What to give your website to help it grow

Give your website a home page makeover to help it growIf you had to ask any business what it wants and would always appreciate, I'm convinced it would say “More sales, please!” But as with any gift, you stand the chance of getting it wrong.

How exactly do you go about giving your business exactly what it wants? Actually, it's a whole lot easier than spending a day in the mall with the kids! You spend some time on the first thing visitors see when coming to your website: your home page.

To illustrate just how important this gift to your business can be, and what effect this can have on your entire future, I'd like to share a personal story with you: the story of how Jake came to be my wonderful husband.

I'd been single for quite a while since coming home with broken heart after a couple of months in Britain  Then one day I ran into a guy I'd known years before. We got chatting and he said, “Why don't we get together on Friday night and do something?” Being young and single, this sounded pretty much like a date to me! Yippee!

When I got home I called my mom and told her that I'd run into Tom and we had a date. She's known Tom's family for years and she was elated to hear that such a nice, stable, good looking blah blah blah man was interested in seeing me. (I'm now wondering if she was getting frantic at the thought of having me on her hands forever?)

Mom proceeded to give me a long, detailed bit of advice on how to treat a man, how to impress him, what to do and what not to do!

The call to my mom was shortly followed by a call from my very excited younger brother, who also knew Tom. He then gave me the run down on how to make a guy happy on a date – to his credit his advice was more gentlemanly than "Show up naked. Bring beer."

Friday night duly arrived and I did the whole make-up, dress-up, stress-out routine. When I knocked on Tom's door however, I began to suspect that somehow my fairy tale prince might be needing a whole lot of kissing before emerging from his frog... Tom was dressed in track pants and a T-shirt!

Hi, come in. I thought we'd have a quite night in and catch some TV.
Uh, ok.

We spent the evening watching sport on a variety of channels. The highlight of our date was a very factual, serious discussion about his goldfish and how he wasn't sure how it had happened but it looked like one of them was pregnant. Oi vei, if he didn't know how that had happened...!

I left Tom's place pretty early and headed over to my best guy friend, Jake, in frustration and indignation. He opened the door to me saying, “For heaven's sake, say something intelligent and interesting – I've just had the most boring date of my life!” We then proceeded to chat about everything under the sun until the wee hours.

The next couple of weeks developed into a routine: go to Tom, sit around and do the sweet dumb passive girlfriend show for a little bit, followed by a long, stimulating, engaging visit to Jake. Can you believe it took me nearly 3 months to figure out that maybe skipping the Tom trip and getting straight to Jake was the way to go? After all, Tom was by all reactions a great steak, but goodness knows there was no sizzle there!

So what has all this got to do with your business and website?

Quite a lot, actually. You see, every time a visitor comes to your website, they are looking for something. They want you to engage them, communicate with them, show them what you have to offer them that will make their lives easier or more exciting in some way.

They want to feel like you're interested in them and that you can relate to them. And if you don't connect with them from the start, they're going to leave early and stop in at someone who will give them what they're looking for.

So how exactly do you go about having a successful date with your prospective client?

Well, once you've covered your bases by getting appropriately dressed in a good looking, user-friendly, responsive website , you need to focus on what you say and how you say it...

To help you with the type of text you need to create for your website - especially your home page - to make it work for your visitors, you might want to take a look at the suggestions made in the following articles:

What's the similarity between a website and a bicycle?

Have you ever met a Dick? How to write web copy that works.

Search engine overview

Also, you can either write your text yourself or decide to hire a copywriter. If you decide to write your text yourself, you may find it useful to "address" your clients directly. Let me explain...

Imagine one (typical) client sitting in front of you. What is her biggest concern? Make that the main focus of your home page and include it in your heading. (Headings in question form always work well.)

Then write as if you are answering that client's question - and most of the others she is likely to ask. Try to write as if you are having a normal conversation. Don't try and address all concerns for everybody - it makes the writing feel "distant" and readers won't feel like you're talking to them. (You don't try and date 7 people at the same time on the same evening, do you?)

Just concentrate on honestly highlighting the typical problems your client is facing and the typical questions she is (or should be!) asking. Then honestly answer those questions, showing how you approach the problem to solve it.

If I had to ask you, as friend, in a non-business setting, what I need to know or what I need to look out for when looking for what you have to offer, what would you tell me? You'd have my best interests at heart and would give me a list of tips on what to look out for, what to ask, what to check on etc.

And if I wasn't going to use you to do the job for me (as we live in different places) and you wouldn't be able to make sure I was taken care of properly, you'd tell me all I need to know without trying to push your own services/products hard because you'd be focused on helping me.

And that's the kind of conversation you want to write for your website. If you gently bring in the fact that your answers highlight the way your company would approach a problem etc, and why you do things the way you do - because you've found it has the best advantages for your customer - you get to offer your knowledge and products in a way that isn't pushy and "hard sell." You offer all the good things your company can give your client without making her feel pressured, uncomfortable or sceptical.

When I start with something like this I usually take an exam pad and pen (and a cup of coffee!) outside and just sit listing all the queries a client is likely to have. And then I start answering each one as fully as I can.

Only once I've got all the questions and answers do I start looking at things like which comes first, introductions, conclusions etc. And at every step, I can see my client sitting across from me. This helps to keep the focus not on what you know, but on what your client wants to know.

If there's one thing you can be sure of right now, it's that come next year this time, you're not going to be in the same situation you are in today. Depending on the gift you give your business this year, your situation may be better or it may be worse.

But you're going to feel a tad green if you can't give any gifts at all next year because you didn't give your business the right one this year. So go on, give your business the date of it's dreams and treat it to at least a new home page. And may you live happily ever after. :)

PS: Jake and I have now been very happily married for over 12 great years. And we still end up chatting into the early hours of the morning. ;)