5 Questions Every Business Website Must Answer

August 8, 2011

Twitter, YouTube videos, text messaging…there’s no question attention spans are short. Everyone is busy, asked constantly to “do more with less,” including most critically their time. To connect with buyers in this environment, your business website needs to provide them with the information they need—quickly and concisely.

Key Questions for Skeptical ProspectsBy the time a buyer reaches your site, he or she has likely done the basic research. The problem is defined, the solution set narrowed, and now it’s time to choose between competing vendors. In order to make the short list, and ideally to win the business, your site needs to quickly answer five critical questions.

1. Who are you? Unless your brand is a household name, at least within your industry, this is a critical element. Don’t waste your “About” page company history and trivia—make it “sell” your company. Write about awards, media/analyst recognition, number/importance of customers, length of time in business, the experience of your founders, funding, growth and financial performance, and/or any other information that conveys the message: we are the “safe” choice to buy from in this industry.

2. What do you sell? While that is obvious to you, it isn’t to prospects unfamiliar with your company. Use keyword research tools to make sure you are using terms your prospective buyers use, and make it clear and concise. Do you sell a point solution or something that’s part of a broader product suite? Products only or also associated services? For example, suppose you sell web content management software. That could mean a free or low-cost content management system, enterprise content management software, or a web marketing system that includes CRM and email capabilities as well as a CMS.

3. Who do you sell to? No company, especially a small business, can be everything to everyone. Make it clear who your target customers are; this will help weed out prospects who aren’t really qualified and enable you to tightly focus your web copy on your best potential buyers. Do you sell to consumers or to other businesses? To what specific demographic? To big companies or small? In a particular industry or set of industry segments? Make it clear to your site visitors if they are “in the right place.”

4. Why are you the best choice? This is where you differentiate yourself from the pack. Be as direct and factual as possible about your differentiators: service, price, features, capabilities, technology, experience, focus, expertise, acknowledgments, TCO, ROI…tell your prospects what makes your product or service uniquely suited to their needs.

5. How do I buy from you? If a qualified buyer has landed on your site and you’ve done a good job answering questions 1-4 above, this is the critical final question. What do you want the person to do next? Can they buy directly from your site or is it a more complex, high-value purchase that requires a sales cycle? If the former, give them a clear and simple path to the purchase. If the latter, you may need to provide more than one option—but don’t offer too many choices, which may overwhelm the prospect. Possibilities include downloading a white paper or report, signing up for a newsletter, contacting you for more information, following you on Twitter or Facebook, signing up for a free trial, viewing an online demo, or registering for a webinar. Different options likely make sense on different pages. Keep it simple and clear. Test different calls to action.

Much of this may seem obvious, but many business websites still either overload visitors with too much content or make key information hard to find. Differentiate your organization from competitors make it an effective sales tool by concisely answering these key questions for your prospective customers.

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8 Responses

  1. Excellent points. In fact, we ask these same questions everyday during our process to help the graphics industry develop W2P solutions.

  2. I like the list. And as you say, “How to buy” is critical. So many companies do a great job getting you to their site and then the purchase process might as well tell you to call using a rotary phone, connecting via the operator, over a party-line, to get a door-to-door salesman to your neighborhood sometime soon.

    Mike King

  3. Tom 

    Thanks Charles!

  4. Tom 

    Thanks Mike. There are people working on making that process more effective. Here’s an example: http://blog.workface.com/bid/86148/Pre-CRM-The-Relationship-before-the-Relationship

  5. Mike, perhaps your comments do “seem obvious”, and yet – unfortunately – it’s often the obvious that business owners overlook. Thanks for the reminder that flashy flourishes mean nothing if the basic structure isn’t sound.

  6. This list makes for a wonderful “basic training” for those small business that are wondering why their web sites are ineffective and not giving the return in new customers promised them by their web designer.

    Actually, this list is a great checklist for web designers. I’ve seen many examples of web sites that look great, but fail to achieve their basic marketing purpose.

  7. Tom 

    Thanks Jeffery, so have I.

  8. Don 

    “So many companies do a great job getting you to their site and then the purchase process might as well tell you to call using a rotary phone, connecting via the operator, over a party-line, to get a door-to-door salesman to your neighborhood sometime soon.”

    Good point Mike. When a company does something like this then they will lose a lot of customers.

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