If you’re struggling to get clients, it might not be you that’s the problem, it might be that your website is letting you down in some big way.
If you’re a one-person or micro- business owner like me and you’re trying to find clients online, I want to talk about your website problem.
One of the things I do for a living is evaluate websites critically — I look past the pretty surface to uncover reasons why things just aren’t working out the way my clients want them to. I’m also always observing what people — especially those of us flying solo — are doing to get noticed online.
If you’re not struggling in your business (if you’re running a well-oiled internet marketing machine and your problem is that you’ve got too many customers lined up), this post is not for you… I know you’re busy, so feel free to move along.
Okay now that they’re gone, let’s talk.
First of all, I want you to know that the problem isn’t you. If you’re not getting enough clients, it could be that your website is a weak link in your chain. I know, because people tend to forget about their website after they launch, expecting it to do magic while they move on to other things like building a following on social media and driving traffic. They assume their website will do its job and close the sale. Key point: assume.
A website is always built on assumptions.
Some starting points are much better than others. Like, if it’s built with an understanding of branding, conversion copywriting, good design principles, user behavior, persuasion and a host of other disciplines that go into making a really successful client-winning website. Even then, we don’t really know how people are going to respond to it, if it’s going to work.
We can only know that after a site launches. This is when a website comes into its full power — teaching us about our site visitors and testing those assumptions.
Your website needs to be your hardest-working employee, but you must be a good boss.
You need your website to help you land clients while you’re busy doing what you do to make a living. But like any great employee, it needs the attention of the boss to develop into an even better performer, and, to course correct when its not performing as well as it could.
All day every day I see you trying, and trying, and trying to get noticed online… but, before you dive back in to your swirl of activities, I have a few questions:
Are you spending a lot of energy focused on getting traffic to your website (but none on your website itself)?
“Gurus” are always selling us solutions for how to get more traffic. And that’s great, because we do need traffic — lots of it — but if you’re sending traffic to a website that has problems, you’re throwing a lot of time — and maybe money — into a void.
Vanity traffic numbers don’t matter. Too often I see people comparing themselves to others because their websites aren’t getting big numbers like other people are getting. But you don’t know (and they won’t tell you) whether those high-traffic sites are closing sales, booking gigs, making money. It’s possible to spend all your free time driving traffic to your site, maybe spending money too, and end up empty handed. OR, making less money than you could if your website were converting at a higher rate.
We need our websites to capture every opportunity to make a connection with the site visitors we’re already getting. Then we can worry about turning up the volume on traffic.
What I recommend is checking in with your website a little more to see where you can make improvements as a matter of habit. Be curious. Give it love.
Big areas where people struggle:
- Off-brand visual design
- Copy that’s neither useful nor persuasive for the user
- Technical performance issues that users just don’t have time for
- The “ask” is just too big for somebody who doesn’t know you yet
- People don’t feel confident using their websites, it’s an unpleasant chore they’d rather avoid
Improving any or all of these areas will make a huge difference for your business.
NOW! Before you go getting all overwhelmed about this (I sense the panic setting in) — making improvements in these areas should be something you do as part of your routine. You don’t need to clear a month of your time to focus on your website, just take it little by little. Even a small increase in conversions can impact your bottom line in a big way, and sometimes just simple tweaks is all that takes.
If you want some quick tips to get you started thinking like an optimizer, check out 5 Powerful Website Fixes That’ll Boost Your Conversions
Are you asking too much?
If the action you want your site visitor to take on the first visit is to “contact you” and become a client, expect to wake up to the sound of crickets. That’s like asking somebody to marry you on the first date. Marketers will tell you it takes 7-13 “touches” before someone is ready to buy, so if the main call to action on your website is for somebody to become a client, think instead about ways you can create a connection where you can allow them to get to know and trust you first.
Maybe that’s getting them on a mailing list, or asking them to join your Facebook group, or to follow you on social media. And I don’t just mean plopping some social media icons on your website and calling it good, I mean making a clear call to action that answers the users’ question, “What do I do next?”
Are you using your website like a resume?
Resume sites — or what I usually call “vetting websites” — are static. They include your formal bio, list of services, and a way to get in touch. They don’t change much until it’s time for the next big redesign. Which is fine if you’re booked up with clients, but if you want your website to generate leads for you, it ain’t gonna cut it.
Remember you’re trying to make a connection so you can build certainty in the mind of the customer that you’re the one to trust, and you’re the best choice out of all the options they’re considering.
Is your website all about you?
In short, it’s just not about you, it’s about solving your site visitor’s problem. Is your copy written with your dream customer in mind? Or is it all about you?
Your website needs to pass the “5-second test” — Is it immediately clear what you do, for whom, the problem you solve for them and why you’re the best option? Or do they have to read and scroll and spend a lot of time on your site figuring it out? (Hint: they won’t.)
What do you know about your site visitors? (If your answer is “not much,” you’ve got a big problem.)
If you’re not using data to inform your marketing decisions and to understand what’s not working on your website (every website can be improved), you’re making a lot of extra work for yourself and missing opportunities too. Stab-in-the-dark marketing will only exhaust and defeat you. Think like a scientist instead. Be curious, get the data, and be willing to alter your tactics as you learn more.
Are you using Google Analytics? Do you have it set up but rarely check it? Do you know how to get insights from your stats? If not, consider adding this powerful weapon to your arsenal that’ll teach you what’s working (so you can amplify it) and what’s not (so you can make an adjustment).
Further reading: What Your Website Visitors Can Teach You
Is your website’s design undermining your credibility?
Design is a business tool — more like accounting software than art. Its purpose is to communicate, persuade, and clarify. Your design may be turning off potential clients and undermining your credibility, only you may not be aware of it because you’re too close, too personally attached. The only way to know is to get objective feedback, from your target customer ideally.
Great visual branding can make the job of marketing your business exponentially easier, or it can make your life difficult. You’ll hear that design is crucial in making a first impression and research backs that up, but take a moment to think about what that really means. Remember that it takes 7-13 “touches” for somebody to make a buying decision… if your design isn’t on point, you’ll have more to overcome, it’ll take more effort for people to take you seriously and trust you. And let’s be honest, we don’t always get a second chance — people are busy, they may never be back at all.
Further reading: Is Your Website Design Undermining Your Credibility?
Do you feel empowered to use your website?
I started building websites back in the day when you pretty much needed a web designer’s help to get your website launched unless you were willing to learn how to code. But advances in technology have made it possible for just about anyone to not only build their own website without much technical knowledge, but to really learn how to use it — to create landing pages to send targeted traffic to, write blog posts and make content tweaks when it’s necessary (and as we learn more about our site visitors).
Do you feel too intimidated to make changes that’ll allow you to optimize your site for higher conversions? If so, your competitors are going to eat your lunch. You should feel confident that you can use your website like a business tool — you wouldn’t open a store without learning how to use your POS system, would you?
What happens is that people get into the wrong tools to begin with. They may pick out a pretty template and run with that, but it may be difficult and clunky to make changes… I know, because I’ve worked with tools like these and even as a web designer of many many years, I would pull my dang hair out. If your website is something you’d rather avoid, if it’s not easy to work with, if making changes doesn’t make you feel excited (if you’re not having any FUN!), then you may not be using the best tools possible.
If you don’t feel empowered to really use your website, read: Tools for an Empowered Website
Shifting your mindset
The days of “set it and forget it” websites until it’s time for the next redesign are over. Competition is just too fierce these days, and we need to be working smarter and not harder to attract clients. Rather than thinking of your website as “done” or “perfect” (it’ll never be perfect), instead, start thinking like an optimizer. How can you continuously improve the experience for your site visitor?