8 Must-Haves for Your Business Website

Every great business needs a great web presence. That’s every as in every, not just online businesses. Brick-and-mortar shops may ply their trade in the terrestrial world, but they and their customers find each other through the same internet that drives most 21st-century commerce

Today, the hunt for most products and services begins on a search engine. More than likely, the first thing a potential customer sees regarding a business is its website. Your website is the opening salvo, the tip of the spear. It’s the first impression- and you’ve heard about second chances regarding those.

To create a lasting, bookmark-worthy site, make sure that it includes all of the following 8 key features:

1. A Clear, Strong Headline

What’s the first thing a potential customer thinks, feels, knows, or understands about your business? Hint: it’s whatever your headline says. It’s also what your headline suggests or implies. This is the first impression of the first impression, the first fleeting eye contact across the wide and crowded room that is the internet. This is your hook.

So what makes a great headline? The first thing a business headline should offer is understanding. A customer is essentially searching for a solution to a problem. Your headline should announce in big, bold terms that your business understands exactly what that problem is, and exists to solve it.

If the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, the first step to getting someone to pay you to solve their problem is making it clear that you recognize it.  Identify the customer’s need, and offer to address it. That’s the goal of a good headline.

2. An Enticing Opt-in

The next important thing any business website needs is a way to continue the conversation after the customer has clicked on to other things. Simply put, your website has to convince the customer to leave their email address behind. You must persuade them to give you the opportunity to earn their business (if you haven’t already), and to continue earning their business down the road.

Of course, some people don’t like opting in- not without a little convincing at least. This is where the “freemium” comes in. Your customer needs a reason to open the lines of communication, so give them one. Offer a little gift, a bonus, a sweetener if you will.

For example, a clothing line can offer downloadable and/or printable style guides. A food website can offer a recipe. A tutorial site can offer an e-book. It doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) anything that necessarily costs your business anything materially, but it must have value- value in the form of the expertise and competence you want to display.

The opt-in is the first time you’ll be asking your customer to give you something in exchange for your services, even if it’s just an email address. It’s a microcosm of your possible future together. This is the first transaction. Close this “deal,” and more are sure to come.

3. Valuable Content

Web design, headlines, hooks, email outreach- all of these things are trying to draw the customers towards one thing ultimately: the content. A great website with poor content is a beautifully wrapped box of nothing. Content is what divides the serious business website from the amatuer. This is the substance, and all the dressing in the world can’t compensate if it’s lacking.

So what makes content valuable? Valuable content offers one or both of two things: expertise and personality. It articulates what your business can do, and why you want to do it. It reassures the customer, now open to your overtures, that you know what you’re doing. It also shows them that you’re doing it out of passion and commitment, and not solely out of the desire to lighten their wallet.

Great content can come in many forms. The most common is the blog: medium-length articles that describe your business’ process in an engaging way. A restaurant website can offer a cooking blog, sharing the business’s approach to the art. An online clothing retailer can muse about their approach to fit and fashion. A tutorial site can articulate its approach to the skill it purports to teach.

Blogs aren’t the only kind of content. A photography or other artistic business should have a portfolio. Tutorial websites should offer infographics. Any website can and should offer videos. Any written or visual articulation of how and why the people behind your business do what they do is valuable content, the kind that will keep customers engaged- now and in the long term.

4. Your Story

Business, like everything else, is a narrative.  It’s been said that in a courtroom, whichever side tells the best story wins, and the same is true in commerce. Stories are how we understand the world, our history, and each other. When your website tells a meaningful story, it’s worth more than all the clever advertising in the world.

This means that you’ll have to know what your story is. Ask yourself- why did I (or we, as the case may be) start this business? How did I come to this pass? Somewhere in the answer to that question is a story.

It may be a story of perseverance. It may be a story of love for a particular craft. It may be a story of family tradition. Whatever it is, the story is there, and telling it honestly and soulfully will win you the hearts of your customers. Not incidentally, finding and telling your story can also help you to better understand and focus the goals behind your business.

Your story establishes your values, and thus, your value.

5. Calls to Action

Ultimately, the goal of every visit to your business’s site should be an action by the visitor. The visitor is not just there to enjoy the fruits of your e-labor. They’re there to take a step towards addressing the need your site has been insisting it can address, ever since the headline.

