One term that has always made me cringe a bit is a “brochure website.” What I read between the lines when someone says, "all I need is a simple brochure site," is that they do not value their website as a tool, but see it as a box to check. Even if subconsciously, this person does not see their website as the marketing and sales asset that it should be.
The accompanying mindset to the brochure website is something along the lines of: “People don’t find us through the web. We get all of our business from referrals.” This may be true. Most of the time, however, it’s a self fulfilling prophesy. If you invest nothing into your website and online performance, then yes, all of your business is going to come from referrals, etc. If you want your website to attract and convert inbound leads, and to be an asset for inbound sales, then it needs to be properly equipped.
What is an “Inbound Website?”
In most cases, the website is, or can be, a business' most valuable marketing and sales asset. We don’t need to make the case for having a professionally designed and developed website. Lets look at how your website can be an asset.
An “Inbound Website,” is one that is optimized for your target audience’s buyer’s journey.
So what is the buyer’s journey, and why does it matter? Simply put, it is the process your potential customers go through in deciding to buy from you. However, from a marketing perspective, this process may start a lot earlier than you think. Below I will discuss each stage of the buyer’s journey, and what your website needs to be effective. To help breakdown the inevitable marketing jargon, I will relate this buyer's journey to a scenario involving Harvey Homeowner and an imaginary custom shed company called, Vandelay Sheds.
1) AWARENESS PHASE
The awareness phase is when a prospective customer is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity. For Harvey Homeowner, he has noticed that he and his wife can no longer park their cars in their garage. The lawn mower, weed-eater, seed spreader, bug sprayer, and countless other tools are in the way.
Harvey might not immediately know the best solution. He might begin research ways to organize his garage. Perhaps better wall mountings, loft storage, etc. This is actually the beginning of the buyer's journey for Vandelay Sheds. Where most other shed companies fixate on the customers searching for sheds, Vandelay understands that the actual solution they offer is much bigger than just building a shed.
Vandelay wants to begin the relationship with Harvey as early as possible. When it comes to their website (social media is powerful here, but that is for another post), they need to create content that is all about what is going through Harvey's mind...NOT only about what Vandelay offers.
Vandelay might post some of the following blogs on their website:
- 7 Tips for Organizing a Small Garage
- The Effects of Leaving Lawn Equipment Outside.
- Pros & Cons of Garage Lofts
2) CONSIDERATION PHASE
Harvey has decided that he simply has too much stuff to keep his garage organized. It's time for additional storage. He has now entered in the "Consideration Phase." He might be researching multiple solutions from storage units, to pre-fab sheds, to custom sheds, etc. Harvey is looking into a lot of factors. Is is it worth the cost of owning a shed over renting storage? How big of a shed would I need? Where would a shed go? What style of shed is best for me?
Again, most of Vandelay's comeptitors are so focused on their product that they do not help Harvey answer these questions on their website. Their sites flash discounts, selections, and more discounts. But Art Vandelay (owner of Vandelay Sheds, of course) doesn't want to be in a price war with lesser shed companies.
So the Vandelay website might include:
- Downloadable Guide for Sizing a New Shed
- An online questionaire that uses conditional logic to recommend shed styles
- Online calculator that compares the costs of renting storage vs owning
Point of Conversion / Soft Conversions
All of these ideas require some form of information in exchange. This is what we call a point of conversion, or a soft conversion. This does not mean Harvey is ready for a sales call from Vandelay, but it does mean that Harvey is officially a lead. Depending on the sophistication of Vandelay's marketing platforms, they can now proactively nurture Harvey through the remainder of his decision process.
3) DECISION PHASE
Harvey has now concluded that a custom shed is the best fit for him. He knows about how large his shed will need to be, which features he wants, and about how much it will cost. His only decision at this point is to decide which vendor will provide the shed. By now, Art Vandelay and Harvey have spoken about Harvey's needs, and he is in the middle of the sales process. However, Harvey will probably continue to browse Vandelay's website to reinforce his reasoning that they are the right choice.
In our experience, the most popular pages for prospects in the decision phase are the "About" and "Portfolio" pages. Good thing Art Vandelay has professional photos of him and his team.
Vandelay's webite might also include pages with comparison tables, detailed material options, etc to help educate Harvery through the decision/sales process. This is more for the convenience of the sales team at Valendary Sheds, but an efficient sales team is a profitable sales team.
The Magic of Inbound Marketing
I know that not every customer is going to follow the text book Buyer's Journey that Harvey Homeowner followed in detail. However, it does happen - a lot. When it does, something magical happens. When Inbound Marketing is done right, there is little to no competition in the decision phase. Because Vandelay helped to honestly educate Harvey from end to end on his decision, Harvey likely did not seriously consider another shed builder. Because of the trust that was built, comparitive costs were not a factor in Harvey's decision. It may sound like a storybook ending - but we hear this story over and over from our clients in competitive industries.
To conclude, don't think of your website as a brochure. Think of it as a dynamic sales and marketing tool. Make sure whoever is designing, developing, and managing your website understands these principles. If growth is important to your business, don't base your entire strategy around what you have always done. What you have done in the past may have gotten you where you are, but it probably won't take you to where you want to go.