I often talk to small business owners about what they want from their website. Frequently, I’m surprised about how little thought they’ve put into some fairly basic questions. A small business lead generation site has a specific job to do: act as central hub for inbound marketing efforts and convert leads into paying customers.
That’s not all a website can do: an online presence is great for branding, for displaying a company’s ethos and style, for publishing content, for encouraging user engagement, and for telling a company’s story, but these are all subordinate goals. The overarching goal of any business website is to influence a visitor to make a purchase, submit contact details for followup, pick up a phone and make a call, or even to visit the business’s physical location.
If you approach a web designer with no clue as to what the specific overarching goal of your site is, you will get a beautiful site, but it may not be the most effective site.
Before we get into the questions you should be asking yourself, I want to make it clear that any good web designer is going to ask the same questions I’m about to ask you to think about. A web designer worth the money will help guide you through the thought process necessary for building the right site for your business. Nevertheless, the process will be smoother if you already have answers to these questions in mind before you take that meeting.
What Is The Goal Of Your Site?
This might seem obvious until you take a bit of time to think about it. There are the clear large-scale differences, an eCommerce site obviously has different goals when compared to a B2B lead generation site, but there are also finer distinctions that will have an important impact on the site’s copy, architecture, and overall style.
An effective website is a machine for generating conversions. It’s not simply a platform for publishing information about your company. Is the goal to gather personal information, to influence a user to sign up for a service, to commit to an ongoing subscription, to buy a product, to donate, or to join an organization?
Many of the small businesses I speak to know that they want a site, or that they want a better site, but have no clear idea about what they want the site to do for them. Once you understand the what you can move on to thinking about the how.
What Are Your Conversion Strategies?
A conversion strategy is simply the way in which your site will influence visitors to convert. To take a simple example, many B2B businesses use content marketing as a conversion strategy. Their interest is in building a list of qualified leads they can give to their sales department for further contact. One of the best ways to do this is to provide visitors to the site with valuable content in exchange for contact details. This sort of content marketing is a conversion strategy, and it requires a completely different set of design choices to a strategy that relies on convincing users to sign-up to a service by showing them product videos, for example.
You don’t have to know exactly what conversion strategies you want to use before you contact a web designer, but you’ll be well served by having some conception of what will work for your company.
How Big Is Your Budget?
Web design is one of those services you can spend as much or little as you like on. You’ll find designers out there who will knock together a site for a couple of hundred dollars, and design agencies that won’t look at a project that they can’t bill for in six figures. Each has its place, but I’d strongly suggest that you avoid the lower end of the market — you really do get what you pay for.
As discussed, you have a goal and some idea about the strategy to reach that goal with a website. The scope of your project is limited by the amount you’re able to spend. The bigger your budget, the more pages, content, and innovative design features you will be able to pay for. Earlier I discussed using content for lead generation. To do this well, you’ll have to pay a writer to create great content. If you don’t have the budget for a writer, then you may want to consider a less expensive lead generation option, like simple on-page copy.
Most business website projects involve an interplay of the three factors I’ve discussed here: goals, conversion strategies, and project scope as dictated by budget. Your web designer will be able to talk you through each of these aspects, but thinking about them in advance will help your business get the site it needs.