This year, for the first time ever, I’m offering Breakthrough Sessions to target focus areas where clients often feel stuck. During these 50-minute sessions, I help clients make substantive and compelling improvements to their websites, pitch/sponsorship decks, or organizational habits.
For the next three weeks, I’ll be taking a closer look at how these offerings can benefit clients and discussing typical problem areas. Why is website messaging so important? What is the outcome of a standout pitch deck? How much can new organizational habits really help?
For more information about Breakthrough Sessions, click here. For now, read on, and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more installments of the Breakthrough Series on the blog.
When I first launched my business, I agonized over my website’s copy. Before I went live, my copy went through iteration after iteration. I was determined to get it exactly right. I wanted to speak to the right people, sound professional, and seem relatable. Finally, I launched my site — and what do you know? I’ve updated and changed my copy many times since then. Over time, I defined my niche, established who my ideal client is, and crystallized my business’s core focus.
That experience defines my motto when it comes to creating a website. When you put yourself out there, you should try to do it right. And as your business evolves, you should let your copy adapt with you.
That’s easier said than done. For many entrepreneurs, creating a website is one of the more intimidating parts of launching a business. Logistically, it involves a lot of moving pieces. It also requires you to be really clear on who you are as an entrepreneur, what kind of clients you want to target, and what message you want to put out into the world.
Over the past three years, I’ve worked with many clients who are launching their new websites or making website changes that reflect a pivot of their business. I love the process because it’s SO satisfying and important. When a website really fits a business, things just click into place.
There are a few common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when creating or reworking their website. Some are simple fixes while others require more intensive evaluation. But by watching out for common pitfalls, you can avoid presenting something that doesn’t serve your business.
Here are some website mistakes commonly made by entrepreneurs:
1. The website doesn’t immediately grab its audience.
Getting people to your website takes time and money. And once they’ve reached your site, you want them to stay and read what you have to offer. But it’s so easy--too easy--for someone to close the window and check out your competitor. You have to grab people in a way that makes them feel like you completely understand them. If your messaging is vague and your audience finds themselves questioning who you are and what you can offer them, you’ll likely lose them.
To get people to stick around, you need to draw them in within seconds. When your visitors land on your homepage, it’s your website’s job to give them an immediate impression of who you are and what you do. Don’t try to tell the full story on your landing page. Concisely highlight what makes you unique.
2. The website either lacks a call-to-action or is too aggressive with it.
Your call-to-action tells your website visitors how to engage with you. Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Buy your service or contact you for more information about an offering? Download your free resource? Any combination of the above?
Whatever you’re selling (or giving away), you have to gently direct people to take action. If your website doesn’t provide a call-to-action, people won’t know how to engage and will quickly move on. On the other hand, if your call-to-action is too aggressive, people get turned off by the sales-y vibe. When I’m on a website and I’m being bombarded with sales pitches, I can’t get out of there quickly enough.
There are all kinds of ways to test call-to-actions, from techy options like A/B landing pages to traditional copy brainstorm sessions. But for solopreneurs, those options aren’t always feasible. A good rule of thumb: a successful call-to-action should tell a potential client exactly how to engage further, and should also respect the fact that not every visitor to your site is ultimately interested.
3. The photos don’t pull the branding together or serve a purpose.
I’ve seen too many websites for wellness coaches that feature stock photos of people wearing suits sitting around a conference table. When messaging and photos are on completely different planets, visitors aren’t learning anything useful about the business or its services. The best-case scenario is that your visitors disregard the photos; the worst-case is that they’re confused.
Photos are tricky for new businesses in particular. You might have a headshot, but you’re relying on stock photos for most of your website’s pages. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using stock photos — in fact, there are some great stock photo sites out there such as Unsplash or Haute Chocolate, with tons of options for almost every industry.
When you pick photos, try imagining that all the copy has been removed from your website. If you then had to take a wild guess about your industry, would you be somewhere in the ballpark?
4. The website has too many fonts and/or colors.
You know the feeling of going to a website where there’s too much going on. Either there are a dozen different fonts, or every page has a different color scheme. It’s distracting, and it takes away from the real purpose of the website: to convey a clear and resonant message.
If you’re building your own website, competing fonts and colors can quickly take over as you experiment with what appeals to your eye. And sometimes you can be too close to the site to give an objective assessment of whether it’s cluttered or not. That’s where another opinion comes in handy.
Try asking a friend or colleague what jumps out to them — either positive or negative--when they look at your site. If they say the fonts or colors, it’s worthwhile to consider how you can make your message come to the forefront, rather than the design.
My final word of advice: Remember that creating a website is a big job. Knowing the pitfalls can help you avoid these common mistakes, but it takes a village (or, for most solopreneurs, more like a dedicated team of two or three) to get a website into perfect shape. Especially if you’ve been staring at your website for months (like I had when I launched), it’s hard to see what needs improvement and what’s already perfect. Similarly, if you’ve had the same site for years, it can be a challenge to identify what can be spruced up and developed further. But as your most important tool for marketing yourself, it’s worth the time and effort to make it shine.