One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is not thinking of their website as part of their marketing strategy.
In fact, more than it being part of your marketing strategy, it should be the center of your marketing strategy.
It has been well-said not to build your marketing platform on “rented land.” This is one of the dangers with becoming popular on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram.
Although you should continue using those platforms, you should not do so without a clear idea of how that marketing fits into your overall plan.
Specifically, you need to consider how your website ties your digital presence together. That’s how we’ll approach this article.
By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll:
- Know what a marketing-focused website is and why you need one
- How to integrate your social media “embassies” with your website “home base”
- How to get started building a marketing-focused website
Let’s dive in!
The “Marketing Hub” vs the Website
Everyone knows what a website is. Believe it or not, though, it’s a bit vague to business owners why they actually need one.
At NorthMac, this is one of the first questions we ask a new prospect. As you might imagine, many conversations start out with, “I need a new website for my business.”
But when we ask why, a few “vanilla” answers seem to be the norm:
- Our old website is ugly and needs a refresh
- We need to see our business grow
- We need to make more sales
Can a website help with the above problems? Yes, to a degree. But often times it can not.
After diagnosing a business, for example, we might come to the conclusion that their website is converting fine, but there’s a traffic problem. It needs more visitors.
That problem cannot be solved with a new website, though. That problem can only be solved with marketing, and in that case, we’ll be transparent about those expectations and inform clients of what we believe the way forward is, and why.
So, what is a good reason to build a new website? Here are a few (you’ll notice they’re closely related):
- Your marketing message needs to be clearly presented to potential customers, but is not currently.
- Your current website does not clearly show what products or services you offer.
- There is no “central hub” for your marketing activities (blog, videos, social media, etc).
- It’s not clear how potential customers can or should do business with you.
A website that focuses on addressing the above concerns is necessary. And if you have one of those issues, you certainly may need a new website.
However, make no mistake: Most people are not focused on creating that kind of website. Oftentimes, they do little more than scratch a design itch. We think that is unacceptable.
For that reason, we give the websites we build new language. We call them marketing hubs, or funnel hubs. They are a “hub” of information designed to get the right people to the right place, as fast and efficiently as possible.
Hallmarks of Great Marketing Hub
There are some items your hub must have if it is to be effective for your business.
Here they are, in no particular order of importance. Some of them overlap; still, they are individually important.
Clear Calls to Action (CTAs)
A CTA is a line of text, oftentimes used as a button, to give users clear directions.
If people come to your website wondering what to do, they will not do anything. These days, users are frustrated if it takes more than three seconds to understand what you do and how they can get started working with you.
Of course, it is also true that interested parties will spend hours on your website doing research if they want to go further. This is part of why website design and marketing is so tricky!
Whether the user wants to do three seconds of research—or three hours—you need to have an option for them.
Headlines and Subheadlines
The persuasion aspects of marketing have been figured out for a long time. Of course, there are always new ways of reaching people, new contexts to exploit, new conversations to have, etc.
But as far as the structure of marketing goes, we know what works.
And a big part of what “just works” are clear headlines and subheadlines that help buyers understand whether they are in the right place.
In that regard, your website should look similar to direct mail advertising. A clear, compelling “H1” headline at the top, followed by a supporting subheadline, and additional subheadlines as needed throughout the text.
The written words on your website are infinitely more important than the visual design. I get that this sounds controversial, but it is absolutely true.
If you don’t believe me, consider this home page. It was from a web design agency in the early 2000s scoring six figure projects and contracts.
If you think, “that’s just what websites looked like in the early 2000s,” that’s not the case. In fact, they looked quite the opposite, full of flashy graphics and visual tricks made to impress people (but little else).
37signals took the opposite road, shared what they believed, and won big for it. To quote Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And that “why” is communicated in words.
Your Value Ladder
You would be surprised at how little people know about what you do. The fact is, you’re too close. You know what you do, so you assume everyone else does too.
Once again, this assumption is incorrect. I have been to more than one website practically begging to give them money (I had heard about them from friends, etc) but could not figure out how.
Talk about a missed opportunity! You should share your value ladder on your website.
A value ladder is simply a visual way to think about the products or services you offer. If you’re like most of our customers, you will have a range of products or services that increase in price (cost to the customer) and value (benefit to the customer).
As the price rises, so does the value; hence, the “value ladder.” This should be available somewhere on your website.
