You’ve spent the time and effort to build a website, you’ve put together great content and images, and followed proper design conventions and processes to make sure you are doing it right. Now what. For marketing and customer usability purposes, there are many additional features you may want to consider. I have listed below some website features that have proven to work for my site and millions of others around the world.
Email newsletter sign ups
Emails have become a toxic topic lately. We have a public that has become hypersensitive to privacy concerns and as a result, unwanted emails or SPAM has made people feel that an unsolicited email is an invasion of privacy. While this does not seem to be the case with direct mail, I still believe email newsletters to be a very effective form of marketing as the contact you can keep with your clients is a constant reminder that you are around and ready to accept new business. It builds loyalty as well and is a great way to get the word out if you are running promotions or special events. Very importantly though, if you are going to generate email lists, you need to commit to actually doing email newsletters and campaigns.
The main thing to remember is, you should not send emails out unless your customers have specifically opted-in to your email list. Many retailers are now doing this at the register, but for my purposes, I create conversion focused opt-in notices on my client’s web sites. There are various types of opt-in forms that have proven to increase your newsletter signups. In almost all cases, a good programmer can control when these are displayed to customers. For example, a new user may see a pop-up asking them to opt-in, but someone already signed up will not. Some types of opt-in forms include:
- Lightbox pop-ups fill the entire screen, with a clear button to close if the user is not interested.
- Opt-in widget places what looks like an advertisement in your sidebar.
- In-content form is the simplest; a form embedded within your content.
- Slide in is a box that can animate into the screen from any direction, catching the user’s eye.
Video works really well
I can’t say this enough; people don’t ready anymore. You can spend weeks to months (as I have on my website) creating tons of text content combined with great graphics, but very few people will actually read it. According to a recent report by Cisco, over 80% of all Internet traffic will be video within just a few years. Mark Zuckerberg has repeated stated that video will become the dominant content delivery form on Facebook, putting his company in direct competition with Google’s YouTube.
Video is everywhere and I believe every website should eventually include some form of video marketing which could include:
- Product videos: zappos.com is an example of a great ecommerce site that goes beyond product photos and includes a video one of their sales people describing the specific product.
- Promotional videos: general videos showing your staff working, video representations of your services, or a simple about us video showing you are local and friendly.
- Infographic videos: these represent complex subjects by breaking them down into an animated graphic sequence. Great way to describe what may be a fairly boring subject. A great example, if you are a solar company, maybe create a video describing how the tax credits work.
- Video blog entries: whatever the topic of your blog posts are, you could break them down into videos. For example, if you are a food product seller and want to add recipes to your website, why not video yourself actually cooking the recipes.
Free or promotional content can generate a lot of leads
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, many of the purchases I have made online in the last several years were from companies who sent me notices of sales or promotions. If you are running an ecommerce site, this is pretty straight forward, send out sale notices given a percentage off the next purchase. Any descent shopping cart system will support discounts and promotional codes.
If you are not running an ecommerce site, you should still think about offering free products. I have several customers who never market their actual services, they just market the fact that they are offering free products or information. Once you give something for free, those individuals are much more likely to want to give you something back in the form of business.
Surveys to increase online interaction
Everyone wants to voice their opinions. For a business owner, that opinion could lead to valuable market research information with can help you improve your product or service. Better yet, the entire process from collection of survey data to analysis and reporting can be completely automated. I wouldn’t attempt this unless I already had a significant email list, but anything that makes your site visitors feel engaged will build loyalty.
Customer relationship management systems
I would say one of the most valuable items on this list would be building a customer relationship management (CRM) system into your website. For example, let’s say you are an architect. You could create a project management system which would, in real time, keep your clients up to date on where they are in the process of designing and building their new home.
You could also create an online invoicing system. Any time you make it easier for customers to pay you, you are increasing the likelihood that you will receive payment for your invoices in a timely manner. People are busy, and your job as a business owner I think is to make their lives easier.