You’re starting a business … or taking your current, successful business in a new direction. Do you need a new website too?
Some marketing consultants will see the new website as a first step for the new business. Others take the opposite view. Some even suggest that a new service business should get a handful of clients before even starting on a website.
Here are 5 points to consider when you’re dealing with the question. But first, a story…
Some time ago I wrote a website for a lawyer.
A week after the site went up, she sent me an email: “Why did I spend money on this website? Nothing is happening!”
I wrote back and explained that having a website doesn’t bring in clients automatically.Your website is there for people to look you up after a referral. And you need to promote the site: write a blog, use social media… find some way to get the word out.
She was having none of it. She didn’t want to give talks or write a blog.
I introduced the website to some search engines via addme.com, a small but effective step most people don’t use anymore. And then I hoped she wouldn’t sue me.
Fast forward a year. I got a message from her. “Are you still there? I have a question.”
Oh no. Was she going to sue me?
Nervously, I replied that yes, I haven’t gone anywhere.
“My website is bringing me so many clients!” she said. She had a specialty where people actually looked for lawyers and there she was, keywords set up to make the cash register ring.
She had called me to ask, “How do I update my address? I’ve had to move to a bigger office.”
What does a business website really do for you?
The bottom line is, a website isn’t magic. A website at best will generate leads and in some case make sales. To do its job, the website has to get in front of prospective clients. To be effective, the website needs to send a clear message, based on what you offer as a business owner, and the way you differentiate yourself from your competitors.
But I don’t agree with some “experts” out there who take the opposite approach: “Don’t bother with a website when you start out.” Many – perhaps most – of your prospective clients will check you out on the Internet. If you’re claiming to be a substantial business, they’ll want to see that you own some online real estate.
But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a designer website (custom WordPress themes? forget it!) or high-end branding package.
Here are 5 points to consider before you dig into a website development project:
(1) Depending on your business and your connections, you may not need a website to get your first client (or first client for a new target market or offer).
Some coaches advise you to hold off on getting a website when you’re just starting out. Instead, they say, focus on signing up clients first.
That’s fine if you’ve got access to a strong networking group, a connection from your past life to your current business, or a showcase where you can demonstrate your expertise.
Marla belonged to an exclusive group of executive women. When she became a life coach, she got permission to hire a telemarketer to phone the group members and invite them to get-acquainted calls. She was on the phone for two weeks and filled her practice – no website needed.
Sam had been a popular financial adviser. When he realized he was advising clients about life as well as money, he began offering life coaching services.
Ursula began a relationship with Edward, an extremely well-regarded, successful marketing coach. When Ursula decided to launch a specialty wellness coaching program, Edward sent out a mass mailing to his list, personally recommending Ursula’s services.
And then there’s Susan, a client who wanted to work on her website. She spent a lot of energy discussing colors and the challenges of making a perfect video.
But in talking with Susan, I discovered Susan is one of those natural networkers. She’s bubbly and fun and people naturally gravitate towards her. She had invited a small group of women to her home for a workshop – and some of them became clients.
For Susan, a website wasn’t a priority. She’s sitting on a goldmine.
I’d still recommend at least a minimal web presence. The people you meet will want to look you up unless you give them a compelling reason not to. There’s something flimsy about a business without a website and you can lose prospects.
(2) Your first website can be just a simple statement about who you are, with a link to sign up for your email list. You need the four essential pages – Home, About, Services, and Contact.
As you get clients, you can add testimonials and you’ll be able to tweak your copy to anticipate their questions, objections, and fears.
In many fields, such as career and life coaching, your blog will demonstrate your expertise, style, and orientation to clients.
Confession time: I used to envy a couple of copywriters who built their websites around light-hearted humor. After all, I do comedy so I should have a funny website, right?
But then I found that some people hated those websites! I get business from people who want straight talk, no-nonsense, high-energy results.
(3) Once you get a website, you still might need to have get-acquainted calls (a/k/sales conversations) with potential clients.
But if you design your site strategically, you won’t have as many of them. I’ve had clients tell me, “Once the site was up, people didn’t demand face-to-face meetings. We could talk on the phone.”
I rarely meet anyone face-to-face and I’ve had people send me significant sums based on my website – not even a phone call. Your website can do an effective job of selling your services.
There’s no denying that you will move faster when you reach prospects face to face, especially when you can be a live speaker or a guest on a podcast or webinar. But in many fields, you can build an entire business virtually, especially when you supplement with products and courses.
(4) Your website needs to look professional, but you don’t need to spend thousands on branding or web design.
However, I’ve had clients who budgeted heavily for high-end coaching but left nothing for web development – copy or design. I’ve also met many who signed up for a “web development package” that charged for things they didn’t need. Usually, buried in the fine print, was the note, “You supply the copy.”
(5) You may not need a makeover when you change direction or focus on a new target market. Often just a few tweaks will help you get started.
And what if you do need a completely new website? I encourage my clients to move in small steps. Try out the new brand in LinkedIn posts, blog posts, videos, and webinars. Create a lead magnet or two.
You’ll get a sense of whether you’ve got a hungry market for your new offer. And you’ll also discover whether it’s something you feel you can support for the long haul. More than once I’ve come up with an idea that seems perfect…till I tried to test it out.
In fact, here’s a special tip. Come up with a product or service for your new brand and write the sales letter — before you create the product or make elaborate preparations for the service.
A sales letter can be a particularly effective diagnostic tool. When you can’t write the sales letter, you’ll have trouble selling the offer.
You probably don’t need a rebrand just for appearance.
True, the newer websites look beautiful, with a stronger visual impact. But some of the older websites are doing just fine. Business still comes in. And strong, well-written copy will last a very long time.
And for some additional help…
First, I have a FREE report for you: 5 Secrets of Websites That REALLY Attract Clients
Would you like me to help blueprint your website makeover? Set up a Power Hour Call and we’ll do it!