How to Work with You
We like to use the Storybrand framework with clients. One piece of this is called the “process plan,” which helps to clarify what it looks like to do business with you.
Depending on your business, there is sales friction in one of two places: The process leading up to a purchase, or the post-purchase process (maybe even both).
A “How it Works” section (or some variation of that) can help smooth over one or both of those friction points and remove that objection from your potential customers.
Without that, they experience purchase resistance because they lack context for their expectations.
A Stream of Content
As I mentioned earlier, some people will only want to stay on your website for three seconds. While that’s true, increasingly, people want to stay on websites for three hours or maybe even longer.
The reason? Research. Almost certainly, if you’ve read this far, you are the kind of person I am talking about. When you’re making a purchase (especially a big and/or important one), you spend ample time researching to ensure you make the best decision.
The way that businesses “answer that call” in the modern era is with content. As many business experts have pointed out, these days, you are in two businesses: The media business, and the deliverable business.
Every company desiring to build trust with potential customers (which should be every company) must become a media powerhouse in its own right. Your website should be the place to find all of that content.
The Origin Story
Storytelling is one of the most underrated skills in society today. Far from being reserved for the creative types like authors, everyone in business or sales should become expert storytellers.
Your marketing hub should feature stories—ideally, lots of them. But one that it must include is the origin story. And this is not necessarily the “well it all started in 1972 when my grandpa…” story.
Instead, this is a carefully crafted story that talks about why the company exists, and is tailored in a way that creates a connection with your prospect. How to tell that kind of story is beyond the scope of this post, but this podcast episode will give you a head start.
Where Social Media Fits In
Social media does not replace the need for your website. Instead, your website and social media work hand-in-hand to create a unified, compelling marketing presence for you.
Social media destinations are like “embassies” and your website is like your “home base.” While it is not a bad idea to promote your social media sites from your website, the flow of content should be in the opposite direction.
Your social media content should ultimately point people back into your “hub,” because that’s where everything can be found to move people deeper into your universe.
You can use services like MeetEdgar or ReviveSocial to help push content from your website to social media on an automated schedule, which is a great strategy for keeping your social audiences up to date with the content you are creating.
Of course, sometimes you create content right on the social media site. In that case, it is also helpful to display social content on your website itself, which can be done (although it should be done strategically and in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the point of the site, which is to create customers).
The Tools You Need
OK! “Steve,” you say, “I’m ready to dive in. How do I get started?!”
If you want to do it yourself, here are a few considerations:
We build websites exclusively on WordPress. This is always the tool we recommend because it is self-hosted, which means you cannot be “cancelled” or otherwise pulled for any reason.
Of course, there is a tremendous learning curve with WordPress that cannot be ignored. Yes, there are plenty of YouTube videos that help you build WordPress websites. And many of them are helpful and created by colleagues/friends of mine.
Still—most business owners would not be served making the time investment to learn WordPress.
If you have more time on your hands than money to spend, my recommendation would be to use a tool like Wix or Squarespace. These tools focus on an easy setup and elegant user experience.
Of course, there are not as many options for privacy or flexibility, which will be a dealbreaker for some, so those should be considered as you do your research.
To use a real estate analogy, if your website is your home, your hosting is the land it sits on. Just as you need a place for your physical real estate, so too you need a place for your digital real estate.
There are lots of hosting options out there, and let me assure you, it is very much like the Wild Wild West.
If you work with us, we host your website for free on a platform called Siteground. We handle all the details and logistics, and will give you independent access to the account. It is even transferrable in case we decide to stop working together.
If you build on a platform like Wix or Squarespace, hosting is built in. From a convenience standpoint, this is great! However, bear in mind this is a huge privacy and security risk because if they turn your website off and/or lock you out, you have no recourse.
You may not know this, but your email is often tied closely to your website. After all, most business people email from an address that looks like “email@example.com”.
If you’ve ever wondered how they do that, it is because of a fantastic Internet tool called DNS records. DNS essentially tells certain Internet applications how to convert computer language into human language.
Again, is it far beyond the scope of this article to discuss DNS. Suffice it to say that when you go down the road of building a website for your business, you will need to consider your email hosting as well.
Wrapping it Up
The most important thing is that your website is helping you achieve your business goals.
A website that follows the guidelines laid out in this post will be an ally for any business, whether you offer products, training, or professional services.