Some Essential (and seldom understood) Keys
To Having a Profitable Website
By Ben Hart
Your website should be your 21st Century marketing base of operations.
If you don’t have a marketing strategy for using the Internet, you will not be even remotely competitive in the modern world.
Your website can and should certainly support your traditional brick and mortar business.
If your customers and clients cannot find you and your business on the Internet, they will assume you are not real.
So, at an absolute bare minimum, your business does need a basic general site that acts as your online brochure – that tells your prospects, customers and clients what you do and how to reach you . . . and that also impresses your friends, relatives and in-laws so that you don’t have to keep explaining to them what you do.
But the Internet is so much more than that – so much more than just an online brochure.
Americans today are spending a big chunk of their day, looking for things that interest them. A new survey one of my clients conducted shows that, among Internet users in America:
21.5 % spend 1-2 hours a day online.
60.2 % spend 2-4 hours online a day.
18.3% spend 5 or more hours online a day.
The Internet is the entertainment media of choice for many people today. More and more, people would rather surf and play on the Internet than watch TV.
When people are searching information or something they want, 8 out of 10 people now first go to the Internet, and will spend an hour or more looking for what they want and researching.
If you and your business are no where to be found, your business is dead, or will be very soon.
People watch video on the Internet. They watch TV shows and movies that are produced just for the internet. They listen to their radio shows on the Internet. They attend seminars on the Internet. They download music. They watch live concerts. They go to the Internet to meet people. We communicate over the Internet. Our phone service now comes over the Internet. Hi-qualify camcorders now allow us to use the Internet as a video phone. We play video games on the Internet. We download our software, movies and music from the Internet. We get college degrees over the Internet. We meet our mates over the Internet. Socialize over the Internet. We do our Christmas shopping on the Internet. We use the Internet to telecommute. We run our entire businesses over the Internet.
More and more, we are trading in our costly brick and mortar offices for super-cheap (almost free) virtual offices on the Internet.
We hold conferences, webinars, meetings, training programs, tutorials and help our kids with their homework – all on the Internet. We check the weather, get our maps and directions book our travel and order pizza delivery over the Internet.
So if your entire marketing strategy on the Internet amounts to just putting up a static online brochure on what you and your company do, you are short-changing yourself.
But here’s what’s fantastic about the Internet.
You don’t need money. You don’t need capital
All you need is a great idea and you can be an overnight multi-millionaire.
It costs almost nothing to put up a website. It costs almost nothing to put audio and video on your website. You don’t even need any technical or programming knowledge any more.
Money and capitalization had nothing to do with building YouTube.
You could have built Craigslist, eBay, Yahoo, eHarmony, MySpace, Drudge Report – or any one of the thousands of ultra-profitable online businesses.
You don’t need money to build an ultra-profitable business on the Internet. You just need an idea.
If you want to produce and direct your own movie you can. No need any more to submit your idea to a movie studio and hope to get interest. Make your own movie.
If your movie tells a good story and is compelling, you’ll have no trouble finding a big audience for it on the Internet, if you understand some basic marketing principles. And distribution of your movie is a non-issue on the Internet. Anyone who wants to see it can just pull it up instantly on their computer screen.
Have an idea for a sit-com? Same thing. Production of your sit-com is just about free. If it’s good, you’ll have no trouble finding a big audience.
Or maybe you’ve written a book.
Forget going through the old-fashioned New York publishers. If you’re book is even accepted by a New York publisher (highly unlikely, unless they have commissioned your book to be written in advance), you will have to wait a year or two for your book even to appear. The traditional publishers are dinosaurs. They have absolutely no idea how to market and distribute a book in the 21st Century.
But you can publish your own book using the Internet. You can offer both digital and printed versions. And you can have hundreds of thousands of readers of your book almost instantly – again, for almost no outlay of cash.
By the way, this is a big part of how I make my money on the Internet. I write, publish and market all my own books and information products. Instead of taking the 12-15% royalty the commercial publishers offer me, I take a 100%. Instead of relying an incompetent publisher to market and distribute my books, I do it all myself with my laptop computer and Internet connection. And I have hundreds of thousands of readers.
The big point here is that money is not the main currency of the Internet world.
Creativity, imagination and brainpower are the currency of the Internet.
