Websites are like cars at a car dealership. When you go to a car dealership to buy a car, the salesperson shows you the nicest car on the lot first. Most people think this is a subtle trick to convince you to buy a more expensive vehicle without looking at the less expensive car, the opposite is actually true; the salesperson wants you to see the less expensive car after you drive the better model.
Why? Because you’ll compare the two cars. There’s nothing wrong with the cheaper model (in fact it probably fits your needs better than the more expensive one), but when you compare the features of it to the other car, it pales in comparison. This comparison is natural and inevitable and it plays directly into the salesperson’s hands because you will want to spend more money on the nicer vehicle.
The above is just an example; you unconsciously make this comparison with everything you purchase. That’s why electronics stores offer demos of nicer products and why commercials highlight products with more features. This is the law of compare and contrast, and it applies to more than just your products-it can apply to your website as well. Before diving into exactly what comparisons do for your website, consider what your website represents.
What your Website Says About You
Your first contact with many people will be through your website, and as the old axiom goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. And that first impression begins quickly; before a person even clicks on a link, they have already made a snap decision about your company based on your website’s appearance.
A company with an old website tells your customer one (or more) things about your company.
- You don’t understand how the modern world works. A website that looks like it was made around the turn of the century using a Geocities template is the equivalent of selling a car without power locks. A good website is expected in this day and age, and it shows that you are up-to-date with technology-and if you are up-to-date with web technology, your customers will reason that your work is performed using cutting edge techniques.
Even if you are using the best technology to do your work, your customers will never get to know this because they will move on to another company before they can see your work—the same way you would start looking for a new car no matter how great the engine on the car without power locks actually is.
- You have no pride in your brand. There’s a reason that car companies talk about how pumped they are to bring you their new car-they worked hard on its design and want to share it will the world. In short, they are proud of what they accomplished.
A crappy website shows your customer that you aren’t proud of your company because you don’t want to show your quality work off to the world. A business with no pride leads to poor morale, which generally leads to poor work performance. And why would anyone want to work with a company that has no pride?
- Your work is just adequate. All a car really needs to do is get you from Point A to Point B and there’s always that car on the lot with minimum features that does just that. It may even be an entire model of car that the company doesn’t even advertise because it has no pizzaz. No fire. No one thing that makes customers say, “I really want that car.”
It gets the job done, but nothing more. A website that is simply ok, but doesn’t stand out, sends this message to your customers. They might go with you, but if they can find a competitor that looks like they provide more service (even if they don’t) they will work with them. Don’t make your website resemble a bland, beige mid-size. Make it look like a red sports car with yellow flames painted on the side.
Regardless of whether or not any of this is true (and if you are building a successful company, none of them should be), your company will look bad in front of potential customers.
Creating the Cadillac of websites
If you take all things into account, it becomes clear that you not only need a great website, you need a way to get customer’s to view it (and be impressed by it) before seeing your competitor’s website. So how do you do this?
- Identifying a need. This is the first (and most difficult) step of the process. You need to create a website that is better than your competitors. To do this, look through some of their websites and identify anything they lack. You may even want to ask people what they want in a website.
Mercedes did this when they developed a car that could parallel park itself; they asked people what they hated about driving and found out that most people dislike parallel parking. Then, they developed an innovative technology that allowed a car to park itself-and attracted customers because of it.
You don’t need to make a technological breakthrough for people to like your website-you just need to figure out what the people want and add that in. This could be anything as simple as making your contact information easy to view or as complex as adding an online chat tool. No matter what you do, the important thing is that people like it-and your competitors don’t have it.
- Getting people to see your website first. In order for the comparison theory to work, you need your customers to view your website before your competitors. In the same way that a car company can’t control which car advertisement a customer views first, neither can you control a person’s browsing habits.
Luckily, there are ways to make yourself more likely to be viewed first-that’s why companies pay more to advertise during prime time TV and pay astronomical amounts of money to run ads during the Super Bowl; lots of people are watching and are likely to see them.
It’s a bit less scientific with websites, but you can increase the likelihood that customers will see you. Examples of this include paid placement, blogging, a larger social media presence (which both draws customers in and keeps them) or even social media advertising or a website redesign for your business.