Building a professional, persuasive website with content that targets your most viable audience is a challenge, even on a content management system (CMS). Here’s how to create content that turns your site into a lead-generation machine.
With today’s content management systems (CMS) and design templates, a small business owner can build their own company website. With these tools, you don’t need any special technical or development skills.
Unfortunately, it’s equally easy to build an ineffective website, particularly when it comes to communicating a persuasive message.
There is more that goes into building an effective business website than plugging copy and images into the template. Your website is a communication tool, and you need every bit of content to support your main goal, which is to convert visitors into leads and sales.
In this guide, we’ll review the principle types of content you’ll use to build your website with a focus on copy and effective communication. Note that this is not an instructional manual on how to use any particular CMS. At Websites 360® we offer support and training material so you know how to use the CMS features.
Start With Your Audience
Before you create any content, you need to get a central idea into your mind. Visualize your audience. Connect with their mindset.
Your audience is your prospective customers. Think back to the insights that led you to create your offer in the first place and consider:
- What problem do they need to solve?
- What tasks do they need to complete?
- What emotional connection can you make?
- What risk or anxiety might prevent them from acting?
- How will you win their trust?
- What motivates them to act so they go from prospect to customer?
Your content is for your audience. Burn that into your brain.
We emphasize this point for a reason. When business owners develop their own websites, they’re often weighed down by personal bias. They’re so close to their business they can’t view it objectively.
If you’re going to make your own website, you must get over this bias. Focus on your audience. Create content that influences them and focuses on their needs.
When your goals are conversion-focused, your business website isn’t really about your business – it seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. Nobody cares about why you started out or the struggles you overcame to get where you are. They’re not moved by abstract branding. A cool design may catch eyes, but alone it won’t convert leads.
It’s about what will persuade your audience to believe you’re the best choice.
Develop Your Value Proposition
The central concept that underlies all of your website content is your value proposition. It will:
- Communicate a specific value you deliver.
- Specify the benefit(s) customers derive from your offer.
- State or imply why you’re the best choice.
You provide answers to these questions:
- What do you do? Can you help me?
- What’s in this for me? Why are you worth it?
- Why should I choose you instead of another service or method of solving my problem?
MECLABS Institute defines the value proposition around the “only factor”, which is the cross over between customer need and exclusivity of your offer:
The force of your value proposition increases or decreases based on these elements:
- Appeal – How badly do I want this offer?
- Exclusivity – Where else can I get this?
- Credibility – Can I trust you?
- Clarity – What are you actually offering?
Be careful about clarity. Often the biggest mistake SMBs make is they’re not clear and specific about what their offering actually is. Catchy branding and pretty design won’t help if people don’t even understand what you’re offering.
Your value proposition is the main headline and subtext of your homepage. Here is a good example of a self-storage service that caters to students:
This gives excellent detail into the value they offer – including their competitive advantage – while connecting to their target audience. Also nice use of the hero shot.
Your prospective customers will compare you to the competition. Your website needs to be clear about the value you offer, how you solve problems, and why you’re the best choice. This helps you avoid being too vague, which is a problem that plagues many DIY websites.
Your value proposition is part of your homepage header and should be the first thing visitors read, but it will also run throughout your website – it’s the theme that guides your content. Everything you create, including content like service descriptions and your About Us page, should reflect your value proposition.
The best business websites speak directly to customer needs and maintain a certain level of persuasion throughout the content. The value you offer – that distinguishes you from your competition – is your guide.
Images play an important role on business websites. But most people who build their own website on templates waste this valuable content.
Problems start on the homepage. Most templates allow for a large image to be displayed above the fold, as you can see:
This image is a significant opportunity to communicate value if you use a hero shot, which is a visual representation of your offer. The best hero shots show your product in use to demonstrate the value people derive from it. A hero shot helps tell your story.
It helps to use your own images instead of just relying on stock photos. For example, this personal trainer had some photos taken of his services in action:
When you first build your website, you may have to use stock images as filler, and for some services they may be adequate. But it’s a big advantage if you use hero shots that communicate the value of your offer.
For example, this business sells hammocks designed for camping trips:
This image shows the product in use in a way that’s both inviting and clear. To do anything less would be a major waste of space.
