Your website is often the first point of contact for potential customers, but is it doing a good job of telling your story? I’m not asking if it does a good job of telling people what product or service your small business provides —I mean does it tell your story. Does it make a compelling case for why someone in greater Lorain County would want to do business with you?
Unless you are lucky enough to be the only provider of your products or service in your area, what you do is only part of the selling process. Potential customers are looking for why they should pick you versus the competition. If you ever feel like you are only competing on price, then you need to look at how you are telling your story on your website.
Why are you different?
Your website will quickly tell visitors if you have what they need. For example, if someone has a leaky pipe, they’re going to look for a plumber. A search for a plumber will probably turn up a host of qualified candidates, and this is where the real work begins. Every plumber listed can fix those pipes and probably do good work. If you’re a plumber in Vermilion, you have to compete against not only plumbers in Vermilion, but also those in Avon Lake, Avon, Wellington and maybe even those from surrounding counties.
For your website to be effective, you have to explain why you are different than all those other options. What makes your plumbing business different? (I’m using plumbing as an example, but this thought process applies to any business.) Start thinking about what customers tell you and what they complain about when talking about their prior plumber. These provide clues to what influences a customer’s buying decision.
Quality is usually the first thing a business will gravitate to — “we do quality work!”
Quality is important — and is pretty much the minimum requirement for staying in business — but if you look at your competitors’ sites, you’ll probably see they all claim quality work. Back to square one.
Make a list of everything you’ve heard your customers tell you about what they liked or didn’t like about you or your competitors (and hopefully you’ve fixed the things they didn’t like with your business).
Here’s a sample list for our hypothetical plumbing business:
- They didn’t clean up.
- They were late.
- I had to miss work so he could do his job.
- They weren’t friendly.
- They had to come back to fix it again.
These are all extremely valuable, because they are all customer pain points. The more pain points you solve, the more likely you are to gain and keep customers. This list will help you start to form your messaging for your website, which is a fancy way of saying what words go on your webpages.
Tell your story
With a good idea of what the pain points are, you can now start building a website that actually tells a compelling story. Sure, your company fixes pipes —but it also does so in a way that creates minimal disruption in your life.
You don’t just provide plumbing services — you provide convenience.
This is where I have to pause to offer a word of warning: You can write the best web copy that tells a compelling story, but if it’s not true, your success won’t last. Don’t claim anything on your site that isn’t accurate. Emphasizing you show up on time when you typically run 45 minutes late will quickly anger customers and immediately destroy your marketing efforts.
Assuming you have your business in order and run an efficient operation, your web copy can start to be formed to tell your story that tells potential customers how you are different. Not only can you emphasize how you deliver convenience, but you can start building a relationship with customers before they ever contact you by educating them.
Sticking with our leaky pipe example, what if your site had pictures of common leak points, explained how the different types of pipes (copper, PVC, galvanized steel etc.) fail and how you approach fixing it? Do you use the same materials? Why or why not? Can anything be done to lengthen the life of the remaining pipes of the original material? Are there any early warning signs of a potential pipe failure?
What you are doing is demonstrating your expertise and showing — not telling — the potential customer that you really are an expert and also outlining what to expect. The more expertise you demonstrate, the more confidence the web visitor gains about your business, and moves one step closer to calling you instead of one of the other thirty businesses that they found on Google.
And don’t forget those pain points. Before and after photos show that you do quality work and don’t leave a mess behind for the homeowner to clean up. If the work-in-progress photos show your crew always wearing shoe covers, it’s another subtle way of emphasizing your employees are respectful of the homes they work in. Remember, pictures tell your story just as much as the text, and the story needs to be consistent.
For your website to be truly effective, it needs to convey more than just what you do, but why people should care. Look beyond the basic product and service offerings and find your true differentiators and educate the customer on what makes you the best choice. When you create effective web copy to convey your story to people, you’ll gain more customers and keep them longer.
Todd Shryock is the director of content for Emerge Inc. Contact him with questions at email@example.com.