Posted by Mel | Thursday July 28th, 2011
You paid a website design company a few bucks a month to get in on a cookie-cutter template solution for your business’s website, and you’ve spent hours writing content, uploading pictures, and trying to figure out how to work and manage the template. Only, your core skill set isn’t in web development, marketing or social media and you’re finding that it’s not as easy to DIY as you’d hoped. Not only is managing your site taking up a large chunk of your time, but you’ve had $0 in customers walk through the door after your months of hard work (not to mention what you’ve spent) on something that’s not even what you DO. Why haven’t you seen any payoff for all your efforts? Well, the fact is: you may have an “ugly baby”.
No one wants to hear they have an ugly baby.
Just because no one has told you doesn’t mean your baby (aka website) isn’t ugly.
So, how do you know if your website is an ugly baby?
Let’s begin with your customer. Is your site customer-focused? Does it answer the questions that 80% of your clients (or 80% of the clients for your industry if you don’t have any real clients yet) ask when they call? Does it answer them within the first 5 seconds of viewing the page? Does your site offer a clear and direct call to action for your specific target client? (Do you even know who your target client is?) If you answered no to any of these questions, guess what… You’ve got an ugly baby on your hands.
What about your brand? We’ve talked in the past about how your customers perceive your use of stock photos and about the importance of brand consistency. Does your site effectively communicate the brand image you want your customers to absorb? Does it feel unique, professional, comfortable upon first glace? Or are you working to fit the square pegs that represent your brand image into the round holes that are the template limitations? If it’s the latter, yep, you’re dealing with an ugly baby.
Lastly, let’s talk functionality. Does your web design company’s template solution allow you access to the metrics for your site? Are you able to see who is visiting, where they’re going, when they’re doing it and how long they’re staying? Do you know where they came from? Or what keywords they used to find you? Can you easily make changes or add things like +1 buttons for Google or Like buttons for Facebook (let alone whatever the social media frenzy of tomorrow may be)? And what about SEO? Are you able to create valid tags? Meta tags? Are you able to leave the virtual breadcrumbs that the online crawlers look for when they come to index your site? Does the template limit you from uploading over-sized images which slow your load time and ultimately penalize your ranking with lead search engines like Google?
If your template can’t do these things – all of these things – how do you expect to know what to change or tweak as you try to drive more traffic to your page (and ultimately to your business)? I mean yes, you could spend outrageous sums in online advertising to get potential clients to the proverbial door, but how will you ever get them to knock, let alone walk through and spend their hard-earned dollars with you? And how will you ever know why they didn’t?
Ok, so you’ve got an ugly baby. Now what?
Go back to your web design company and ask them for solutions to these problems. If they can’t meet your needs for functionality or training to get these basics on your site cleaned up, it may be time to move on and start over with a firm that can. Chalk it up to a learning-experience and pay for a more professional, customizable solution. Continuing down your current path is just throwing good money after bad. If you need to change horses mid-stream, we hope you read our article on the importance of owning your own domain before signing up for your template solution.
Hire an in-house expert (or a design firm whose services include doing some of the work for you). You’re good at what you do. That’s part of why you went in business for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you’re good at everything. Keeping your website, newsletters, email campaigns and social media efforts relevant is time-consuming. Your time may be better invested in doing the thing that you do to earn revenue, and paying someone else who’s better suited to it to help bring customers to the door.
Last but not least, if you’re a die-hard do-it-yourselfer (or if your budget just won’t allow for any other solution), spend the time you’re currently not spending serving clients to really dig in and train yourself on website and marketing best practices. There are tons of bloggers and subsequent articles dedicated to helping you build your brand, many of whom will send relevant suggestions straight to your email for nothing more than the cost of a free subscription and the time it will take you to understand and incorporate all their good ideas.
Do you have an ugly baby? Have you ever had one? What advice would you give our readers about how to turn their ugly duckling into a swan?