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You launched a website to establish an online presence, grow your list and attract more clients. Now a few years have passed and your business looks different. Maybe you’re targeting new clients with a new value proposition. Maybe your website is starting to look outdated. Or maybe sales have gone down and you’re wondering if a website could jumpstart your business.

If you’re like many business owners, you’re ready to swing into action! You want to set up appointments, hire resources and make things happen right way.

But before you make that first call, take out a notepad, turn off the phone and go someplace quiet with your favorite beverage. Go through these 7 checklist items. You’ll be ready to make wise decisions so you get to skip the hassle and headaches. Ready? Let’s do it!

Checkpoint #1? – Make sure you really need a makeover

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When clients become scarce, your solution could be a website makeover … but maybe you need to tweak your sales copy or come up with new services to offer.

Are you offering a new range of services? You might need a new website … or an overhaul of your services page.

[Tweet “Are you getting a sense that your website feels dated?”]

Are you getting a sense that your website feels dated? Today’s look calls for an open, clean design … but does your audience really care? Some people are making good money from ten-year-old sites.

Some indications a makeover is in order:

— Prospects show interest at networking events but disappear after you refer them to your website.

— You are targeting a new market with a new offer value proposition, such as offering live weekend intensives for high-end clients.

— You keep getting queries for products and services you don’t offer and don’t want to offer.

Checkpoint #2: What is the main purpose of your site?

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Most sites fit one of these three categories:

Brochure site: Reassure prospects that you have credentials, expertise, and social skills. For example, Marilyn is a divorce lawyer who gets clients primarily through referrals for a one-time service.? She doesn’t maintain a list because clients rarely consult her after closing their cases and frankly, they don’t want reminders of that period of their lives.

Lead-generating site: Some sites simply produce leads but sell services offline. Your goal is to generate qualified, quality leads. For example, Mike is a CPA who wants to build relationships with his present and prospective clients.? Both prospects and clients enjoy getting tips throughout the year and are happy to make referrals.

Revenue-generating site: This site combines the functions of the brochure site and the lead generating site but adds a third: a way for prospects to sign up for services and pay on the website.

Checkpoint #3: What is the primary message you want to convey to your audience??

 

Write up a targeted, benefit-oriented statement that shows how you deliver value to your clients. For example:

“As a life coach who’s also a physician, I help burned out health professionals regain their energy and find their purpose again.”

“I’m a copywriter who’s a former corporate treasurer. I help financial professionals develop marketing programs.”

“I’m a personal trainer. I developed a set of 7 exercises to help desk workers relieve shoulder tension and manage back pain.”

Checkpoint #4: How will your website establish credibility?

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[Tweet “Your website needs to answer the questions, “Why should I trust you? Will you be around for a while? Do you have the expertise I need?””]

First, make sure you really have the qualifications to deliver what you promise. If you’re setting up your site to help others, are you a coach as well as a player?

Second, what evidence can you display on your website?

Formal credentials rarely will be necessary unless you’re in a regulated field, such as financial planning or psychotherapy.

Testimonials that speak directly to your service will be especially valuable when they’re signed and dated. To supplement testimonials, especially when you can’t use real names, include case studies that provide detailed accounts of client successes.

Most of all, you also demonstrate credibility by creating content. Your blog will show how thoroughly you understand your clients and display your original, creative insights. Podcasts and videos show how confidently you present your ideas in your own voice.

Finally, your website itself will be a credibility booster when it appears organized, well-written, easily navigable, professional and contemporary. And most business owners find that a simple site actually delivers clients faster than a site that’s so beautiful your visitors miss the message.

Checkpoint #5: How will your website establish authenticity?

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These days clients want to know the Real You. Many professionals think that means, “Write the way you speak,” but in fact your audience looks for a conversational style that invites them to engage. They look for authenticity in the message, not the words.

Look for ways to add personality to your site.? For instance, retailer Jonathan Adler features a manifesto on his website. He declares, “We believe your home should make you happy,” “We believe colors can’t clash,” and (my favorite), “We believe dogs should be allowed in stores and restaurants.

Storytelling also promotes engagement effectively.? You don’t need a rags to riches story; in fact many audiences now distrust stories that begin, “When I had no money and was sleeping in a church basement…”

Share stories of why you chose to start your business and how your clients succeeded. For example, Eileen talks about walking away from her corporate job, jumping through hoops to keep her benefits, and handling challenges from well-meaning friends. Today she’s a coach who helps other women walk away from their cubicles into the freedom of entrepreneurship.

Checkpoint #6: How will your clients find you?

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You probably know websites don’t follow the rule, “If you build it, they will come.” So you’ll get a lot of tempting advice to pay for traffic through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or advertising. The golden rule here is, “Don’t pay to get traffic – or learn techniques to get traffic – till you’ve established that your website does a good job of converting visitors to clients.”

Begin with what’s free and easiest for you, such as guest posting, videos, blogs, and podcasts. Pick one or two methods, and learn them well. If you’re getting clients, you can always pay for more traffic. If you’ve got traffic that doesn’t convert, you’ve got a time sink.

Checkpoint #7: What is your budget?

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Even if you’re a dedicated, die-hard DIYer, you’ll need some tools. For instance:

A premium WordPress theme saves money in the long run over a free site. Choose a sturdy theme that’s been proven in the marketplace.? ?

Unless you’re creating a brochure site, you’ll need an email marketing service. Some will be free while your list is small but you also get less support at that level.

Many new businesses budget for design, but your message strategy will be even more critical.? Will you learn copywriting basics and DIY, hire a writer or get a professional to review your content before you go live?

Top quality resources will insist on getting a budget range before spending time with you. You’ll be taken more seriously when you give a number — even a low, low number — than when you hedge with, “I’m not sure.” Often you’ll be able to get a smaller package that fits your budget and still gives you high value.

On your way!

Notice that we haven’t talked about which pages to include, what to write on each page, and how to choose a theme. Those decisions will be straightforward once you’ve got the “big picture” checkpoints covered.

When you review all your checklist items, you’ll start to see some synergies and crossovers. For instance, let’s say you build traffic with podcasts. Your podcasts also help you build credibility and engage your audience. You can focus your energies on this activity instead of scattering your marketing (not to mention your budget) across a half dozen different opportunities.

What’s your next step in creating your own DIY website? What’s your biggest challenge? What do you most need to avoid? What do you want to accomplish with your website? Write your answer in the comment section.