You don’t need money, as you would to capitalize your brick and mortar store. You don’t need money to hire employees. You don’t need money for a lot of heavy equipment. You don’t need inventory. You don’t even need much in the way of office supplies.
All you need is a laptop computer, a high-speed Internet connection, and your brain.
Your website is almost free. Your email communications are almost free, or can be almost free. And your marketing and advertising are free, or almost free, if you understand viral marketing, how search engines work, and how to build an e-mail list of people who are interested in what you are doing.
The Big Mistake People Make With Their Website
The biggest mistake people make when designing their website is not having a specific purpose in mind for the site. Almost always people want their site to do too much. They want their site to do all things.
They want their site to build their brand and image. They want their site to sell products and services. They want their site to find and capture leads. They want their site to inform. They want their site to entertain.
So what you end up with is a hodge-podge site. I have a tough time figuring out what I’m supposed to do on most business sites on the Internet. I have no idea what I am supposed to buy, or even what the business is offering.
Keep in mind that people spend an average of 3 seconds on a web page. And that might be generous. So you have less than 3 seconds to grab the attention of your visitor and to give your visitor a reason to stay, and then a reason to do something – whether it’s to fill out your sign-up form, buy something, read something, watch something, listen to something, or contact you.
A web page (and usually an entire site) should be designed to get your visitor to do one and only one thing. Your site should be designed with one and only one purpose in mind.
You know what you are supposed to do when you go to www.YouTube.com – watch videos on topics that interest you. When I go there I like to watch videos of classic rock groups from the 1960s and ‘70s.
When you go to www.Google.com, it’s clear what you are supposed to do – type in your search terms so you can find what you are looking for on the Internet.
Take a look at Google’s home page. It’s so simple and clean.
No fancy graphics – just that search box in the center of the page – along with a few hyperlinked lines of text near by that will take you to the other parts of Google’s business if you are interested.
But mainly what Google wants you to do when you go to its home page is use its search engine. Google’s entire multi-billion-dollar business is built around getting people to use its search engine. There are many other aspects to Google’s business – including Google AdWords, Google AdSense, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google’s free email service, Google news, and the list of services that Google offers goes on. Google also bought YouTube.
But Google understands that its business is built on getting people to use its search engine. Everything else Google does flows from that – because the search engine is how people find their way around the Internet.
Underneath that super-simple home page, Google’s business is vastly complex and multi-faceted. But Google understood the power of projecting simplicity to the world – of asking the world to do one and only one thing when arriving at Google’s home page.
Contrast Google’s simplicity to Yahoo.
Yahoo used to be the #1 search engine.
But Google passed Yahoo as the #1 search engine and now leads Yahoo by a wide margin in that arena.
Compare Yahoo’s home page to Google’s.
You are not really sure what you are supposed to do when you arrive Yahoo’s home page. It’s a jumbled mess. It’s got just about everything on it.
Now, this has not turned out too badly for Yahoo. Yahoo used to be known primarily as a search engine. But it lost that marketing battle to Google. Yahoo is still the #2 search engine, not bad. What most people think of Yahoo now as is a portal.
It’s a place where you can find just about anything. You can read news. You can shop. You can find a date. You can watch video. Anything you can do on the Internet, you can do it on Yahoo. What Yahoo as evolved into is a media property.
And it’s doing well as a media property – making a boatload of money selling advertising.
Yahoo’s took in $6.4 BILLION in 2006 and has a market cap of $43 BILLION.
Google’s took in $10.4 BILLION in 2006 and has a market cap of $143 BILLION. So investors are much more bullish on Google moving forward.
So Yahoo lost the search engine battle to Google. But it is the Internet’s #1 portal. It’s become a jack-of-all trades site – packed with news, info, entertainment and things to do – games, dating, chat rooms, classified ads. You name it, you’ll find it at Yahoo.
So that’s not bad. Yahoo survived and prospered by remaking its brand.
But I would argue that Yahoo succeeded at this because it was one of the first general portals. They now have the ad revenue and money to make this model work. But it is not a good business model for someone starting out right now.
You will do much better on the Internet if your focus is very narrow – like Google – and not general, like Yahoo.
Everyone knows that eBay is the place you go for online auctions. Now, Yahoo has online auctions also, but few people know that. Yahoo’s online technology is vastly superior to eBay’s in my view. It works better. It’s easier to use. You can find things easily.
