Why startups should build websites with inbound in mind
Startups at the moment are sprouting up left right and centre. With a keen eye on the bottom line, many startups (particularly those in the B2C sectors) are adopting a culture of design and paying particular attention to their digital presence. Creating a website that’s easy to manage and is regularly updated allows them to strategically and efficiently grow their business. Unfortunately, there are still lots of people out there who don’t know where to begin when it comes to building a website that doesn’t just sit there but actually generates new business. In this post, we’ll be looking at why startups should build websites with inbound in mind, how a combination of web design, branding, UX and inbound strategy will help make your website work hard for your business.
A question that many startups face is that of web design. Many startups (particularly in the technology sectors) recognise the crucial role of design and optimising their digital presence. Many startups are purely digital, requiring them to address how their website works and how it effectively delivers a positive ROI.
Fortunately, it does seem that more and more businesses are fostering a culture of good design within their business. What can happen though is that in a race to get a website up and running, the long-term practicalities aren’t properly considered and ultimately the website needs reviewing shortly down the line?
It’s in a startups interest to take a step back and ask themselves some important questions. What functionality do we need? How will we capture data? How will we generate leads? Do we have the capacity to upload content regularly? How easily can we integrate marketing automation?
Plan it and plan it again
Of course, all startups have an eye on the bottom line. What you’d need from a website initially may be far less than what you could need from it in 2 years. But it’s a good idea to figure out how much room for expansion you have and if you don’t need a function now, but will do as your business grows, how easy will it be to integrate the functionality?
As a startup, you only have one chance to make an impression. In the beginning, you’ll likely get a lot of press and coverage of your company. If people start flocking to your website and it fails expectations, it will make people start to doubt all the great things that they’ve been hearing about. In addition to creating a positive impression, you need to create a connection with your brand so that your company is remembered. So how do you go about putting a website together that will do your company justice?
Tip: Carefully plan your website and what it needs to do for your business. Don’t get a website ‘just to have one’.
Designing your website
The first part of designing a great website starts with the actual look. The design needs to be concise and clear as to what it is about and what it is offering. The communication needs to be benefit-driven and directly lead users towards taking the next action. The copy needs to be succinct and to-the-point. Explore the idea of having a brand film that explains what you do. The communication needs to be consistent with your brand strategy, a tone of voice that will be utilised in all content and social media posts.
The next part is to craft a brand identity. Startups lack the brand familiarity and equity that more established businesses do, so starting with an identity and then using content and pleasing customers will create the intangible sense of brand that people come to recognise. The brand also needs to communicate the right message to your buyer personas and ensure communication is authentic. Integrating all of these branding elements into your web design is challenging but integral to your business’s enduring success.
Tip: Designing a website with a sense of brand is vital to a startup’s longevity.
Next, you need to have a great user interface (UI). In many cases, startups do not need a complicated UI but it does need to be intuitive and well structured. The aim here should be simplicity as you want to really get across your message as a startup. You want users to interact with your site as effortlessly as possible and not get your website muddled with too many options as corporate sites often do.
Tip: Remember that inbound is about organic leads. Complex, hard to use websites simply encourage people to leave.
Think about User Experience
Providing an intuitive UI and a great aesthetic presentation to the user is not sufficient on its own. You need to think about what they’re going to take away from using your website. Unfortunately, creating the optimal user experience is a long process of research, analysis and testing. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore UX in the beginning. Investing in research and putting a lot of effort into creating a relevant and purpose-driven design can set up a strong foundation, and is all part of building a culture of good design thinking in your company, which should feed into every aspect of your business.
Tip: Don’t ignore your UX. Think about the users’ needs, and what they’ll be able to take away from your website.
Optimise the back-end
It’s essential that behind the scenes of your website, everything is in order. Remember, inbound marketing relies on people being able to find your website as it’s relevant to their needs. You don’t need to be an expert on the web, but knowing you need to focus time on SEO best practise and optimising your pages, content, meta tags etc. for good keywords is really important.
If you’re working with an agency or a web designer to create your site, they should have a good understanding of how to approach the design to ensure that you rank well in search. If they don’t seem to bother then A: they’re not very good a creating websites, and B: They won’t be able to help drive traffic to your site, and help nurture them into your sales funnel. A good designer will be able to advise on the correct way to format landing pages, the correct way to place a call to action and be aware of the need to convert visitors.
Tip: If you’re using a WordPress website you can see our list of great plugins you should use.
