If you built your website for the sole purpose of having an online presence, as many small businesses do, I can guarantee it’s costing you a ton of money in missed opportunities. It’s time to ditch the brochure website model and think smarter.
Building a brochure website is one of the biggest mistakes business owners make when they take their business online. The mistake is more prevalent with brick and mortar businesses, but I see it with online businesses as well.
What’s a brochure website?
A brochure website is a website that conveys basic information about a business but without any meaningful conversion strategy. When you go to a brochure website, you’ll see all the typical pages. An about page, a services page, a contact page, and so on.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for it might be hard to tell the difference between a brochure website and a website built for traffic and conversion.
Lots of business owners build brochure websites because they don’t know any better. They believe that building a website gives them an online presence that helps them get discovered and leads to increased sales.
That belief, without any further strategy, can’t be further from reality. So business owners end up paying thousands of dollars for a beautiful brochure website and the site does very little for them.
Why are there so many brochure websites, then?
Great question. There’s a very simple answer.
Many web designers and developers aren’t marketers, so they gladly build these brochure-style websites for clients. They don’t have the knowledge and insight to tell their clients that what they’re wanting is going to be ineffective for sales and growth.
Aside from that, more business owners than ever are building their own websites. It’s becoming easier and easier to put up a basic, good-looking website using platforms like WordPress & Squarespace. These business owners build what they think they’re supposed to build, which ends up being an online brochure.
What’s wrong with a brochure website?
Business owners will often tell me, “My site looks great. Even my clients tell me my site looks great.”
I don’t disagree. There are a lot of brochure websites out there that look fantastic (and a lot of them are shit). The problem is that good looks doesn’t equal conversions. This isn’t a singles bar, my friend.
Other owners will say, “What do you mean my website is costing me money? I get new leads and buyers from it every month!”
I don’t doubt that either. I never said that brochure websites don’t convert at all. I said they cost you lots of money in missed opportunities.
Would you rather have 5 sales in a month or 35? Would you rather add 30 people to your email list each month, or 3000?
“Performance” is relative. Your brochure website might be “performing,” but relative to what?
A professional basketball team isn’t built around people who can make a basket every now and then. It’s built around people who can strategize, pass, work as a unit, hit threes, drive to the basket, nail layups, and dunk the shit out the ball when given the opportunity.
Oh, and put asses in stadium seats.
Your brochure website is a suburban middle school basketball team. What you need is a well-oiled NBA squad.
I need specifics. In what ways is my website underperforming?
A high-converting website doesn’t just tell people what you do and who you are. Here are five more things a great website should do…
- Attract targeted, organic traffic (lots of it).
- Influence visitor behavior (toward specific actions).
- Segment people by interest/need.
- Speak to the target market in an intentional, strategic way.
- Capture visitors (in various ways).
There are other things your website can do but we’ll stick to these five for now.
Does your website attract targeted, organic traffic?
Just because you build a website doesn’t mean people will find it and traffic it. The “if you build it, they will come” philosophy is absurd. Do you know how many websites there are on the internet?
Your website should have two main purposes: attract new visitors and capture visitors. And to be more specific, it needs to attract new visitors who fit your target market.
What do your traffic numbers look like? Where is your traffic coming from? Are you paying to drive traffic or is that traffic finding you organically? Would you rather have 10x the traffic you have now? What would your business look like if you had 10x the traffic?
Does your site influence visitor behavior?
Once someone arrives on your site, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to aimlessly poke around your site and hope they’ll end up contacting you? Or would you rather direct them to exactly where they need to go?
Brochure websites lack this critical focus. They give people way too many options or the wrong options.
Let me give you a clear example. I was looking at gymnastics schools for my daughter and was met with endless examples of this. Here’s one of them…
Look all those possibilities.
When you give people too many options, many will do nothing. Or they’ll randomly click around and struggle to find what they need.
Georgia Gymnastics Academy has no strategy for their target market. I like that they tell me what ages they provide classes for, but why don’t they allow me to choose which age group I’m interested in?
Wouldn’t that be one of the primary things a potential client (the parent of a child) would want to see information about? As a dad, I’m wondering, “what do you offer for my five-year-old?”
I’m tasked with figuring out where that information is hiding on this website instead of them presenting me with it immediately.
Know what I don’t care about? Your Facebook page, the year you were founded, “what’s new,” your photo slide show, or half the other options in the navigation.
Do you segment people by interest/need?
Remember when I said I was looking for information for my five-year-old? That’s a segment. The website needs to know that about me. If they happen to capture me on an email list, the email list needs to record that about me.
Why? Because how you market to the parent of a five-year-old is much different than how you market to the parent of a 12-year-old who may have years of experience.
That’s an example of a second segment. Then there are parents looking at having a gymnastics birthday party. That’s a third potential segment.
All these different segments have different needs. You must understand your segments. And the site needs to get each segment of visitors to the most relevant part of the website as quickly as possible.
Do you speak to your target market in an intentional, strategic way?
What I’m talking about here is basic copywriting. In other words, not starting out by telling people that you were founded in 1987.
Nobody cares about you. They care about what you can do for them and how well you can do it. You must speak to their need.
If you segment people properly and get them to a specific part of your website, you can speak to them in a much more personal and effective way. That’s where copywriting comes in.
That’s where copywriting comes in. Small business owners rarely hire copywriters for anything. It’s a huge mistake. Spouting logic and facts from the bias of your ownership position doesn’t convert as well as professionally written copy.
To convert people, you must make strategic appeals to emotion. People buy on emotion and then justify their purchase with logic after the fact. Do you know how to facilitate this, or should you hire someone?
Do you capture visitors and relevant data about them?
Getting traffic is a great start, but that’s just the beginning. If that traffic leaves, there’s a good chance you’ll never see them again.
For this reason, it’s important to capture visitor data so that you can continue talking to them after they leave.
There are three main ways to do this. The first method has a lower capture rate but is very powerful. The second method has a very high capture rate but is less powerful.
Capture Method #1: Pixels
You can capture close to 100% of your audience using pixels. One example is the Facebook pixel. If you pixel your site visitors, you can then reach them after they leave your site using Facebook ads.
Using the gymnastics website example, a quick check revealed that they aren’t using any pixels to capture visitors. A big mistake.
Capture Method #2: Email
If you can capture people using an email opt-in strategy, this is the best method. The reason it’s so powerful is that it offers you a direct line of communication with people who have raised their hand to hear from you. Or who want to receive something from you.
Looking back at the gymnastics site, I don’t see any sort of email opt-in strategy. The newsletter link in the navigation goes to a posted news feed.
An easy strategy for a gymnastics school would be creating a free cheat sheet, “10 Things Every Parent Must Consider Before Enrolling Children in Gymnastics.” They can get the guide by putting in their name and email.
Capture Method #3: Direct Contact
Another best-case scenario is that the visitor makes direct contact. This is either done by filling out a contact form on your site or calling a phone number you’ve published. It could also be done through a live chat feature on your site or private messaging on social media.
This is the only play the gymnastics school is going for. So out of all the capture strategies they could be using, they’re leveraging less than 1/3 of them. This is very typical!
What’s your website doing wrong?
This article is just scratching the surface of this topic. The point is that a lot of people are rocking brochure websites and those sites are performing at a small fraction of their potential.
How does your site stack up? Let’s find out…
Limited Time Opportunity: By popular request, I’m currently doing full video walkthrough website audits. Click here to see the packages – I’ll show you exactly where your site is doing well, where it’s underperforming, and where it’s totally missing the mark.
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