But eBay dominates the online auction market.
People don’t think of Yahoo when they want to participate in an online auction. They think of eBay. eBay is known for one and only one thing – online auctions. Actually, you can just bypass the auction process and just pay for what you want on eBay, which is what I do. But the niche eBay carved out in people’s mind is as the online auction site. And the more eBay deviates from its brand and evolves into just a conventional shopping site, the more it will dilute its brand in people’s minds. It will begin to lose market share.
Google understands, perhaps better than any company on the Net, the power of simplicity and staying true to its mission and its brand.
“Narrow is the gate to paradise” in Internet marketing (and all marketing).
The more laser-like and focused your mission and marketing, the better you will do.
Look at Google’s home page again.
Stare at it for a while.
Gaze at it in awe.
The simplicity and power of it is breathtaking – at least it is to me.
Much of the message of the Inner Circle program is an argument for striving to achieve this kind of simplicity with your websites, with your business and with your marketing.
So when you design your website, ask yourself these questions:
1) Is the purpose of my website crystal clear?
2) Am I asking my visitor to do one and only one thing?
3) Will it take my visitor longer than 2 seconds to understand what my site is about and what I am asking my visitor to do?
4) Will it take my visitor longer than 2 seconds to see the benefit of sticking around and doing what I ask?
If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, go back to the drawing board for your site.
Go back to staring at Google’s home page some more, and see if that gives you some inspiration.
“But Ben!” some of you will say. “I want my site to do many things. I want it to build my brand. I want it to sell my products. I want it to collect and sort my leads. I want to provide valuable information to my prospects and customers. I want it to be a fun place to be. I want people to stick around on my site and come back over and over again.”
Yes, everyone wants to be a portal like Yahoo.
You will lose that battle. Yahoo has already staked out that territory.
I believe most businesses should have more than one site – perhaps many sites, each designed with a specific purpose in mind.
I have many websites, each with a specific job to do. I have sites designed to capture leads, other sites designed to sell a product or a service, a general site for my consulting business, and information sites that are focused on a single topic where I collect Google AdSense revenue.
There are all kinds of sites and purposes for sites. Decide what the purpose of each of your sites is, and then design your site to achieve that purpose.
I don’t want my site to be like a Swiss Army knife.
Don’t get me wrong. A Swiss Army knife is a neat little tool that can do many things for you in an emergency if you are out in the woods. But it does not do any one job very well.
A real screwdriver will work much better than the one in the Swiss Army knife
A real pair of scissors will work much better than the one in the Swiss Army knife.
You want your website to be a precision tool. You might have many websites, but each website should be designed with a specific narrow purpose in mind, with a specific job to do.
Don’t jumble all the jobs you want done onto one website. That will just confuse and frustrate your visitors.
Really, this is a key principle in all your marketing – whether you are marketing online or offline.
When you write a sales letter, your letter will perform much better if you sell one and only one thing. Don’t ask your reader to choose among a variety of products you might be selling.
Make the case for buying one product and one product only.
General Motors is selling many different kinds of cars and trucks. But the ads feature just one model. Your website needs to be like that. It needs to make the case for your visitor to do one and only one thing. Its purpose must be instantly clear.
And if you have many jobs for your websites to do – just create more websites, each with its own unique job to do.
Here are some common purposes for a website:
1) Build your brand and image. Project professionalism
2) Capture leads
3) Close sales
4) Sell advertising space
5) Provide a service that people pay for
6) Provide customer support
7) Be an online catalogue or store
8) Profit as an affiliate marketer
9) Recruit affiliate marketers
10) Provide news and information
11) Self Expression
12) Provide a community service
13) Provide training and education for staff and customers
14) Distribute digital products (i.e. books, software, audio and video)
15) Save money by cutting transaction, distribution, staffing and advertising costs
There are many other possible purposes for a website as well.
The big point to take away here is that you should design your site with a specific primary purpose in mind.
Your site might also achieve other worthy goals besides its primary goal. But think of these other goals as spin-off or secondary benefits. But a site should have a primary goal.
Google is many things besides a search engine. But all the other benefits and features Google offers flow from its core business of being first and foremost a search engine. And Google will bring in $12 billion this year.
To Your Success,
Happy Improved Marketing,
Your 21st Century Marketing Coach
because everyone (even Tiger Woods) needs a coach
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