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Get more out of your website: a dozen ideas for making your business more efficient.

If your website is busily attracting new customers, that's fantastic - but did you know it can do even more to increase the profitability of your business?

This is something I talk about when I hear a very common statement from businesses that goes "Our website doesn't really contribute to sales - it all comes word of mouth".

Wait, you're kidding, right?

Even if all your business does come this way – it's true of our business as it is for many NZ businesses - your website plays a role in supporting referrals by demonstrating that you are helpful, professional and capable. In fact, all the things that the person recommending you has said about you. It won't do this if it's hard to use, confused in it's communication or lacking any proof that you are worth getting in touch with.

But this is not what this article is about.

Let's say your business does come via word of mouth and/or other marketing that doesn't involve search, social marketing or online advertising.

What could your website be doing to improve other areas of your business bottom line?

How can your website do more?

help

Your website can help your business in many more ways – saving you money by handling some of the many inquiries that tie up your receptionist, customer service or account reps. Or helping with those things that frustrate your customers so much they decide to take their business elsewhere.

This includes frequent forms and applications, answers to frequently asked questions, how to's, directions to your office, information about specials, sales and new products - and more.

Let's have a look at a few in detail.

1. Frequently Asked Questions

Most businesses will get a few questions that they are asked over and over again. And most FAQs focus on the ones that are involved with making a sale.

But after the sale, your customers could still have more questions - it might be about important dates – like school terms, tax payment dates, public holiday delivery times, or 'do you handle xyz'.

Add all these to FAQ, let your customers know you have one and ask for suggestions on additions. Next time they want to know how long your delivery times are, they might check the website first.

If you have a support forum, regularly check for questions that are getting asked all the time and add them to your FAQ.

2. Where on earth are you?

If you have a physical office or are a retail business – make sure you have a readable map on the site. Please don't use one a graphic artist has created – this is almost inevitably too simple to be useful for people who don't know the area well..

Use Google maps and include information like which motorway off-ramp to use and where the nearest (plentiful) parking is. There is nothing more frustrating than being late for an appointment because the single customer car park outside an office is gone.

It's stating the obvious to say have your contact details easy to find. If there is a different number for existing clients as opposed to sales, or different departments - tell them what it is.

3. Common forms

If you have a couple of forms that 80% of people are going to have to fill out – put them on your site as a PDF, or if it's simple - as an interactive form.

4. Complaints and feedback process

It might sound like you are inviting trouble, but a clear complaints procedure communicates to your customers that you are serious about resolving problems.

For ECommerce sites, this includes your returns policy. For service businesses this could be a complaints form and the process for resolving them.

5. Bookings and appointments

Do you run events, tours or schedule appointments?

Several of our clients use online calendars and booking systems to save them the time and effort in organising appointment times. And saves a lot of time!

But if you do move to an online appointment booking system, choose one that you can use for all your bookings so you aren't juggling multiple calendars.

6. What to expect.

Once people say 'yes' to you – then what?

What will they have to do? Is there information that they will need to collect for you? If so, let them know in advance. Even if it is slightly different for each person, there may be some common things like savings history, credit records or testimonials they might need.

If there is nothing specific they need to do, include a brief step-by-step process of what you'll be doing for them and when.

7. How To's

If you sell or support equipment or technology, include how-to's and guides for achieving the most common tasks.

In some cases this might seem like giving away your IP and missing an opportunity to offer training to your client. But some questions involve a five or ten minute conversation with your staff and will never turn into a serious business opportunity for you – so why not give it away for free? It creates a positive impression for your business (and can help with SEO).

Include technical specs and configuration instructions that come up as part of your after-sales process. It can be very frustrating to purchase something and then not be able to get it working properly.

8. Project information

If you are a builder or other project-based business, you could have a client-only section of your website where clients login to see progress on their particular job.

This can save a LOT of time on the phone keeping people up to date, and is a real customer service win. It could even be a feature/benefit that helps you win the job in the first place

9. Prices.

It astounds me how many sites don't have prices on them. There are lots of reasons not to do this – like each customer is different, for example. But price is a huge factor in people's decision making process. And that goes for existing customers as well - every time they come back to you they are making the buying decision all over again.

The argument that the cost is based on the 'value something adds' drives me nuts.

If you really can't tell them how much – at least tell them the kinds of things that will influence or impact on price so they are a little prepared.

10. New products, sales and specials

This sounds a bit obvious, but in a retail shop recently I was asked if I wanted to be part of their loyalty scheme. They asked for my email but said "don't worry we won't pester you, in fact we've never sent an email out to anyone, I suppose we should – we could let them know when we're having a sale".

I just said diplomatically – yes, you really should do that. But at the very least make sure it's on your website.

11. Troubleshooting tips

From tips about maintenance to common issues and solutions, including the problems that are most often experienced by your customers will save them and your staff time and effort in sorting them out. And it could be a deciding factor in whether a customer switches to another company.

If you have a forum as 'support' - please don't leave it unattended - this can lead to intense and public frustration with your service, and put off perspective new customers.

The personal touch is not always the best - especially when they are having trouble at 11 o'clock at night and your business is closed.

12. Your latest newsletter

Are you sending out an email newsletter? Each of the articles in the newsletter should consist of an introduction, and then a link back to your website for the whole story.

Why? It keeps your newsletter short and skim-able - it also encourages people to go to your website from where they can be reminded of the other products and/or services you offer - in other words up-sells and cross-sells.

And links from your newsletter can be tagged so that the clicks are measured properly (it will tell you what people found interesting - or not!)

Your mission: Save a phone call or email a day

At the end of the day, these are ideas for businesses of any size with the intention that it will save a phone call, email or social media enquiry that someone has to respond to – and time is money.

So, if you think your website's 'only' purpose is to attract new business – you could be missing out on a big opportunity to improve the efficiency and therefore the profitability of your venture.

Image by Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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