In general, the object of a web site is to allow your customers to find you. You make your site eminently findable with good SEO and SEM, make sure it says what you need your customers to know about you, and get on with your work.
But it occasionally happens that your customers don’t actually look online for what you offer.
One of my clients creates custom software for people in the financial sector in New York City. We were talking recently about how he has lots of traffic now, but still would like to see more conversions.
“We need,” I said again, risking getting really boring, “to figure out where the people who need you are hanging out online. Then we have to make sure that you’re visible from there.”
This is another thing that’s generally true about online marketing. It involves research. I track down the people who need my client’s product. I say to them, “Now, supposing you needed some goat gamma globulin, what would you do?” or whatever the product in question might be.
Sometimes it takes further probing, but at some point you will find out what terms people are going to use and where they’d be likely to begin. You’ll then have enough info to begin some in depth research. Or you’ll confirm what you, as a business owner and expert in your field, already thought. Or you’ll be amazed,and that can really turn around your business.
But in this particular case, we’re talking about a small and specialized group. So it’s different.
I understand this because I’m a musician. If you’re not a musician, and you need one, you might go to your favorite search engine and type in “wedding singer” or “guitar teacher” or something.
If you are a musician, then you are never more than one contact away from the right person. You say to yourself, “I need a tenor — who might be available?” If you can’t come up with anyone yourself, you ask another musician. Conceivably, you tweet it: “Short on tenors for the Requiem. Who’s available on the 19th?”
I’ve literally never Googled for a musician of any kind.
So what if your customers are like this — such a specialized group that they practically all know one another? Does that mean that you really don’t need a website, and can just rely on word of mouth?
Nope. Even in groups where “everyone” knows “everyone,” it isn’t literally everyone. There’s a new person in town. There’s a start-up company you haven’t heard of yet, but with your help they’ll be in the inner circle next year. There’s someone in a slightly overlapping circle who could use your services, even though you didn’t go to school together.
And there are also people you know — even current clients — who need something else from you, and they’ve been meaning to call you, but haven’t yet. Or your competitors’ current clients, who aren’t completely happy right now and are considering a move.
So the fact that you may need to go out and find your clients doesn’t mean that your website is irrelevant. Here’s what it means:
- Your website probably won’t be the first place people encounter you. Don’t assume that your visitors know all about you, but do assume that they’ll be prepared to read more, and will want more information. They’re deciding, after all, between you and some small number of specific other people. The idea that people will decide to stay or leave within a few seconds may be less true for your website than it is for most. You may need more content than another site
- Your website needs to come up first on search for your name. When people hear about your business from someone else, they’ll still look you up online before they call you. They’re just very likely to look for your name rather than your business name. Having your business website at the top of search for your name allows you more control over how people see you. Sure, they can still check out your Facebook page or Amazon profile, but a good website can make them feel that they don’t need to.
- Don’t neglect social media. It’s the new word of mouth. An online follow-up after some face time at a conference, tweeting the link to an article you discussed, or adding someone to your network can remind them of you and help establish a mutually satisfying business relationship.
Even when you need to find your customers, your website still speaks for you.