I was honoured to be interviewed by the Time4Business Magazine. Here is an excerpt of the interview called – written in the very popular Q+A style.
“Plan, design, execute”
Do you have a first rule of website building/design?
Keren Lerner: My first rule is to go for the highest quality you can afford. What a lot of people do is come up with a list of all they want their website to have on it and do, and then they take that list to a few people and see who can promise that to them at the most affordable price. Sometimes, this results in websites that are over engineered and over complicated. Other times, websites have too much information without much thought to key messages and ease of use. If you look at the single page websites we have designed you will see that you can achieve so much more with good planning, great copy and amazing design.
How true is the saying first impressions count when it comes to websites?
KL: It’s even truer than in real life. For most of the time, website browsing is a solitary experience. People are sitting on their PCs or looking on their phones or iPads, and they may look at your site and decide to click further or click away. There is no obligation for them to be polite and stick around – because no one is watching them or talking them through it. So, you have to engage them straight away, and the smallest thing might put them off.
What are some of the key mistakes that businesses make when they review/design their websites?
KL: Some of the key mistakes I have noticed are:
- Not writing a proper brief: This isn’t something we have as an issue with our clients, as we are a consultancy led design agency and we help clients provide us with a comprehensive brief. But when people work with other designers they don’t always give the right information about their aims, brand and message, and then they don’t get the results they want or need. We help our clients with the brief, and when we work with clients such as Abbie Tanner she goes through and creates an incredibly comprehensive brief for us to follow which really helps.
- Doing things in the wrong order: A successful project has to be done with all the steps in the right order. For example, if you write the text for the site too soon, without knowing the overall structure of the site or the layout the text is going to go into, then the website will often look overly text heavy. Or, you may think you need to have a section where people subscribe to information before you have built up a community on your different marketing channels.
- Launching the site with things missing – like blogs with only one post in them and no content plan, or links to social media channels which have nothing going on when you click on them – I see this all the time.
Is it possible to create a professional website using DIY website design? What are the main pitfalls of which businesses should be aware?
KL: It is possible to create a professional looking website on one of these. It depends on the person. They need three key characteristics to make it a success (I often like to think in blog post headlines!). These are:
- Patience – because these things take a little bit of figuring out the first time you use them, and likewise to make things look the right way.
- A mind for marketing – any successful website needs to be planned and structured in advance to ensure that it’s going to appeal to the audience, and the most important things are immediately apparent.
- An eye for design and detail – if you don’t have this, you may not notice when things aren’t quite right. You need to ensure that things line up, the elements on the page balance visually, images are well chosen and not cheesy, and there is correct capitalisation, grammar and spelling.
How often should a business be updating its website content?
KL: It depends on the business, but if you have a blog (and there are many reasons why a business should seriously consider having one) then you can aim to have a new post on your blog once a week on average. This has been statistically measured as the sweet spot for measurable increases in conversion on your website. Of course, the content you choose on your blog is equally important. Your headlines need to capture people and the content needs to be interesting enough to keep people reading (or watching in the case of video).
Websites are often viewed as marketing tools to attract new prospects but how important are they as touch points for existing clients as well?
KL: It is a good idea to think of your website as a way of keeping existing clients aware of your services and successes. Keeping them in mind means you can make sections of your website which will be useful to them – such as FAQs’ sections, a resource library, client focused events, and informative blogs.
T4B: How often should a business review its entire website to ensure it stays up-to-date and relevant to its market?
KL: It wouldn’t hurt for you to have a meeting with your website in your diary every three months. Spend an hour or so, and go through a mini checklist, asking yourself questions like “Does it reflect who we are now?” and “Is there evidence of what makes us great/unique here?” and “Is it going to interest our audience” as well as checking visual elements such as choice of images and if things are looking fresh enough.
Most financial advisers/planners provide similar services. So how can they differentiate themselves through their website?
KL: Yes, it’s true that there are a lot of similar services provided by financial advisers and planners. This would be the same for accountants, lawyers, banks and website designers. The differentiation comes from who you are in the business, how you approach your clients, where you are located, what type of clients you are very good at helping, and the unique twist you put on your investment services.This is where marketing and operations can overlap. If you don’t have enough differentiators on your website, you can look into how you can improve or innovate in your business, and then reflect that in your website as well. Taking the time out to look at your business and think about how you can keep moving it forward will mean you always stay one step ahead.
Many financial advisers have built their businesses solely on referrals and might argue that they don’t need a website.
KL: I hear this a lot, from many businesses. They get clients from word of mouth and they get repeat business. They have good relationships on a personal level with their clients, and the clients stick with them. But as more and more of the competitors also start to realise how important it is to use marketing as a way to build relationships (through helpful blogs, interesting and useful email newsletters, face to face networking and online social media engagement) there is a danger that someone else may come along and offer their clients a lot more attention. For example I have had an IFA for many years and she is a friend. But I also go to a networking meeting every week and there is another IFA who is also a friend, who I see every week. You need to keep on your toes. The other issue with having a poor web presence is that if someone wants to recommend you, they would want to send your details to someone else – including your website address and LinkedIn profile. If people go onto your website and see it’s being neglected, then that sends a message that you don’t care enough about your online presence. Need I say more?
Having a website does not guarantee that people will visit it. What else can/must a business do to ensure it attracts visitors?
KL: Very true! People are not going to wake up with an urge to go and type in your website address. And they may not Google you either. Luckily we have amazing tools at our disposal – Twitter, LinkedIn, email marketing, and your blog will all help to drive traffic to your website – if used cleverly and correctly. This is why I would say invest time in learning these tools properly, and practice becoming better and better at marketing. I regularly run workshops and training sessions for businesses on how to effectively manage their businesses online, profiling and email marketing, so let me know if you would like to know more or attend a workshop.
Many adviser firms are targeted at specific and niche markets. Is there anything they can do to help ensure they attract the ideal clients they would want to work with?
KL: A website is open to anyone so you could get all sorts of people visiting, but you can steer things in the right direction. To start with, I would go through a keyword research exercise and list the phrases and words you would think people would search for to specifically find you. Then, incorporating these into your copy – in a natural way – will mean your copywriting will resonate with your target audience. This would be on not only your website pages, but also your blog and email newsletter. If you can get a copywriter with a marketing angle to help, then you will of course get better results. You can also use social media to be very targeted, by first researching the profiles of other people and businesses who are either in your target industry or who also work with the same type of clients, and connecting/building relationships with them online (and offline too). And you can run useful/educational events as well (which can be marketed via your website, blog, email marketing and social media). These ideas should not be taken ad hoc – ideally you should be planning a proper strategy ahead of time and following it systematically. A good marketing strategy combines a mixture of planning content in advance, creating quality content that interests your audience, consistent marketing activity, and engagement with the right type of people.