I review hundreds of websites a month and one of the things I notice is how frequently small business websites – and small business advertising, for that matter – sound the same.
They all have “been in business X years,” have “the best service,” “unbeatable prices,” and so on and so forth in platitudinous blandness.
This approach alientates high-value prospects and keeps small business owners competiting on price, which eats into their margins.
Yet, when I talk with small business owners in person, they’re remarkably savvy.
Many could sell ice to eskimos.
So, what gives?
Their Instincts Aren’t Translated Online
Imagine you own a commercial painting company and I am a homeowner.
The exterior of my home is faded and could use a touch up. As the professional, you know that a touch up could improve the value of my home 2-3% (I made that number up), which, given my neighborhood/subdivision/whatever could be worth a few thousand dollars when I choose to sell.
Let’s also say that you, as the professional, know that there’s this great new exterior paint that just came on the market that lasts 15% longer before fading, even though it costs 10% more at the time of purchase. So, if I’m not looking to sell immediately, there’s a way to generate an asset that decreases the total cost of ownership over time…so, when I am ready to sell, I’m set.
One day, you’re driving by my neighborhood and see me outside mowing my lawn.
You see me stop my mower for a second as I near the street, so that I can clear something out of the way, and decide to approach me.
If you’re like most business owners, you don’t lack courage when it comes to talking with strangers…or, at the very least, prospects.
What do you say when you approach?
Chances are, you wouldn’t start with “Hey, we’re a painting company with 15 years experience running a special on this new type of paint…”
You know, in that personal interaction, that giving me your hardcore closing pitch is probably going to alienate me. There goes your chance for a sale.
As far as you know, I might think my house looks fine. At the very least, I probably don’t know the direct correlation between painting and resale. And I most definitely don’t know about the new line of paint you’ve got access to that’s 15% better.
While I’m pretty far from being a customer at that exact moment, do you think you could at least get me thinking about a new paint job after just a few minutes standing there next to me, on my driveway?
I’d bet you could.
And it’s because you’d…
Make Me Aware Of The Problem, Not The Solution
You’d make me aware of the problem, not a solution.
You’d strike up this conversation and probably ask me a bunch of questions:
- How long have I lived in this home?
- Do I like the neighborhood? How long do I think I might want to live here?
- What do I do for a living?
All of these questions are ‘fishing’ questions intended to determine if I’m a qualified prospect. Turns out, I’ve lived here a few years. I’m in technology. I like the neighborhood, but we’re considering moving.
Now, you start to define the problem for me.
“Did you know…[insert bit about 2-3% premium/resale benefits, etc]…”
“I did not know that,” I say…
And a conversation ensues.
You’ve Done More Than You Know
See, you didn’t start with the solution (painting).
Instead, you’ve got me thinking about a problem (selling my home and getting the most money for it).
Moreover, by alerting me of the problem, you’ve not only got me thinking about it, but now you also control the frame. What this means is that your information has given me the language, frame of reference, and tools to think about the problem….on your terms.
Now, I’ll be using your information as the frame of reference as I approach the problem.
See, in that conversation, you’ve done three things:
- You’ve informed me that there’s a problem, when I didn’t know there was one before
- You’ve defined the terms I’m using to solve the problem
- You’ve created a psychological barrier against prospective competition
Now, after our brief conversation, I’m going to be thinking about painting relative to home values. It is now a part of our household conversation as we consider what investments to make before we sell our home.
It wasn’t before.
Moreover, you’ve also defined the terms of the problem.
Now, I’m aware that there are different kinds of paint & some lasts longer than others. In the course of that conversation, you’ve made me aware of the options.
Either way, I’m now using your information as the starting point for solving my problem.
This also creates a barrier to competition.
Sure, I’ll price compare (I am a semi-rational person, after all), but good luck to the other painting companies who are running their “10% off coupons” or talking about how they’re “15 years in the business.” None of them, in my mind, is as helpful as you’ve been, so I already trust you more than the others.
And there’s always a premium associated with trust.
