Your website is like a financial plan — to be successful it needs goals
When you create a financial plan, you start by understanding your clients' needs and goals. Because without deeply understanding point A (now) and point B (future goals), creating a plan that helps bridge the gap between the two becomes an endless journey with no signposts and no map.
And it's the same for your website.
Your website is your online hub
You're probably familiar with the hub and spoke model. Like a bicycle wheel or a transportation network, there is a central focus and outlying points that connect to the hub.
The hub is the place where you drive traffic (visitors). It's the central place that can serve both prospective clients and existing clients.
Your website is your online hub.
The spokes are places like LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook; or perhaps the FPA website, your dealer group website or an online directory.
The spokes can also be your letterhead, business cards, and brochures which share your website address; as well as your existing clients, centre of influence network and wider "friends of friends" connections.
Your website hub is something that you own (assuming you make some smart decisions when you build your site). Let's face it, it's unlikely that Facebook and LinkedIn are going to be around forever, so building your hub on those platforms is risky. You want to build out your online hub as your own asset, and let the spokes feed your hub.
Get clear about your business and audience
In order to develop an effective online hub (website), you need to be crystal clear about your business and your audience.
If you're not, it's time to get in front of the whiteboard, and nut it out with your team.
What problems does your business solve?
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Who is your ideal client? Describe them:
What do they do for a living?
Where do they live?
How old are they?
How much money do they earn?
What’s their family situation?
What do they do for fun?
What are their worries and desires?
How do they interact with you?
What are the top three needs of your perfect client?
What is your why? Your purpose?
What does that mean for your ideal client? What are the benefits for them?
What do your website visitors need?
Once you are clear about your business and audience, it's time to think about what your website visitors need, and what you want them to do.
What are the top three reasons why your ideal client would visit your website?
What is the number one action you want visitors to your website to take?
What is the second most important action you want visitors to your website to take?
If there was just one thing you wanted visitors to your website to know, what is it? Why?
Do you notice the focus on your website visitors, rather than you? It's all about them.
Prospective clients v existing clients
Your website will be used by at least two groups of people — potential clients and existing clients.
Now the needs of those two groups are quite different.
For prospective clients, they want to understand whether you can help them; if you have helped others with similar problems or in similar situations; they want to get to know you better; learn about your services, processes and pricing; and maybe contact you.
They don't want to be sold to, or be bored silly with your corporatey mumbo jumbo mission statement. That stuff is about you, not them. Value = nil.
For existing clients, they are more likely to want to continue their learning (e.g. via your blog, ebook or a seminar); keep in touch with you; access FAQ questions and logins for account balances or to complete fact finds (perhaps via client access to Xplan); and find contact details to call or email the office.
Help visitors take the next action
Whether it be for prospective or existing clients, your website should help them take the next logical step regardless of the stage of the buying cycle they are at.
The first interaction might be downloading a budget calculator or financial health checklist, reading your blog, watching a video, connecting via social media or signing up for a seminar.
The aim is to move them one step closer towards the end goal, deliver value, build the relationship and earn trust over time.
What's the end game?
Once you have defined the goals for your website, you can start to make smart decisions about your website's visual design, structure, functionality, calls to action and copy.
And remember, just like a financial plan, your website goals will change over time and the methods to achieve them will also.
Building a website with a continuous improvement mindset is important. It's not a project that comes along once every couple of years, which you complete and then forget about. It's an evolving process, which you review and adjust as you learn what works best for your business.
And in so doing, you can build an awesome site that delivers value for both your clients, and your business.