several short videos of each department, updated regularly).
- Make sure your Core Values and beliefs are evident on every page of your site. Whoever is writing your content has to know and understand your values.
- Turn your About Us page into an I Believe page. Let people know what you believe. Here is an example from Toy House. Here is one from LauraJoyWarrior. Here is one from PhilsForum.
- If you draw from more than five miles away (or are in a hard-to-navigate part of town) include a map and directions.
- Make any “click here” navigation buttons large, self-explanatory, and easy-to-find.
- Make sure your website is listed and linked on every one of your vendor’s “where-to-buy” lists, on your Google business page, and everywhere else someone might find you. The more inbound links you have, the better you will do in the search engines.
- Update your site regularly with new information, new pictures, new content. (Blogs and links to your emails are one easy way to do this.)
- If your hours change with the seasons, make sure they are updated across every platform including Google, Facebook, and your website.
PPS When you are interviewing someone to create your website, ask about those rules above. If they don’t have a thoughtful answer or opinion about those topics (even if they disagree), they are likely a “template” designer who uses the same easy template to make something fast and cheap that looks like everyone else. If you want to look like everyone else, go right ahead. If you want to be a destination that stands out in the crowd, find someone who wants to make that happen for you.