I’ve seen a particular TV ad at least half a dozen times, but it wasn’t until the last time that I knew what it was selling. The spot is so full of slick visuals and shiny photography that I was a little mesmerized. If most viewers had that same experience, the company that paid for it wasted a whole lot of money.
That’s just what happens to websites when the creative strategy is the sole focus of the site, not its content – when it’s all right brain and little left. These kinds of sites amaze and delight people with visuals and effects, but the purpose of the website – unless it’s the site of a photographer or visual effects professional – could be lost.
Websites should be your hardest-working, smartest, and most intuitive salesperson, but design can only get you so far. If you want your website to be your hardest-working, smartest and most intuitive salesperson (which it can and should), it needs more than pretty pictures and “look at that!” effects to share. In other, less refined words, if you dress your website up like a hooker, no one’s going be listening to what she’s saying.
The Elements of a Site Designed to Convert
A site that makes conversions possible and probable is one that attracts the right kind of prospects and converts leads – leads people through your content, to offers, and deeper into your sales funnel. It moves people along, giving them the information they need, when they need it in their buying journey.
How do you do that? These are key to making your site a functional sales tool:
Site Architecture That Clearly Relates Your Agency's Message
Put your primary message – typically what you do (you’d be surprised how many sites fail to articulate that rather important point) and how you do it better than others– front and center. It should be the thing you’d tell your target if you could tell them just one thing. Make sure the message has meaningful and distinct benefits to your audience.
Other, ancillary, messages should come in a hierarchy that aligns with what your audience needs to understand about you and your services in order to have confidence in your capabilities. Collectively, your messages should 1. speak to your targets challenges and needs, 2. articulate a competitive advantage, and 3. provide information that helps the prospect overcome his objections (Objections are something you should know if you’ve created thoughtful target personas.).
Offers and Additional Resources Are Above the Fold
Don’t hide these critical devices at the bottom of your page. Hit visitors with the fact that you’re all about delivering solutions, answers, and resources by putting them where they can’t be missed. Nothing says you can’t have them down near the bottom of the page, as well —especially if your site features extended scrolling pages — but don’t start there.
Landing Pages Are Well-Written and Visually Pleasing
The hallmarks of a great landing page are:
- It’s succinct. Don’t explain more than you need to, and don’t provide a lot of detail. Give readers just enough bait to entice them to download.
- It’s benefit-oriented. It tells readers quickly what’s in it for them. Think of the copy as the label on an over-the-counter medication: Users want to know what ailments it alleviates.
- It’s lively. Use language with energy: Instead of, “We hope you’ll download this piece of content so that you can learn more about the XYZ process and what it can do for you,” write, “Download now: It’s free, and it’ll be key in reducing your costs by 11%.”
- It includes an image of the download. This makes the page visually more appealing and helps break up a ponderous-looking copy-only page.
- It implies some urgency. When I refer to urgency, I don’t mean order-in-the-next-hour-and-get-a-second-absolutely-free kind of urgency; I mean something that tells the reader why he or she needs the content you’re offering: they have an opportunity to start boosting the number of leads they’re getting by 29%, they’re taking a critical first step in getting found by their best targets, etc.
- It sends leads to a thank you page. Include a link to another (related) piece of content or one that allows the visitor to subscribe to your blog.
And yes, good design and creative touches are important, especially if one of your services is design. Lazy, bland, or expected websites won’t do if you’re trying to showcase a higher level of thinking or more refined conceptual skills.
Good design has significant value: It enhances your message and reinforces your skills and credibility.
Creative should never overshadow content. When done at the expense of the user experience, it will only be a distraction, especially when navigation is difficult to find, load times are extensive, people don’t know where to go to get the information they need, and the focus is on visuals, not information that helps the person decide your agency is the right agency.
When designing your website, think first of what you need to tell your target, and then about the experience on your site. Design around this idea to make your message stronger and harder to miss.