A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.
Inbound marketing makes a whole lot of sense for bringing in new customers in a manner that fits the way people do business today. Plenty of business leaders are taking charge of their companies and committing full-on to the long-term game that is inbound.
However, with inbound’s emphases on user experience simplicity, soft-sell messaging, targeted branding, and thorough onsite activity measurement, many wonder if they need to launch entirely new websites before they can get started with inbound.
Does Inbound Marketing Always Require a Website Redesign?
There are plenty of situations in which updating an outdated website will help your business dramatically. There are also plenty of cases in which a redesign won’t move the needle one bit. The fact is, often you can update your website to suit your needs without starting again from scratch.
We recommend paying attention to the “must-haves” for effective inbound marketing, and then tweaking your current website in stages to accommodate those needs as much as possible.
Website Problems You Must Solve
Yes, times do change, and it might not surprise you that truly outdated websites share many of the same shortcomings when it comes to their readiness for inbound marketing impact.
If your site has any of these five problems, then you probably should make some major changes before starting with inbound marketing.
- A homepage that’s cluttered, noisy, unfocused or confusing
- Navigation within the site is not intuitively understandable
- Messaging, brand positioning and key benefits are underdeveloped or insufficiently expressed
- No landing pages to capture leads with premium content offers (and/or no thank you pages, to advance the customer/provider relationship post-conversion)
- The website design does not lead visitors on a clear journey
Absolute Must-Haves for Effective Inbound Marketing
When you consider the website experience pitfalls that work against inbound marketing effectiveness, as listed above, you may think that you simply need to avoid these mistakes, and you’re good to go. While that is the case, if you want to unlock the true potential of your business, you’re going to need to do better than that.
Here’s a more detailed list of elements that, in our experience, must be downright superb if your website is going to become the inbound marketing beast that you want it to be.
- A positive experience for visitors
You might think that this goes without saying, or you might think that how much a customer enjoys using a website should not contribute to his or her assessment of your goods and services. The bottom line is, though, that a smooth, upbeat, beautiful and clear experience makes a huge difference. The most challenging part of the design, however, is to figure out how to create a clean, contemporary design that isn’t just a hodgepodge of bells and whistles. Often enough, if a prospect’s experience on your site is sufficiently welcoming and influential, he or she will advance towards conversion – and won’t necessarily even know what it was that prompted such a positive response.
- A digital marketing platform
You need a set of tools that will handle the business side of your business. It will capture, track, and take care of your leads from their introduction through to conversion. One excellent marketing platform is HubSpot – we even use it ourselves – but there are plenty of viable options out there.
- Clear messaging
Often people know when they are not clear in their explanations – but they don’t necessarily know how to improve. Some websites do not communicate with the necessary clarity. Others present content in well-worded text but have difficulty with visuals, crowding too much, or too little, onto each page. Clear messaging means straightforward, simple presentation in such a way that every page is focused, on point and, therefore, primed to convey value. Extra information that relates to a webpage’s content can be linked from that page without crowding its display.
- Zero dead ends
Each page on your site should offer the next logical step – the next place that your audience should turn. This is critical for a website’s flow and the ease with which customers access all that there is for them to know or do.
- Lead capture infrastructure
Landing pages are particularly useful for capturing leads with premium content offers like white papers, ebooks, worksheets, and templates. The positive sentiment – and “next steps” mapping – that a thank you page generates are also to your advantage. For robust inbound marketing activity, these features are pivotal, and if you don’t use a comprehensive marketing platform like HubSpot, you can set up, test and manage landing pages and thank you pages with tools like Unbounce and Leadpages.
- Excellent blog layout
To be clear, yes, you should have a blog on your website. Blogs allow you to communicate easily with your prospects dynamically. They give you the opportunity to explore new ideas as they come up, and to offer valuable insight and perspective that isn’t feasible on the more static elements of your site. Make no mistake, though – your blog is an effective marketing tool, specifically because it invites your reader into the conversation, as it were. You, therefore, need a blog design that is welcoming and allows the content to speak for itself. The ability to comment – and to read comments – must be easy to access and use, and the capacity for social sharing needs to be situated both obviously and elegantly. Use clear, legible text – we’re talking typefaces, font sizes and color styles and include direct calls-to-action at the end of every post.
What Your Site Really Needs
Successful, effective inbound marketing depends on solid website design and functionality. Your presentation can be what makes it for you, and while “looks aren’t everything,” the positive impression your website can make may be exactly what you need to take your business to the next level.
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