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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: LMiller  |  July 01, 2009

Website Makeovers: Three Things Buyers Want On Your Website

Originally published for

Recessions beget reinvention. And reinvention begets a boom in new and improved websites. But website overhauls shouldn’t be taken lightly. They take time and money — in most cases, more than you initially expect. Before you leap into that huge investment, stop and look at your website plans from the buyers’ perspective. What are they looking for and what makes them reach out and contact you? What needs to be on the site so that you can get more qualified leads? Before deciding on the bells and whistles, compare your changes to what buyers want on your site.

Generally speaking, buyers are on the Internet because they are looking for something. There is an agenda; no one has time to explore aimlessly. While different buyers want different things, here are three things all prospects want to find on our websites.

Hold up a mirror

The first thing buyers look for on a website: themselves. Anyone with a healthy self-esteem believes he is unique. It’s natural for help from those who “get” us. If your buyers are small businesses, they will skip over a site that focuses on the Fortune 500. If your buyers are affluent retirees, they will leave any site that looks like a teenager designed it. They look for sites that speak directly to them about their situation and their goals. It’s a safety factor. The last thing anyone wants is to cram a square peg into a round hole.

Because everything moves faster on the Internet, buyers’ decisions are made in a nanosecond, without a lot of thinking. The determining factors: direct language and descriptions of their world.

There are three ways your website can hold up a mirror:

  • Name your buyers. I love the “we specialize” language. Example: “we specialize in mid-sized companies who need the best talent to keep growing.” It’s clear; it’s to the point.
  • Describe their goals or problems. Ever see a headline on a home page that is a series of questions? That’s an effective strategy borrowed from direct sales. Those questions help the visitor say to themselves, “Hey! That’s exactly where I am right now.”
  • Seduce with an idealized future. Capture their imagination with a solution. Everyone wants a magic bullet. Authors do this best. One of my favorites: Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Who doesn’t want their idea to catch fire?

Additionally, you can’t identify with the buyer only once. You must do it over and over again. Small things reinforce the recognition. List speeches you give in their industry to show that you’re popular with their community. Choose your white paper/article topics carefully. Relevance is everything.

You vs. Them: How Do You Compare?

Do you want to pay for advice that you already know? No. When hiring professional service firms, decision makers look for someone who knows more than them. They want advice or products from someone who knows something they don’t. When they go to your website they compare themselves to you and look for things that show that your area of expertise is one or two levels ahead of them.

If buyers perceive you as their peer in your game, they believe they know just as much as you. If they perceive you as a solution for “beginners” (and they are “advanced”), then the assumption is that your solution is too basic. It gets worse: if you are too advanced for them, then the reaction becomes, “Gee, I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I’ll work with you later.”

To make this comparison, buyers look for two things on your site: prominence and unique content. Website design shows prominence, as does media coverage and speech calendars. All the cool projects you participate in and any awards are great prominence-builders. As for content, the focus is narrow, the thinking is intelligent and the language is simple. My motto: go an inch wide and a mile deep. Your content proves to buyers that you bring something to the party but are also easy to understand and work with. The balance is between being knowledgeable and providing value.

Clear and Easy Navigation

Once you’ve proven yourself as a worthy consideration, buyers then look for how you can help them. They want to check out what you offer and figure out the best way to work with you. To save time, they want to have an idea in mind before contacting you. If they see an option that’s “just perfect,” you have a much warmer prospect than a general inquiry.

When buyers are interested, they use the next benchmark to determine this clarity: how easily can they find your services? No one wants to spend a lot of time hunting on your site. That’s why navigation is so important. Have a services button on every page and a link to the services section of your website in every PDF file. You also want to be careful not to make your service section too big. Have no more than four or five items in your drop-down menu. When it comes to web surfing, everyone has the attention span of a gnat. If it’s more than two clicks away, visitors will give up and move on.

Another thing buyers love to do in the spirit of clarity: self select. Again, they are looking for a mirror. They want to find that elusive “just perfect” option. That’s why I have two sections on all my service descriptions. The first is titled, “this option is perfect for you if…” In it I list the challenges this project solves. The next section goes to the dark side: I list all the scenarios my option won’t fix. I then link those problems to my other products and services. Result: over 90% of my prospects are not only excited about working with me, but they want to explore something specific. Even if we figure out they need something different, their enthusiasm makes our conversations easier.

Once buyers determine they are interested in your services, they want to know what to do next. That’s why every page needs a call to action — one of those boxes that say “if you’re interested, do this now.” Be sure to customize those buttons — nothing looks more canned than the standard “call us now” link. Put your “contact us” button on every page. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve had to hunt for an email to ask a question before placing my order. Again, buyers not only need clarity on what to do next but also easy access to information.

Reach Out And Connect

You don’t sell widgets; you sell solutions. You services have price tags beyond the impulse purchases. Therefore, your websites are built to do one thing: get buyers to reach out and connect with you. So the next time you gear up for a website makeover, ask yourself this: “How does this change what I’m about to invest in to help my buyers see themselves, see my unique talents, and determine what works for them?” Use these three benchmarks as your north star, and your new website will be worth all the effort you put into it.

Filed Under: Content Marketing, Sales

About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.