Do Your Prospects Know You Exist?

“In less than a decade, a website has become THE basic sales piece required for any business. If you're not on the Web, it's as if you don't exist,” says marketing expert Ilise Benun.

“It's not just tech-savvy people who expect you to be on the Web. It's everyone. This is where you present yourself, your persona, your positioning, your offerings, and your credibility. This is where you'll make (or not make) a prospect's short list for further consideration.”

Have you been thinking that you need to get a website up, but you're not quite sure how to get started? Then stay with us as Ilise shares easy, effective, and – best of all – inexpensive ways to create a website that will get your name in front of the right prospects.

IFD: Ilise, you're adamant that every designer needs a website to make that all-important first impression. How should a designer go about it?

Ilise: Start by looking at websites of other designers. Make notes of what works and what doesn't – what you like and what you don't like. Then create a plan for how you want your site to look and what you want it to accomplish.

IFD: What should be the main goal of a designer's site?

Ilise: You'll want to show a taste of what you can do. Don't give away everything, because you want to encourage prospects to have a conversation with you. So the site should offer an introduction to yourself and your skills, with some of your best samples.

IFD: What suggestions do you have for laying out the site so it makes the right impression?

Ilise: You should create a site that reflects the market you're trying to reach. If you're positioning yourself as a direct-response specialist, your site should reflect that style. Perhaps the home page would have longer response-driven copy and the design might look like a direct-response piece.

If you're working with corporations, small businesses, non-profits etc., you'll want a site that has a similar look and feel as those that work for those markets.

IFD: What kinds of information should be included?

Ilise: Sites can be very simple and still be very effective. One of the most important components would be an “About Us” page. Prospects want to know something about the people behind the site.

Then have a page that describes your services and one for your portfolio. If you're new and don't have a lot of samples, put your services and portfolio on one page. You may also want to include a client list, although it's not necessary if you're just starting out.

And, of course, you want a “Contact Us” page. In fact, you should include contact information on every page of your website. Offer as many ways as possible to reach you: via phone, mail, email, fax, etc. Then you can use the contact page to capture email addresses.

IFD: Should designers learn html? Or can you offer ideas for sites that would be easy to create without having to hire a professional Web designer?

Ilise: One way to tackle that is create a site using blogging software like you'll find at www.blogger.com or www.typepad.com. The blog becomes the content for the home page. Blogging sites are easy to put together. Since the content changes often, search engines like them.

Then there are programs such as SitePro, Web Studio, Front Page, and Dreamweaver that require varying degrees of html knowledge.

Keep in mind that design sites tend to have a lot of images but not much copy. However, you need copy to sell your services and for search engine placement. This is where it's advantageous to partner with a copywriter and trade copy for design on each other's sites.

IFD: What's a good domain name?

Ilise: People often choose a business or domain name for personal instead of marketing reasons. Instead, choose names that are memorable to others … names describing your services, such as “Next Day Design.” Or use your name in the title: “John Smith Logo Designs.”

In addition to owning a business domain name, you should also register your name so people can find your website even if they only have your name.

It's easy to create a website that showcases your talents and positions you as a professional. And it's necessary. No matter what size your business is, you must have a website even if it's a simple one-page site. Because if you're not on the Web, you don't exist.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: April 20, 2006

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