How do I get my website to pay for itself?

Sometimes I encounter customers who want me to build them a website simply because they need to check a box on their to do list. Right away I know they will not be happy with their site. Sure, it will look great and they will "ooo" and "ahhh," but if their intent it just to "check the box," it will be no more than a glossy brochure that happens to be online.

Big or small - it needs to be put to work. A website earns its keep when it brings you business. It starts with re-imagining how your website can be used. Think of it as another employee in your company. There are many ways to wring every drop of potential out of even a small site:

Save staff time

Is your admin office constantly sending out the same materials to customers or prospects? Make them available online.

Is your sales department answering the same questions each time they pick up the phone? Pull together frequently asked questions and answers and post them online. Include instructions or videos that answers additional questions or explain your programs.

Sell tickets or register participants

Use online forms to capture information. There are a number of reasons this works for you:

You capture the prospect at the moment of decision and make it convenient for them to take care of the matter while they are thinking about it and in the mood, rather than making them remember to follow up later.

You now have all of their information already keyed in and delivered straight to your inbox. You can also download all of your responses into a spreadsheet to address the entire project at once. You can use this spreadsheet to create email marketing lists or use it in a number of other ways, depending on what information you request.

Build a community

Besides sharing information about your company, give your customers as many other reasons to come to your site as you can conjure up. 

Hold a raffle or drawing and announce the winners online. Take photos at an event you sponsor and post them on your website. Highlight members of your community doing special things. Create an awards program sponsored by your company and have people submit their entries, vote on winners, and announce the results all on your website. Each industry will have its own unique opportunities - take some time to think about yours.

Keep it fresh

Put someone (or better yet - everyone!) in charge of feeding the website. Every staff member needs to approach each project thinking about how it can be connected to your website.

A stagnant "brochure" website will be treated like a brochure - your customers will read it once and cast it aside. You need to have new content updated regularly if you want to build a relationship with your customer.

Ask a professional about affordable tools

There are a number of different programs and services offered in the marketplace that can be added to your website for a nominal fee. You can add powerful feedback forms, credit card functions, short instructional videos and more - all without breaking the bank. The secret is to work with a professional to help you find the right inexpensive tool to fit your needs. There are a lot of programs - but which one works best on your website, has the flexibility you need, allows trial periods or can be cancelled at any time? Your pros have tried a lot of different tools and can more than likely guide you to a good choice.

There are so many ways to use a website to make your life easier and your business better. I hope these ideas spark more for you.