When a client signs a contract with me for a web design, the first thing I do is send them a three page questionnaire and request they answer as many questions as they deem appropriate. This questionnaire helps me get inside their heads and it helps me better understand their marketing objectives, the opinion of their existing website, and their overall view of internet marketing.
I ask a lot of questions about the current and future state of their sales process and marketing programs. While these questions are informative, I definitely have a few questions that are my favorites. In particular, this would be four questions focused on their current website. I like this set of questions because they’re very informative and they are “raw”. I can tell many clients write the first thing that comes to their minds, which is priceless. Some answers have me laughing out loud. I don’t mean the LOL kind of laugh; I mean the tears coming out of my eyes kind of laugh.
I believe my clients’ candid responses are representative of most small business owners and how they feel about their outdated and lackluster websites. While most small businesses owners don’t spend their day thinking or talking about their websites, when asked, they will provide feedback. Unfortunately the feedback is usually far from positive.
Tell Me What You Don’t Like About Yourself
To illustrate my above statements, I thought I’d return to my questionnaires and pull a few client responses. You’ll see the average small business owner does not have a whole lot of admiration for their website and their current internet marketing presence.
Below are a few candid responses from real clients:
1. What does your website currently do well?
- Nothing…Or at least very little. It’s a personality free online business card.
- There is lots of information and it does convey our brand.
- Well it is doing something right, because we are getting business from it. Other than that, there isn’t anything I am particularly proud of.
2. What does your website currently do poorly?
- Doesn’t engage visitors, there are no differentiators, and it doesn’t clearly describe our products.
- The e-store has never generated revenue.
- It is basic and comes across basic.
- Lacks traffic.
- It looks like I did it myself and I did.
3. Are there any aspects of your website that you love?
- Love might be strong.
- Not really.
4. Are there any aspects of your website that you hate?
- It is out of date and information is difficult to find.
- Yes, but can’t point to one specific thing.
- Not necessarily, I think we just need a facelift and a more optimized site.
- All of it.
If you read through the responses, you’ll notice no one is overly excited about what they have presently and no one provided anything really positive about their existing website. The one client who said he just needed a “facelift” received a completely new website and it is actually one of my favorite web design projects because the before and after was so dramatic.
I Love You and Hate You All at the Same Time
As much as I love small business owners, I hate them at the same time. I love working with this segment, because they need me and they like me. They really really like me, as Sally Field would say. They like me because I’m opinionated and I’m not just a web designer. I’m a marketer and a salesperson and an SEO consultant and a WordPress geek all wrapped up in one. I like the companies who need a lot of help, because I like to help. It’s why I quit my real marketing job and started my own firm.
On the flip side, I hate small business owners because so many of them live in a bubble of self-denial. This is even true of my good friend Jason, who is a small business owner here in Michigan. He’s weathered through the rough period and will make it through, because he is smart and he is a good man. But he is in denial. Jason doesn’t put his website’s URL on his business card, because he says the website is so bad. His wife, Megan, regularly makes fun of it and we all laugh about it over Friday night drinks.
But the real problem is Jason needs a new website. He desperately needs a new website and I’m almost to the point of designing one for free because his is so bad. His wife and I have talked about hacking his current website and just surprising him with a brand new WordPress website.
Jason says no one goes to his website, so he doesn’t need a new one. Really? Jason I love you, but no one goes to your current website because it is ghastly and it isn’t optimized for search engines, visitors, or anything else. And let us not forget you are ashamed of it, so you don’t even tell anyone it exists. Jason doesn’t know the potential results a new website could bring, because he is living in 1975. A time when half of America didn’t use the internet to research and buy things. Just for the record, he is only 36 and he should not be stuck in 1975. I could prove to him that real ROI is possible, but to do that I’d have to put down my beer and have a real heart to heart with him. And quite frankly, he isn’t ready for it yet.
If you are a small business owner, take a moment and look back at the list of comments from my clients. No traffic, no revenue, out of date information, and lack of information are all symptoms of old websites or poorly designed websites.
If you are still reading this blog post, you know in your heart, your website is also bad. It may not be as bad as my friend Jason’s website, but you know you have problems. So sit back and take a good look at your website, your current marketing efforts, and your overall internet marketing presence. After doing so, you can tell me what you don’t like about yourself and I can tell you what I can do to help.
If you’re on Twitter, feel free to drop me a tweet with your thoughts at @WebSavvyMrkting.