Build a website that generates business
To sum up, startups have to prove themselves with their web design. As a startup, you only have one chance to really make a lasting impression. Your website will be a big reflection of what you are about or even the only thing that shows what you’re about. Following the tips outlined in this post will give you a good idea of what aspects of design are important and how to go about making these elements work. A good inbound marketing strategy relies on the solid foundation of a properly optimised website, and a strong sense of brand. It’s then down creating content and building your social media presence to ensure that the leads keep coming in.
It’s important to remember that a good website doesn’t sit still. It’s a long term process to manage it and keep it relevant to your customers.
With marketing being the driving force for your inbound traffic and landing pages a key factor in collecting data, marketing consultants should be the lead on any new website project you undertake. The fact that the old flow would mean you approaching a website designer to create a pretty website and then you approaching a marketing consultancy or agency to help you drive traffic to that site has simply become defunct.
Most consultants or agencies will have particular website designers they work with either in house or freelance but will be able to direct those people on how to deliver the correct landing pages, user journey and drive forward with strategically placed calls to action. Your inbound marketer can then optimise those pages with content.
As we were previously a Hubspot partner agency, and we provide both inbound marketing and web design services, we’re often asked how the disciplines relate to each other. To us, the practice of marketing is much easier to do when our clients have a good website and it’s easier to design an effective website when you plan it around your inbound strategy.
Understanding how they both work together
Understanding how inbound marketing and web design go hand-in-hand means first understanding the difference between the two. Essentially, great web design comes first and works to entice customers, while inbound marketing follows, and pushes out the company’s message and expertise with the end goal of landing more sales. You can read more on inbound marketing and how it works here. Attracting customers by creating a visually appealing and organised website that is easy to navigate is a vital part of a good inbound marketing strategy.
Pull and push: great content needs great presentation
Web design will ensure that all your site content is presented to people in an effective way. The site layout should change appropriately depending on the type of device that people are using, be it a computer, tablet or smartphone. This is why we only make responsive websites because so many people will be likely to access your site on a mobile device, (stats), it seems an oversight and counterproductive to invest time and money in a design that doesn’t adapt to the users’ viewing requirements. A good design will successfully help to pull in visitors. This means that navigation should be instinctive, the content will be ordered in a structured way and the user is blissfully unaware of the ‘design’ as I said when discussing design in the digital realm. Design agencies will often refer to crafting digital ‘experiences’ and that’s exactly what a website is. A good one should be an experience and a particularly terrible site will always be an experience, albeit a negative one.
Inbound works to push your message to people at every stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s important that the content you produce, be it a white paper, a free assessment, blog posts or videos etc. cater to people in all stages of this journey. There has to be a good balance of educational content for potential customers, as there is content that directs visitors to buy. No one likes to feel that they’re being hassled to buy.
The buyer’s journey
A key area where web design and inbound meet is search engine optimisation, otherwise known as SEO. A well put together website will appear in relevant searches and inbound marketing relies on good SEO in order to make it easier for visitors to discover your content. When we post content, we’re always ensuring that every new post is properly optimised with the correct long form keywords and can be found easily.
Once visitors are on your site it is crucial that you can offer content that is relevant to all stages of the buyer’s journey. What is the buyer’s journey you ask? Whether they’re just browsing to find more information out about their problem, they’re considering solutions or they have decided that they want to purchase your solution; they need to be directed appropriately.
A perfectly designed website will have fully considered the customer journey when it was being designed, however that customer journey needs an endpoint. There needs to be a clear focus on why your website is designed the way it is. Web designers and inbound marketers need to work together to ensure landing pages are properly handled.
A website as an extension of your brand
A website is an element of your brand and should reflect the company. Not just visually either. The entire tone of the copy and layout will be communicating with users, as I have touched on previously when discussing consistency in branding. A bank needs a website that builds confidence, is secure, and has an authoritative tone. Just because something is on a screen doesn’t mean that the message should change.
People are far more likely to be converted into leads on a site that is well designed as this helps to create a sense of trust. A company with a good product to sell should have a good website that reflects the quality and values of that brand. When the internet is usually our first port of call to find information out, a bad website makes you look unprofessional and makes creates doubts about the quality of the product and customer service. Positive user experience is vital to delighting your customers and turning them into advocates of your company.
Websites drive leads and sales
In closing, both web design and inbound marketing work together to create a positive experience for potential customers visiting your website. Web design focuses on ease of use, delivery of information and directing the customer journey. Inbound marketing is focused on creating enticing content that informs, entertains or enlightens, and converting visitors into leads and, hopefully, customers. Websites are the digital face of your company, and good ones are vital to driving up your leads coming in. More leads equal more end sales.
A good website without engaging content will cut down return visits, and conversely, engaging content needs to be delivered well and easily discoverable. This is why both web design and inbound marketing go hand in hand with one another.
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