Call To Action
The call to action is the crux of a conversion-based website. It’s where you tell people what you want them to do – literally.
If you want someone to call you, you tell them to call and make your phone number prominent throughout your site. If you want them to fill out a form you focus on it. If you want them to buy something, you funnel them towards your product pages and tell them to buy.
The best calls to action compliment your value proposition. For example:
The call to action here is to “Get My Free Estimate”, which naturally connects to the value proposition of cutting your electric bill in half.
This call to action is adjacent to a customer testimonial, which also conveys the value message:
Notice that both of the actual call to actions (the button people press) relate to the offer. This business doesn’t ask you to “submit” (something nobody wants to do). They invite you to get something valuable.
While call to actions are usually imperative, you’re not ordering people to do something. You’re illustrating the positive outcome that results from that action.
When you create your call to action button, use trigger words that connect to what people want to do, such as:
- Sign Up
Calls to action are the most tested content on conversion-based websites. Try different versions and gather data on what’s most effective for your business.
On areas of your homepage, service/product description pages, and About Us page, you’ll write content structured in sentences and paragraphs. Here are some important tips:
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short. People don’t like to read through long blocks of text online.
- Use the second-person voice; address the reader as “you” like you’re talking directly to the person.
- Write at no more than a 5th-grade reading level. Keep it simple.
- Avoid jargon and buzzwords.
- Use headers to break up text into digestible bits.
Remember to stay focused on your audience’s needs and use your value proposition to guide your ideas. For example, on your About Us page, it’s not necessary to provide a timeline history of your business – nobody cares.
Instead, focus on relevant experience, customer service attributes, and specializations. If you’re talking about yourself, do so in a way that creates an affinity with your audience.
On eCommerce sites, product pages are where conversions take place. Product page content is mainly informative. Visitors expect to see lists of features, options, and pricing. The main aspects of the page will be built-in to your CMS.
But when you write your descriptions, don’t forget this sales fundamental: it’s benefits, not features, that sell. Stick with your value proposition and be sure to describe the benefits people gain from the product.
You can embed videos, use multiple images, and include special offers. Cross-sell with product feeds that show what other customers viewed or bought:
Product reviews (as Amazon proves) are powerful sales content. Include those features and use email follow-ups to get reviews.
Product pages are sales pages with a direct-response call to action. Make sure yours are sharp and persuasive.
Navigation layouts are straightforward on most CMS platforms, but we have a recommendation on word choice.
Use standard names for your pages. For example, don’t call your About Us page something like Our Tale. Just call it what it is.
The reason for this is your website is not the only one people will visit. Using peculiar names for your main pages may seem fun to you, but it will confuse your visitors.
They’re not on your website to discover how clever you are with word choice. They need to complete a task, and the site navigation is what guides them through your pages.
With navigation, go for clarity over clever.
For websites targeting new contacts as leads, the contact us page is important.
Make sure the vitals are there, including your phone number, address, and email. If you have a location embed your map.
Include a short blurb that connects to your value proposition, but make sure it doesn’t push any of your contact info down. Here’s a good example:
No reason to get fancy here – this page should be functional.
Embrace the Copy-First Approach
You’re itching to design your new website. Ready to choose color schemes, select typography, design your branding, and play with imagery.
But if you really want to apply the tips in this article, you’ll hold on doing any real design work. First, you need to do a couple of things.
Start with our first tip. Get to know your audience. Research them. Find out what they really want and what their emotional triggers are. Your website needs to reflect their mindset. The better you do this, the better your conversion results are likely to be.
Then, get off your CMS and onto Google docs. Start writing your copy. Draft versions of your value proposition. Write up body copy, service/product descriptions, and your About Us content.
Before you start any serious design efforts, know who you’re communicating with and what you’re saying. This will guide your design efforts.
A well-known designer named Jeffery Zeldman says:
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
Starting with design – then trying to cram copy in at the end – is a common and serious mistake with website design. It’s the reason there are so many “decorative” business sites that communicate – and perform – so poorly.
Tackle your copy first. It’s not just words. It’s the persuasive argument you’re making to influence someone is a specific way. That’s no trivial thing. It’s actually the most important aspect of a conversion-based website.