Because you provided the initial frame, nobody else will be able to mimic that exactly. You’ve created a competitive advantage, just by providing me helpful information.
And Now, A Lead
Let’s play out that interaction a little further.
Chances are, you aren’t going to get me to commit to a $5,000 paint job on the spot at that moment. At the very least, I’d have to talk it over with my spouse.
But, you also aren’t going to let me off the hook, either.
You’d probably end that conversation by saying something like,
“Well, Jesse, I know you’re busy and want to let you get back to what you’re doing. I know I’ve given you a lot to think about. I don’t want to take any more of your time. Why don’t you give me your phone number & email address and I’ll have one of my guys come out next week to give you a formal quote, just so you know what you’re looking at. It’s free & there’s no obligation to buy.”
Feeling like your new friend, I’d probably hand over the information, so you could follow up. (Though, if you were really savvy, you’d get me to commit to an appointment time/date before leaving…)
And there you’d have it: a new lead.
You’d follow up and, over time, possibly convert me into a customer (provided I was actually qualified). You’ve just created an opportunity and will then try to capitalize on it.
How Does This Story Translate To Your Website Design?
When you sell, you know that information is gold. You use it to frame problems and get me thinking in a way that is consistent with your pitch.
The internet is the great mediator of information.
And, what you publish, can bolster your trust in the eyes of prospects.
When someone arrives at your website, they could be anywhere in the buying process from “not aware” (like I was in the story) to “ready to buy.”
Yet, most website copy – and most advertising – ignores people like me, referenced in the story above. It’s targeted towards “shoppers,” who are always looking for “the best deals,” not necessarily the best product or service.
This is foolish, because there are always more people “who could buy” than ones who are “shopping” and taking people from “framing the problem” to “customer” almost always creates a higher-value, lower-cost customer, over time.
So, there are three things you can do on your website to capture those ‘ideal prospects,’ who will ultimately turn into “ideal customers.”
1. Design & Website Content For Those Prospects
The first thing is to create & design content targeted for those specific prospects. What questions might they have or problems might they be unaware of? Write blog posts, webinars, or social media posts that answer their questions or inform them of problems that need solving.
Then, when you meet a good prospect through other channels, refer them to that content.
Now, they not only have the rapport you’ve established, but you’ve also sent them to a property you own where they can learn more and build more trust.
You should also…
2. Make Sure You Have Lead Capture Tools
Whether it’s free downloads, a popup box, or whatever, make sure you have lead capture tools on your website.
I’m alarmed at how many business owners, who are comfortable asking for sales, never ask for anything on their websites.
Of course, they’re also rarely giving anything on their websites…
Hence, the use of lead capture tools. Provide quality information that helps people to make better decisions and charge them – in the form of lead information.
It’s a fair transaction in exchange for the valuable information that you provide. If nothing else, getting their follow up information is the surest way to make sure you can best help them.
3. Don’t Drive Advertising Traffic To Your Website
Seriously, most people drive advertising traffic to their website, domain.com. And are then upset when they’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars and received mediocre results, in the form of sales.
Instead, create advertising campaigns targeted towards helping people to identify their problems and drive advertising campaigns to that content. If your content is helpful and you’ve got lead capture tools on your website, then you’ll have spent fewer ad dollars (most ad dollars are competiting for “shoppers”, which is why those campaigns are expensive) acquiring more interesting leads.
Focus on advertising to get leads, not customers.
Chances are, you’re good at closing prospects in person. And, if you have a high-dollar item or service, chances are they’ll have questions anyways.
So, focus on that objective.
Most business owners I know are savvy. They can identify problems, close deals, and generate sales pretty well in person. Yet, in many cases that doesn’t translate online, which stymies their business’ growth.
They can only shake so many hands or go to so many networking events.
Architecting your website for lead capture & lead generation will make your sales and marketing more scalable, dramatically increase your advertising ROI, and help you to grow your business. If you’d like a free quote on a lead-generating website, click the button below and we’ll be happy to discuss your project with you!