This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll receive a commission. Disclosure Policy.
One thing I’ve noticed about many one-person business owners is that they often plan their websites still in “job mode.” They set out to trade in their former big boss for lots of new little bosses (clients), so their websites wind up reading like a super-fancy digital résumé.
The problem is, if you need your website to bring you client leads, your prospects (taking the form of site visitors) don’t hire people the same way bosses do. Let’s dive in and sort that out.
Resumé (or “vetting”) websites
With my clients, I refer to these digital resumé sites as vetting websites. Vetting websites usually include a bulleted list of services, maybe a portfolio, and an about page with a formal bio that talks about where you went to college and why you felt you were qualified to start your own business.
In short, it’s where you send a prospect for more information (to further vet you).
What was once: “Here’s my resumé, please give me a call if you want to set up an interview,” became: “Here’s my website, please give me a call if you want to schedule a consultation.”
And that’s fine if the main way you plan to bring clients into your business is not your website. Maybe your plan is to network with and pitch people face-to-face? Cool. Kickin’ it old school still works.
In that scenario, you do the work of making people aware of what you do and establishing trust and rapport — you just need your website to reassure people you’re a legit business and to close the sale, or to Google you if they lose your business card so they can contact you.
Versus client-converting websites
When you’re trying to attract clients online, it works a bit differently. A visitor coming to your site doesn’t know you, they can’t look you in the eyes to get a sense of whether you’re likable and trustworthy, and they can’t ask questions if your elevator pitch is a bit confusing.
Your website needs to replace you in the equation:
- To quickly inform them of the problem you solve, for whom, and why you’re the best option of all the ones they’re considering
- To establish trust and credibility — which takes more than just an impressive resumé, it’s a function of branding — clients hire people they like and trust, not just because they went to Georgetown (although that is very impressive indeed).
- To create a connection to nurture the relationship — In the offline world, this might sound like: “we should get together for coffee so we can get to know each other” but becomes “sign up for my email list” in the online world.
If you’re using your website like a resumé and waiting by the phone for site visitors (who don’t know you yet) to call, you’re going to be waiting for a very long time.
Let’s fix that.
Moving beyond the digital résumé
The main mindset shift you need to make is that your site visitors don’t care about you (ouch), and yet somehow, you’ve got to persuade them to take action.
This means shifting the focus away from YOU, and putting it on THEM.
Know your audience
Who are they? Speak directly to them. Hold a mental image of your customer in your mind when you write your website copy so they know you’re speaking specifically to them and not just “anyone.”
What problem do they have? How do you solve it?
You’ve got to get to the heart of this and quick — like, within the first 5 seconds of landing on your site. They’re there not because they’re curious to learn all about you (nobody has the time for that kind thing), but to see if you can help them in some way.
This means you articulate that you understand what they need and what you’re going to do about it, and why they should pick you among the many options they’re considering.
Establish trust and credibility
Because your site visitors don’t know you — they can’t look you in the eye, get a sense of you; they can’t chit chat with you at a networking event and become enraptured by your talent and intelligence — your website is going to need to do the heavy lifting.
You’ll do that by:
Making sure your visual design is on point
And I’m not just saying that because I’m a designer, here’s what Stanford found after evaluating over 4,500 web users over a 3 year period:
We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like IBM.com. The visual design should match the site’s purpose.
Write copy that demonstrates customer empathy
Get inside the mind of your customer and join in on the conversation. What do they need? What are they struggling with? They need to see themselves in your copy.
Providing proof to back up claims
Consumers look for evidence that other people trust you in order to decide whether they should trust you too. This is called “social proof” and it can take the form of things like testimonials, five star reviews, and evidence (i.e. results data expressed as numbers).
When you make a claim and then provide proof immediately afterward, it’s a powerful one-two punch and it looks something like this:
Claim: “I help creative entrepreneurs save time by teaching them how to create better workflows.”
Then right after, provide the social proof — which can take many forms. A few examples: 👇
“Janice is amazing! Thanks to her training, I’ve freed up over 10 hours of time PER WEEK!”
Join over 3,000 students who’ve freed up an average of 20 hours per month after taking my course.
I helped Debbie save over 20 hours per month, click here to learn how
Further reading: How To Build Your Website Visitor’s Trust On The First Visit
Create an on-going connection with your site visitors
Once you’ve taken all of these things into account and made some improvements to your website, it should do a much better job of making a good first impression and even persuading your site visitors to take action.
But what action will you expect them to take?
What if your site visitor isn’t ready to commit to hiring you, or even scheduling a call with you that day? What if they’re still exploring other options, or they’ve still got a few objections they need to mull over? If you ask for too much, they’ll click away and they may never be back.
How will you create a connection so you can get their attention a second time, a third time, even a twentieth time? (Sometimes it takes awhile, and you know that because that’s how you make buying decisions.)
You do that by creating a sales funnel. (Yes, you need one.)
If you’re thinking, “That’s only for big huge online businesses and not for me” that’s not true; it’s just a fancy term for a marketing model that essentially boils down to, “how you’ll keep getting in front of that potential customer until they’re ready to buy”. One of the most effective ways for small business owners to nurture those site visitor strangers to fans who eagerly say, “I’m ready, where do I sign up?!” is by building an email program:
“Hire me today!” becomes, “I know you’re not ready today, so how about signing up for my mailing list and we’ll get to know one another a little more?”
Most digital marketers will tell you that building an email list is the single best way to nurture client leads coming from your website.
In fact, the goal of most other awareness-building online marketing efforts — social advertising, webinars, blogging, and even social networking — is to get people on their company’s mailing list. Why? Because a mailing list is an asset your business owns, you won’t be twisting in the wind every time social media algorithms change and internet fads come and go. It’s yours, you own it, and it’s filled with people who’ve given you permission to market to them.
Pick the main action you want your site visitors to take
If email marketing is not your jam, there are other ways to create that connection. Play to your superpowers, decide what that is, and focus on it.
- Maybe you’re a rockstar photographer or designer and you want everyone to engage with you on Instagram?
- Do you love mentoring others? How about asking them to join your Facebook group?
- Is LinkedIn where your customers are? Then that’s where you need to be too, get that connection and learn all you can about generating leads on LinkedIn.
There’s no a one-size-fits-all solution, but if you want more than a one-off peek at your resumé, you’ll need a solution. How will you create an on-going conversation with your website visitors?
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.