I have a lot of friends who, when starting their business, focus nearly all their energy on their new website.

  • “I’m going to do it WordPress!”
  • “It’ll have forums!”
  • “I outsourced mine to a Ukrainian!”

Often the website becomes so big and unwieldy that they never launch. Or after launch, they can’t update the site. And then they launch, and nobody visits.

But there’s some logic to what they’re doing. When they look at other businesses like themselves, big or small, they all have websites.

So the website has got to be first, right? A sine qua non?

Wrong.

Focusing any more than, say, 50 percent of your marketing energy on your website is a very bad idea, for a simple reason:

Your website is only your customer’s second stop.

Huh? But the website is my calling card, you might say. It shows that I’m real. I can’t do anything before I have a website.

Wrong.

To get to your website, prospective customers had to start somewhere else. They had to type your name into Google. Or they had to find out about you on another website that they read regularly. Or they heard about you from a friend.

In other words, somewhere before they ever came to your website, your prospective customer had to find out about you in the first place. That was their first stop.

In marketingese, we call this “building awareness.” If people aren’t aware you exist, they’ll never find you. And websites don’t solve the awareness problem. People just don’t know your URL when they are born — they have to learn about it somewhere else.

So before you even start developing the website, you need to solve the awareness problem. This means you need to carefully analyze your customer. Who are they? Where do they go on the web? What are they doing when they look for products like yours? How do they find solutions? How do they evaluate which one to even glance at?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t spend another dime on your website. You need to know, understand, and solve this problem.

Before you develop any website, you must figure out: What is my customer’s first stop? How do they become aware of me in the first place?

Not to mention the fact that a website should be designed for maximum findability — again, to use marketingese, search engine optimization. If you don’t know what words people use to describe your product or service, or what phrases they use when they are looking for your solution, you can’t design your website to be found in the first place.

In other words, if you haven’t solved the awareness problem, you are wasting your time and money building a website that might be completely inappropriate. So drop everything and figure it out!¬† (You can always contact me for help.)

But that’s not all.

Bluntly, you created a website to get paid. You want customers to buy your product or e-book, buy your services, pick up the phone, or whatever. These are all the next steps to getting you paid — the “call to action.” This is the third stop.

Your website needs to be optimized to drive people to that third stop. Maybe it’s a purchase form, a contact form, a phone number, an Amazon ebook page, but whatever it is, your website should always be driving people to that call to action.

Before you develop your website, you must figure out: what is my customer’s third stop? Where do they need to go next, so that I get paid?

If you don’t know what your call to action, or how it will work, stop working on your website right now. Figure out that third step, and design your site to call prospective customers to action.

Simple, right? Well, it’s not — I’ve seen companies spend tens of thousands of dollars getting this wrong. Hopefully, with a little advice, you won’t.

In summary, don’t forget that your website is just a stop — a kind of halfway house for the customer — between awareness and sale. If you neglect awareness, or don’t drive to sale, all your effort is pointless, and may even be counterproductive. To create the optimum website, you need solve awareness and selling from the beginning.

Needless to say, you may want to contact me if you need help.

(Image from Marktoon)

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