Posted Friday, October 1, 2004
Although the Internet has provided a wealth of opportunity for all of us, it has also created a breeding ground for scam artists. Internet users are very reluctant to make purchases online, and share their personal information.
For this reason, you must take every opportunity to convey your professionalism -- from your web site, products and services, to your customer service, each will play an important part in your success.
The moment your site loads, your visitors will have an instant reaction -- your site will either convey your professionalism or your amateurism. If your site doesn't look professional, your visitors may leave your site prematurely and never return.
If you're not confident in your ability to design a professional looking web site, it would be in your best interest to hire a professional.
In addition to having a professional appearance, a professional web site should possess the following essential components:
In order to establish credibility, you must be willing to invest in your own domain name and professional web hosting. Web sites hosted on free servers are not taken seriously and will suffer a serious loss of business. Your visitors may feel that if you don't have your own domain, you may not be a credible company. They'll simply take their business elsewhere.
A professional looking logo is an absolute must. Not only will it give your site a more professional appearance, but it will also enable your visitors to recognize your brand.
Your logo should be displayed in the top left corner of each page of your web site.
If you're not confident in your ability to design your own logo, you can get a professional logo designed for just $25 at gotlogos.com. (http://www.gotlogos.com)
Your web site should focus on a specific subject and provide a variety of information that relates to the subject. For example, if your web site focuses on dog grooming, your pages might include all of the following:
* Dog grooming articles
* Dog grooming ezine (newsletter)
* Dog grooming tips
* Dog grooming accessories
* Links to Dog Grooming resources
* Dog grooming news links
* Dog grooming photographs
Content comes in a variety of forms including news, articles, tips, horoscopes, weather and resource links. Although fresh, original content is preferable, there are a variety of free resources available on the Internet that will provide you with free content.
The following web sites provide free articles for publication:
Marketing Seek (http://www.marketing-seek.com)
The following web sites provide free syndicated content:
Screaming Media (http://www.screamingmedia.com)
Collecting your potential customers' email addresses is an absolute must. Whether you publish an ezine, provide web site and/or product announcements or tips, you must take every opportunity to capture your visitors' email addresses.
Display a subscription form on every page of your web site.
Internet users are becoming more and more concerned with their privacy. However, there is something you can do to ease their minds.
Create a page on your web site called "Privacy" and let your visitors know exactly how you will be using the information you collect.
This page should include an explanation of all of the following:
* How do you plan on using their information?
* Is their information sold or shared with a third party?
* Why do you collect their email address and how will it be used?
* Why do you track their IP address?
* Let your visitors know that you're not responsible for the privacy issues of any outside web sites you may be linking to.
* Why do you use order forms and what do you do with the information acquired?
* Do you run contests and what do you do with the information?
* Do you have a discussion forum or message board? Let your visitors know that any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and that they should exercise caution.
* Do you have security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under your control? If so, let your visitors know.
* Let your visitors know how they can opt out of your mailing lists.
* Provide your visitors with your contact information should they have any questions about your privacy statement.
An "About" page is an essential part of a professional web site. Your potential customers want to know exactly who you are.
Create a page to add to your web site called "About" and include all of the following:
1. A personal or professional biography
2. A photograph of yourself
3. A complete description of you and/or your company
4. Your web site and/or company objectives
5. Your name, address, phone number and email address
It is very important that you include an "About" page -- especially if you're selling a product or service. You must do everything in your power to put your visitors' minds at ease.
A great way to build your credibility with your potential customers is to display your customer testimonials. Include your customer's name, email address and web address with each unsolicited testimonial to increase believability.
You can find a nice script that will rotate your testimonials at Willmaster.com.
Money Back Guarantee
To further increase your credibility, you must completely remove your potential customers' risk. Provide them with a solid, no risk, money back guarantee. This will put their mind at ease by building their confidence in you and your product.
Many times, potential customers will have questions about your products and services. Instead of displaying an email address on your web site, consider using a feedback form.
Create a page on your web site called feedback and place a form on this page to enable your visitors to contact you.
Your personal response to your potential customers can literally determine whether or not you're going to make a sale.
You can find a nice feedback script at Willmaster.com.
If you're processing your customers' orders online, you must place your order form on a secure server. Not only will a secure server protect your customers' personal information, but it also provides him/her with added confidence in placing an order with you.
By taking the time to ensure your site possesses these essential components, you will increase your chances of success considerably.
(Continued in part five)
Copyright © Shelley Lowery 2003.
About the Author:
Shelley Lowery is the author of the highly acclaimed ebook series, Web Design Mastery -- An eight volume (500+ pages) in-depth guide to professional web design. Web Design Mastery is being hailed as the "Bible" for professional web design. (http://www.webdesignmastery.com)