I’m often asked by tradies “What’s the best kind of website for me?”. I’d sure love it if the answer to that question was as simple as some people would have you believe, but it isn’t. Like so many aspects of marketing for tradesmen, the answer is “It depends”. I’m going to try and cover off on the major things that you’ll need to consider, right here.
The very first thing to consider when developing a new website is your customers. By customers, I mean the kind of people you serve (or want to serve) within the area of your geographic reach. I’m going to use a real-world example here. Let’s say you’re a plumber. It might be that you spend all of your time contracting for builders. You might be more of a renovation specialist, or maybe you’re one of those 24-hour emergency callout guys. What you do and who you serve is going to influence the kind of website you need to develop.
If you serve builders, they are going to want to hear about your attention to detail, timeliness of completion, the guarantees you provide, your licensing status, your insurance coverage, your credit terms and the scope of work that you can handle. They might want to see images of completed projects and testimonials from other builders you have worked with. They’re not interested in your ability to unblock a drain or fix a minor bathroom leak!
If you’re a 24-hour emergency plumber, people generally only want to know a couple of things and they want to know RIGHT BLOODY NOW! They want to know your phone number, how quickly you can be at their house and how much a callout will cost them. Information about your license number and how beautifully your last bathroom reno worked out are of zero interest to them. You need a website that literally shoves what they need to know right in their face.
Right of the back of understanding exactly who your customer is is clarifying your value proposition. Think of your value proposition is a promise that you make to the customers you serve.
First up, visitors to your website will want to know that they are in the right place. Make them think and they’ll hit the back button faster than lightning. This is no time to try and be clever. If you are a 24-hour emergency plumber, be bold and place the words 24 HOUR EMERGENCY PLUMBER front and centre on your homepage. You might then clarify that statement with a value proposition such as “We help drains go with the flow” or something that is clever or fun. The main thing is that your visitors will know immediately that they are in the right place.
People need to know right away that your website addresses their immediate needs. Provide a clear and compelling message about what you do and be CLEAR about the promises you make. Work hard to avoid excess clutter and noise that might distract your visitors in any way. That means no flashing words, scrolling images or annoying music! People want a plumber and you are it! Take care of this stuff or visitors to your website will be hitting the back button in droves – I guarantee you!
You only ever get one chance to make a first impression. Often, your website will be your very first point of contact with a prospective customer, so it needs to create both a realistic and positive impression about what you and your business are all about. My best advice is to keep the design clean, keep it simple and make sure that it properly reflects your brand, utilising your logo and using colours, fonts and imagery to reinforce your message.
Nothing screams amateur hour more than a website that looks ugly, is difficult to navigate and makes it hard for visitors to locate what they are looking for. Truthfully, most tradies shouldn’t be playing amateur web designer any more than a web designer should be playing amateur electrician or gasfitter. Spend some money and get the professional help that you need to create the right impression for visitors. Do it, or they’ll visit your website an quickly leave.
A call to action is the ONE thing that you want visitors to your tradies website to do. Do you want them to pick up the phone and call you? Would you prefer that they sent you an email? Maybe you want them to download a free guide that you’ve created about bathroom renovations, or you’d prefer that they ask for a free quote, via a web calendar. Maybe a lot of things! The primary thing is to craft your message towards only ONE consistent call to action.
The research is clear that overloading visitors to your website with more options results in less actions being taken. Whilst this seems counterintuitive, the research cannot be ignored. Decide upon exactly what course of action you want your visitors to pursue, then structure your content and call to action to push them towards that ONE goal. Like many things in web design, less really is more.
People often find dealing with tradies to be quite overwhelming. Unlike everyday grocery purchases, many people might only need a tradie a few times in their entire lives. It’s natural for people to fear what they don’t understand (which is mainly the cost) – and many people do fear talking to you. It’s up to you to make that easier for them and one of the simplest ways to achieve that is by simplifying your services.
A lot of tradies use jargon on their websites and also have a tendency to use 10 words where 5 might do. Write as if you are speaking to a 12 year old. If they can understand what you’re saying, so can pretty much everyone who visits your website. Even sophisticated buyers appreciate directness and simplicity. Make yourself and your services accessible by simplifying them. Your website visitors will love you for it – and loving your results in new leads.
Responsive websites adapt to fit a variety of devices and screen resolutions. Making your website responsive means that it is usable on everything from desktop and laptops, through to tablets and mobile phones. Given that well over 50% of all searches on Google are now conducted on a handheld device, the importance of having a great responsive design cannot be overstated.
Importantly, in the early part of 2018 Google will be switching to a “mobile first” index, meaning that primary Google results will be drawn from their mobile index. Websites which are not designed to work with mobile devices will be downgraded or eliminated entirely from this supremely important index.
Set all of the foregoing aside and the back button is just a click away. People will use it if their mobile experience is poor, just as you would!
I touched on this in earlier, when I mentioned the importance of clarifying your value proposition. The less people have to search and think about where to find information on your website, the better. That isn’t because your website visitors are dumb – it’s because they’re busy – and you have to always remember that they can hit that back button and go to a website that makes things simpler for them. It’s up to YOU to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Remember that YOU are the expert. Part of being an expert is being able to break down the complex into its essential components and make them easily digestible for the non-experts who need your services. I’ll say it again: less is more. Think about what people need and want to know and make it easy to find and easy to understand. It makes you look way smarter than your competitors who use long words, frustrating navigation and confusing or contradictory calls to action.
Testimonials are extremely powerful persuaders. You already have people whom your firm has helped and chances are that some of them will be happy to provide you with glowing testimonials. These can be placed directly on your website or sometimes be fed to it via integrations with social media platforms or review focused websites.
Testimonials provide compelling evidence of how other people just like your website visitors have acted and provides them with a kind of roadmap of where to go and what to do. If you don’t have any testimonials you can use case studies, or maybe even demonstrate the presence of a good-sized social media following. The objective is simply to provide some proof of your ability to solve your website visitors’ unique problem or problems.
Following these simple tips will keep the right kind of visitors engaged on your website for longer and will dramatically increase the chances that they will reach out to you. Like anything, the only way to know if this works is to make the necessary changes and put it to the test. Best of luck with making your lazy website start to www.work! for a living.
NB: This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse and has been edited by its original author.