These days just about everyone is aware of how important a website can be for a business. Unfortunately when developing a site the tendency remains to pay more attention to how it looks than what it does and how useful it is. An effective website is much more than an online brochure, it’s a tool that can help your company work more efficiently and directly contribute to your bottom line.
Here are a just a few ways your site can be enhanced to make it a more effective tool for your business:
1. Be Real
Having real, honest content is critical to an effective website. Potential customers are looking for information, not marketing fluff. While marketing copy of course has a place on your website, so does more concrete information. Add frequently asked questions to your site which are based on real questions, not “questions” which are designed to make you sound good. If you’re a service company your site should clearly communicate what it’s really like to do business with you. If you sell products provide detailed product specs and allow users to download the user manuals for your products. The more real information your site has, the more useful it is to both current and potential clients.
2. Empower Your Customers
Many websites are focused almost entirely on trying to sell to prospective customers, but an effective site should also useful to your existing customers. Adding a customer self-service area to your website is potentially one of the most effective things you can do. While self-service will mean something different to every company, common examples include allowing clients to view account history, order status, submit and track requests and place orders. The potential benefits from this are not to be under-estimated: one of our clients has saved thousands of man-hours and saw sales increase by more than 30% as a direct result of the addition of a comprehensive self-service area to their site.
3. Embrace E-commerce
For most the word e-commerce brings to mind an online shopping cart, but it can be much, much more. Even if a shopping cart makes no sense, there are other options. If you accept orders by email or fax a custom online order form can be a very effective tool, and can help avoid human error in the ordering process. In other cases, an online quote request or cost estimating tool can be a huge convenience for potential customers, and save your staff time. Online billing systems can automatically generate, email and followup on overdue invoices. Even if none of these are applicable, adding the ability to accept payment through you website can be a great way to make your customers’ lives easier, while simultaneously reducing the amount of time your staff have to spend processing payments.
4. Help your staff
Often overlooked, your site can potentially be a huge productivity booster for your staff. The possibilities for online tools and internal web applications are nearly limitless. It could be as simple as a Wiki for internal knowledge sharing or a web-accessible CRM system, but doesn’t need to be limited to internal-only items. One great way to help safe your staff time is by having an online knowledge base or support forum on your website. Instead of exclusively answering questions via email or the phone, answering them through a system such as this means the answers are available to all. Many customers will be check your site first, helping them solve their problem more quickly, and saving your staff time helping customers on a one-on-one basis.
Every company is different so there is no single answer regarding what makes an effective website. The key thing to keep in mind is that an effective site is not just a pretty one. A great looking site will help catch someone’s attention, but it’s the substance and capabilities which will get them to stay and which can drive real results to your bottom line.