Do a Web Site Analysis

Show your customer what it will be like to be your customer before they actually spend money with you.

Most shops have Web sites. Businesses spend from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on their Web sites. Some industries spend much more, but in the machine shop business, that is probably not necessary. The question is whether your Web site is a sales facilitation site or a sales prevention site, or maybe somewhere in between.

To determine if your Web site is working for you, the first thing to do is ask the obvious question, “What is the purpose of your site?” If your answer is, “to help me get business,” go a step further and ask yourself, “how?” That question can be answered in two ways:

1. It is designed to help potential customers who have already found your shop learn more about the shop, or

2. It is designed to help people who are looking for a shop find yours.

You might immediately ask, “Can’t it do both?” Sure, but it is important to decide which of the two is your primary focus so the Web site does its primary job well.

More and more people are using the Web to find new vendors. If you believe that people will use the Web to find your shop, you need to worry about being found first. In a future column we can talk about search engine optimization and pay per click. For now, let’s assume that people find you, and now they need to decide if your shop is right for them.

In last month’s column, we talked about marketing communications. I wrote that before you can invest in effective marketing communications you have to answer these questions:

Who is your target customer? What kind of companies do they likely work for (and if you know the specific companies, even better)? Who, by job title(s) at least, is the right person for you to be talking to within those companies?

What makes your shop different from other shops? Please don’t say it’s your equipment. That may be true, but does your customer think about the equipment you have or rather the job he/she wants you to do for them? Too many shops focus on the equipment and not on the outcome it produces for the customer.

Your Web site is part of your marketing communications effort. So, to be effective, you should know the answer to the above questions. Since you already have a site, you have already invested in the copy and layout. How’s it working for you? If you review your site with the marketing communications questions in mind and you think from the customer’s perspective, not your own, does it help the customer understand what makes your shop different in language that resonates with the customer? If not, time to rewrite some copy.

Also, your site should make you look good. I’ve seen Web sites from some shops that make me think they operate out of a spare bedroom in their house or their facilities are likely to be falling down around them. The customer does not necessarily need to see your facility on your Web site. However, your site should reflect the professionalism of your company. If you claim to be a precision shop, your site should be reflective of a precision shop.

Is your site easy to navigate? Does it contain answers to questions your customer might have about what it is like to do business with you? One of the greatest sales professionals I have ever met, Ted Steinberg, likes to put it this way: “Show your customer what it will be like to be your customer before they actually spend money with you.” Your Web site is one of the key ways that customers learn what it might be like to be your customer before they ever talk to you. Make sure your site makes the right first impression because you won’t get a second chance.

Whether you like it or not, today’s customers use the Web as their primary information gathering tool. Directories are so last century. This means your customers can quickly compare your company with the competition on the Web. They are going to make lots of decisions about whether they want to consider you as their vendor based on what they see on your Web site. Make sure it makes you look at least as good as you want them to believe you are.