For many customers, your website will be their first introduction to you. It’s your first chance to make an impression, the first point of entry for capturing their interest, and the first opportunity to make a sale. It’s also your strongest salesperson.

So your website has to be good.

When creating a website for your business, you have to always keep the customer in mind. Go through the process of mapping out their buyer journey, determine what it is they need from you, and then serve that to them as clearly as possible.

If you don’t, it’s like not having a website at all.

How a frictionless website builds trust

I’d like to share a little story with you about trying to order Chinese food.

It all started with a Google search for Chinese food delivery in Unionville, which is the neighborhood I had just moved to within my city of Toronto. The first three sites had PDFs of menus. Many were not in English, and not one included delivery times or payment terms in a helpful way.

These small businesses were communicating a clear message to me: they didn’t want my business. Of course, that’s not true. But when your website makes it too difficult for your customer, that’s the message you’re sending.

Then I came across a website that was laid out very well. It was easy to navigate, with friendly content, and a nice mobile interface. The prices, menu options, and delivery times were all clearly posted, and everything was clear and straightforward. The website met me halfway, and built trust between me and that business.

So I called them and placed my order.

As it turns out, I had placed an order for delivery at a restaurant in Unionville, Connecticut. They called me back about fifteen minutes later, laughing, and informed me that I was a little bit outside their delivery distance (to put it mildly).

So how was it that their restaurant was the fourth search result that came up for me on Google?

The reason they were getting such a high ranking for their site was because of its usability. When you invest in your website in a way that makes things easier and more clear for your customers, you’ll rise to the top on Google and will create more opportunities for people to find you.

How a good website anticipates a user’s needs

When a customer visits your website, they expect it to be cleanly designed, well put together, organized, and easy to navigate immediately from the moment he or she visits it.

This is the most important thing you can do and the most important place for you to start. It’s a place you own, so you can control how you set it up.

It’s imperative that you meet your customer’s website expectations—when you do, it’s a good reflection on your company and helps keep them interested in you.

When building your website and a marketing strategy, you must consider your customer’s journey.

Ask yourself questions like this:

  • Who is going to come here?
  • What kind of content do they need or want?
  • What is the most obvious information they’re going to need to understand first?

As a customer, it’s hard to trust a business that doesn’t get their own space right. But for all the companies we work with who are willing to do the work to make their website better for their customers, there are still those clients who don’t want to.

Understanding your customer can’t be outsourced. You need to own that. Good content can’t be made up—your marketing strategy needs to be based on the specific research you’ve done to understand your customer’s journey.

How to create the perfect customer experience

A good example of a company getting their space right is the personalized paper and invitation site Minted.

They’ve presented themselves in such a way that makes it very easy to use their service. It’s a simple, easy-to-use format that allows you to insert your own personal photos and in essence design your own product online.

The reason this works so well is because they’ve thought through their customer’s process, and have created a website that delivers exactly what their customers want. It walks you through step-by-step and without any clunkiness to the application. The whole experience of doing business with them is very smooth and streamlined.

We can learn a lot from companies that create a good customer service experience via their website.

  1. They’ve made choices. They haven’t tried to be all things to all people, and they orient you pretty quickly as to whether or not this site is for you, or whether or not their product is for you. They do a good job of creating that singular moment that either propels you to continue or turns you away.
  2. They tell a story bigger than themselves. The reason I like Charity Water’s website so much is because they quickly orient you to the reason why the subject matter is so important, and the understanding of why they do what they do is immediate once you visit. I love the fact that they get you quickly to a story that you’re interested in hearing.
  3. They lead you to a natural conclusion of what to do next. You shouldn’t be expected to just randomly click around on stuff or try to sort through what all the drop-down boxes are. Every page needs an action and a reaction that leads you to a logical next step—things like donate, watch a video, and so on.

When it’s time to close the deal

You want to continue to tell your story until someone reaches the point where it resonates and they’re inspired to take action or make a purchase.

Whatever the journey, it’s the storytelling—whether it’s showing other people using the product, giving examples, or simply leading them in the right direction—that propels them to take a specific action. Your website should guide them and show them how to get there.

Take your customer on a subtle journey to help them develop trust, then ask about what they might want to do next in a way that works for them. Don’t just make them feel like you’re trying to sell them something.

That’s why getting the content right on your website is so important. People need to get to know you, and you need to give them that opportunity before you ask them to do something.

Why websites are prerequisite for a modern business

Like it or not, people today expect you to have a website. Even if you’re the tiny, mom-and-pop Chinese food restaurant down the street that I spoke about earlier, people expect you to have a presence online.

Those who don’t have an online marketing strategy are only hurting themselves — and their customers. The problem is that so many business owners don’t know where to start.

There are some fantastic services available today that make building your own website easy and relatively pain-free. But you can’t force-feed a customer journey through someone else’s idea of what a website should look like.

Rather than focusing on what software you’re using to build the site, take the time to understand your customer’s journey first. Then present your information in a way that caters to that process.

Take the time to think about how you want to present your information, and you’ll have a powerful marketing strategy and web presence that will engage your audience and convert them to customers.