They’ve read the blog, they’ve watched the video, they’ve perused the portfolio- great! Now what? This is when your site prompts the customer to take action. It might be signing up for the email list, it might be scheduling a consultation, it might be placing an order; whatever it is, don’t let them leave the website without encouraging them to do it.

The call to action is the bridge between the site about the business and the customer’s actual engagement in the business. Omitting the call to action, then, is almost as bad as getting someone into the store and forgetting to sell them anything. It’s time to get the customer to make their move.

6. Contact Info

This one might seem obvious, but the number of business websites that don’t offer the customer adequate means by which to get in touch is staggering. Especially in the case of terrestrial businesses, there’s almost no point to having a great website if it’s not leading customers to the business itself.

At minimum, there should be an email address for customers to contact the business with questions. For brick-and-mortars like restaurants or boutiques, a working phone number is an absolute must. Don’t bury these things in obscure locations on the site; you want to encourage customers to reach out.

Don’t let words be the limit of communication, either. Make it easy for customers to visit. Have exact location information with hyperlinks to a mapping service like Google maps, and post your hours. How many sales have been lost because someone couldn’t find the place, or didn’t know if it was open? We shudder to think.

Besides, any press (food critics, local entertainment and shopping profilers) that may be interested in essentially advertising your business for you should not be met with any difficulty in seeking your business out.

7. The Answer

The question being: why you? Why is your business the one, the only one, to address the customer’s need? The difference between the business that wins the sale and all of the businesses that don’t is…well, difference! What about your business is likely to meet your customer’s needs and can’t be found elsewhere?

This question needs be answered quickly and concisely. The Answer should be shouted from the metaphorical rooftops of your website; all signs should point to it. It must be wrought in neon across every page.

Like telling your story, finding The Answer may require some healthy introspection. If you don’t know why someone should choose your services over the rest, it’s time to figure that out- because you can believe the competition has.

Pro tip: Resist the temptation to set your business apart by insulting the competition. To define your business via the flaws of other businesses might seem like a good idea, but it’s a long-term loser. Negative advertising is tempting, and has its uses, but it generally comes off as arrogant and bullying. It also hurts your relationship in whatever industry you’re in.

Worst of all, it reeks of insecurity. A great businessperson is confident enough in what they can do without having to denigrate anyone else, so keep it positive, and keep it about you.

8. Your Promise

Finally, the heart and soul of your business website is its promise. Every business proposal is more than the sum of its specific features. In the end, a proposal is a promise, a vision of a future situation in which something is different (read: better) for the customer.

What are you promising? You’re not promising a wedding cake; you’re promising a memorable wedding. You’re not promising clothing; you’re promising an impression. You’re not promising business tutorials; you’re promising the potential for success.

Your promise is the final product, the end result of what your business does. Articulate it, and invite your potential customer to visualize the future post-transaction. What version of tomorrow is your business offering? Make the promise, keep it, and watch the business return.

Bonus: A Word on Social Media

Having read through this list, the savvy e-entrepreneur may be asking: what about social media? A whole article on building the ultimate business website and not a word spared for Facebook? Drag over the fainting couch, Dear, I feel the vapors coming on.

Here’s the thing: social media is an important part of online marketing, but it is not the be-all end-all of e-commerce. Far too much is made of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, both of which are great tools for guiding customers your way. However, if you’re not careful, social media can have the opposite effect- driving traffic from your website and into the black hole of cute kid pics and kitten memes.

As a rule, never put something on your website that will send the customer you’re trying to engage away to another website, especially a social media website. While social media friends and followers are desirable, they can’t be gained at the cost of the thing they’re meant to earn: business.

Place social media icons in the footer of your home page, or better yet, confine those links to the emails you send once the visitor has subscribed. Remember, social media is a pathway- it’s not the destination.

So there it is. These 8 features are the keys to the success of a truly effective website, one that engenders interaction with the customer base, fosters relationships, and ultimately brings you the business. With these features in place, your website can truly drive the success of your enterprise.

Want a Free $100 MBA Course + fresh & hot goodies like this one?