Ten Critical Features of Your Website

The websites that marketing agencies are building for themselves are better than they ever have been, but only 20% have stellar sites and another 55% aren't embarrassing. When talking with an agency principal on the phone, I'm surprised, too, at how often I hear this: "Yes, I know that's what our website says, but...." So if you see a revision in the works in early 2015, here are the 10 most impactful features of your new website.

  1. Tight Focus. Load your site in full screen mode on a MacBook Pro 15" Retina and then step back 8'. If you can make out where you focus as an agency, vertical or horizontal, you pass this test.
  2. Authority. Why should prospects listen to you? It doesn't have to be all in one place, but your authority to speak to this focus should be clear. In this category you'll use speaking engagements, third-party press quoting you as an expert, how many years you have been doing it, articles you've written, or maybe even a book. You're simply looking to establish a credibility, starting with some first topics. Make sure you're an expert and not a supplicant.
  3. Regularly Updated Content. This could be a webinar or podcast, but usually a blog post of 750-1,200 words every two weeks is about right. Don't mark each new piece with a date unless you're writing frequently. Skip comments just because you aren't likely to get many and because there's no point in giving someone else a platform.
  4. Packaged, Priced Service Offerings. Once you've identified your best clients and know where to find them and know what to say to them, knowing what they want to buy from you will also be clear. You'll definitely want some strategy component that they will hopefully engage you for at the outset, but there should be at least four packages they can peruse. If you're afraid to publish pricing, it's because you aren't positioned, you want to compromise, or you aren't controlling the engagement sufficiently.
  5. Opt-In Email Conversion. Your primary aim is converting a visitor to an email-subscribed reader. If you are just doing email marketing, use Campaign Monitor or MailChimp. If you're committed to using the power of marketing automation, use Act-On, Pardot, or InfusionSoft. In time you'll need at least 3,000 names on this list, but 8,000 will be best.
  6. Checklist of Client Criteria. If you give them a chance, prospects reliably chase you down and self-select themselves out of the running. So this section is designed to give them the tools to accomplish this. You're particularly looking for the few red flags, but there are a half dozen characteristics to screen for.
  7. Culture + Mission. Your firm really is different. Your culture and mission aren't the primary draws from a marketing perspective, but they are a substantial differentiator and here's where you talk about them. And don't forget that many great employees devour your website to get a sense of what it will be like to work for the leaders at your firm.
  8. Speaking Page. Don't list your speaking engagements unless they are substantial, but you're more likely to land speaking engagements if it appears like you are in demand as a speaker. This page should include various headshots, bio descriptions of various lengths, sample topics, some video examples, and your policies around fee, expenses, and travel arrangements. Yes, your speaking page is functional, but it's mainly a self-contained positioning tool.
  9. Clients + Work. This is way down the list because it should be way down the list. Be brief and inspirational. Parade any big name clients that you can. For extra credit, find great ways to talk about the strategy process with your visuals.
  10. Contact Options. Every prospect is different, so let them choose to reach you via phone or email. Include a form if you like, but don't require that they complete it. Let them contact real people.

Now, go over your own site and see how it measures up. Rebuild it entirely every five years, but update it twice every month with new content. If a rebuild is in the cards, treat yourself as a real client and don't muck it up with too many decision makers. And even if you are a firm that develops digital properties, you'll get better, faster, and cheaper work by hiring an outside firm that will take the whole process seriously. There is more shame in a lousy website than in hiring an outside entity to do great work under your direction. The cost (or equivalent opportunity cost) should be in the range of $20,000-50,000. Finish some quick changes within one month and accomplish a complete rebuild in four months.

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