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Providing great customer experience may be one of your biggest and best differentiators. As I wrote not long ago, only one percent of US companies is actively working to give their customers that world-class experience, so providing amazing experiences at critical touchpoints is a key way to stand out against your competition.

One great way to show your customers you care about their experience is to build a truly customer-centric website.

How to build a customer-centric website

How many times have you left a website in frustration, unable to find the information you needed or do the task you planned? Don’t be that website. Here are 10 tips for building a customer-centric website that gives prospects and customers a positive experience:

1. Choose a modern website platform.

You want prospects to be able to find you, and when they find you, you want to give them a friendly place to land. So that means starting with good search engine optimization (SEO) and a visually appealing site. Fortunately, the platform you choose to build your site on can be a huge help with both.

Features and functions: As you’re making the decision of which website builder to use, there are several criteria to consider. For example, will your site have built-in SEO assistance? Search engine optimization is how you rank high in search results, so when prospects are looking, they’ll find you. Other factors to consider include, does the platform load quickly, does it come with responsive design for mobile devices, do you get a visually appealing website that’s easy to use and easy to update? Website Builder Reviews goes through a number of popular website builders to help you create the right site.

Visually appealing: According to Maria Colaluca of Alchemy at AMS, on average, between 30 and 60 percent of website visitors “bounce”–leave a website without venturing further than the first page. Some of that can be due to poor search results, but some may bounce off simply because a site makes a poor first impression or is slow to load. You only get a few seconds to create a great impression, so showcase your unique value proposition, and have fresh, engaging content that’s easily skimmable.

2. Do your keyword research.

Getting help on SEO from your website platform is great, but some of you may need to outsource SEO help. To be successful with SEO, you’ll need to know what keywords prospects are searching on so you can include them in your content. Are prospective customers searching for “cloud computing” “Microsoft Azure” “forms for Office 365”? There are several tools that can help you figure out the keywords most relevant to your organization. Then make sure those keywords are on your website—that’s how search engines know to list you on organic search pages where prospects can find you.

3. Make your site easy to navigate.

This is huge. Prospects have lots of choices of vendors to buy from, and if they can’t easily find what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll find it somewhere else. Be sure your site navigation is clear for every stage of the buyer’s journey: if customers want information, can they easily locate your product specs? If they need reassurance before buying, have your whitepapers, case studies, and testimonials where they can find them. If you’re not sure how good your current navigation is, run an assessment. Find someone who isn’t familiar with your website, give them a task to accomplish, then watch how easily they accomplish it. Where did they get stuck or frustrated? Now fix it!

4. Make it easy for customers to reach you.

Don’t make prospects hunt for your contact information. Have it on every page, at least in the footer where it’s discoverable but unobtrusive. Provide lots of contact avenues, including email, phone, physical address (if you sell through a shopfront), and add easy-to-find social icons so visitors can engage with you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.

5. Know your audience.

You probably engage with prospects online through marketing campaigns, emails, or on social media, in order to drive them to your website. Pay off the promise of those efforts by having really good, relevant content for visitors to find when they get to your website. Make your website really awesome by having clear, tailored pathways for each of your most important customer personas. Aggregate the content they’ll find most valuable, and lead them to it. Have content that speaks to the key stages of their customer journey and make that content easy to find.

6. Provide customer support.

Make sure you are equipped to answer visitors’ questions, no matter how they ask them. Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Manager, says his research has revealed 70 percent of visitors expect a vendor’s website to provide a self-service application. Accommodate all ways of doing product research by having FAQs, a robust search tool, and how-to videos for the do-it-yourselfers. For those who want human help, make sure you’ve still got a classic contact form or an online conversation tool.

7. Ensure your website works on mobile devices.

More than half of web traffic comes from mobile devices like tablets and phones. Don’t miss out on the opportunity a website designed for multiple device sizes can give you. Be sure your website looks good on mobile, but bear in mind that mobile users may prioritize different information than desktop visitors: they may need driving directions or a map; they may be less interested in product images that are small on their screens. Your mobile website isn’t just a mini-me of your desktop version—you’ll want a site that’s responsive and designed to meet mobile users’ needs. Consider working with a designer who can help you understand this important and growing audience.

8. Use prospects’ information to their benefit.

Customers expect the businesses they patronize to know them, especially if they visit a website more than once. Optimize your site so if customers provide their information in order to download a whitepaper or attend a webinar, for example, they don’t have to fill in forms multiple times or explain who they are to a customer service rep when their information is already on file. Some other things to consider are purchasing a CRM and a marketing automation solution, as well as a website tracking solution for all the information regarding who is a returning visitor and therefore probably a solid lead.

9. Include clear calls to action.

Nail conversion by guiding your prospects to and through the sales funnel with clear, simple-to-follow steps all along the way. Consider including a “learn more” button that leads to more resources, or, at the end of that great blog post you wrote addressing a customer challenge, invite them to contact you for more information. Understanding the persona they match best and where they are on their customer journey will help you understand the steps prospects are taking—and how to guide them.

10. Follow up.

If a prospect spends time on your website, or even better, fills out a registration or contact form, be sure to follow up right away. Look at your site history to figure out what the prospect was researching, then send an email with a relevant offer or invitation to connect. Marketing automation tools can really help ensure opportunities aren’t missed.

A great website builds confidence; a poor one can erode it. You may (and should!) engage with prospects in many places online—discussion groups, Twitter, the comments section of a blog—but your website is still home base. It needs to provide a great customer experience that’s consistent with all those terrific engagements you’ve had elsewhere.

To learn more about how to build a great website, check out the “Basics of Website Design” videos on Smart Partner Marketing.

Until next time,

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