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Friday, August 29, 2008

Is your web site compelling? Does it reach out to your potential customer base and convert traffic into sales? Well, it should. On average you have roughly seven seconds to get your message across before the end user abandons your website for one of your competitors’ sites. We have created simple guidelines for what should—and, more important, should not—be featured on your homepage, so that you can convert regular traffic into revenue.

1) Create a Powerful Homepage Message.
Your homepage mes
sage should be a targeted, benefit-oriented statement that outlines what you can do for the potential customer. In order to properly draft an intriguing homepage message, you will need to identify the inherent benefit to your potential customer base. No one wants to hear that you are “the best”; customers want to hear why your product/service is different and what it means to them. Put more simply, customers are asking, “What can you do for me?” Answer them.

2) Focus on Clarity.
These days, with so many people searching online for products and services, your homepage should clearly identify who you are, what you offer, your core competitive benefits, and your supporting text—all in a clean and easy-to-navigate user interface. Use graphics and pictures to help illustrate what service or product you provide, and how these benefit the customer. However, the homepage should be a “no-fluff” zone. A good rule of thumb for the homepage is “less is more.” Make it easy for the user to understand what you do. Too much verbiage, images, and graphics will only confuse the user. White space, good. Clutter, bad!

3) Make Effective Use of “Secondary Messaging.”
After you have presented your homepage message, you will need to incorporate “secondary messaging” on the homepage. This includes any additional messages that will be used to help clarify an
d drive home the points made in the primary message. Secondary messaging should also incite the user to take certain steps—that is, it should be a call to action. These calls to action could direct the user to e-mail the company for additional information, phone the sales rep, download a white paper, read a recent success story, etc. The secondary message will change from company to company (isn’t this stating the obvious?). A good marketer will know how to choose a penetrating secondary message.

4) Integrate Imagery and/or “Flash” to Emphasize Your Core Message.
Imagery and flash animation are important parts of your homepage. To help illustrate your company’s core competitive benefits, both strategies help customers visualize how you can meet their needs
and requirements. Most people are visually oriented, so your imagery/flash will quickly convey and emphasize your message. Be consistent with what you are telling your potential prospects. Align your messaging with your visual strategies. Images and flash are also great ways to eliminate clutter; by adding a visual component to your website, you are alleviating the need for additional reference text.

5) Drive Toward a Specific Call to Action.
You have already heard a little bit about calls to action, but it is such an important strategy that we have also dedicated a specific section to it. Failure to convert online potential customers into sales leads is mostly attributable to homepages that lack primary and secondary calls to action on homepage. A call to action can be as simple as a link that states, “Contact us for more information” or “Tell us more about your needs and we will schedule a conference call.” Statistics have proven that if you can guide web users along your sales process, you will convert more of them into customers.

6) Know Your Audience, and Know the Audience Within Your Audience. OK, so maybe you don’t know who Carl Jung is, but chances are, you either have taken or soon will take a Myers-Briggs personality test. Most people can clearly state whether they are an introvert or an extrovert; your website should cater to these and other personality types. Develop your website not only for an audience that requires what you can provide, but also for disparate personalities within that audience. Some people prefer to pick up the phone to find out more information about your products or services. Some may prefer to e-mail you instead. Others may want to schedule a meeting. Your website should cater to as many of these personality types as possible, or else you will lose conversions. Make it easy for the web user to contact you . . . using whatever method they choose.

7) Make Your Homepage Easy to Navigate.
You must lay out your website with easy-to-navigate options and buttons. If you are a service-based company, then put an “XYZ . . . Services” tab on the top navigation bar. If you sell more than one service, then enable a pull-down menu showing options for your customers. Allow them to select the page that they want to research—without having to click first to find out more (a big no-no!). Another strategy is to use sidebars to help users navigate as they read your content. You will also need to ensure that your homepage uses an interlinking strategy, so that if web users hit the wrong button, they can easily get back on track and find the information they seek.

The Bottom Line Make it easy for a prospect to find out more about your products and/or services. Create a homepage that takes the guesswork out of it by guiding web users through the process, from understanding the message to taking action. Statistics have shown that the more clicks it takes for potential customers to find what they seek, the higher the rate at which they will abandon the website.

Scott C. Margenau is president of ImageWorks Studio, an award-winning marketing, branding and advertising firm specializing in online and off-line media. Visit for more info.


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