So you’ve taken the plunge and have gone into business for yourself. Way to go! Now the real fun begins. Your primary objective in the early days and beyond is to grow your client-base. The only way to do that is to develop and nurture a steady stream of leads. That is, people who could potentially become paying clients.
No matter what type of work you do, it’s fair to say that your website will play a critical role in your ability to attract and develop new client leads. Your website is often the first point of contact a person has with you and your business. But even if they met you in person first (say, at a conference or through a referral), you can bet they’ll want to check out your website at some point before they decide to hire you.
So your website had better be designed to attract, capture, and nurture those leads. Yes, a great portfolio of work is important. But a portfolio alone is not enough. There’s more to crafting a website that actually performs for your business.
Today, I’d like to share a few important ways you can turn the website for your business into a lead magnet. So let’s dig in.
It’s Not About You
If you’re a solo freelancer, you’re in the business of selling yourself, right?
You’re in the business of providing some form of value to your clients. A client doesn’t hire you solely because they like your friendly personality, or because you seem to have been working in this field for many years.
They hire you because of the benefit they (or their business) will receive after working with you. For example, let’s say you’re a web designer. You’re not simply providing your client with a new website. You’re providing them with a tool that will lead to increased sales of their product. Increased sales is the benefit that your client really cares about.
So the lesson here is to make it all about your customer, and what’s in it for them. It’s not about you. It’s about your client.
Leverage Social Proof
You know how awesome you are. But you know what’s not awesome? You talking about how awesome you are.
Here’s a better idea: Let your clients do the boasting for you.
Here’s a better idea: Let your clients do the boasting for you. When people read first-hand accounts of success stories, told by your clients, it puts you in a much better light. Now you’re seen as a trustworthy and reliable provider — with a proven track record of success. That’s the power social proof in action.
It’s not just about grabbing a single testimonial quote and slapping it on your website. If you want to have a real impact, follow these steps to take social proof to the next level:
1. Define a goal early in the project .
Position yourself for a success story before you even a begin a project with a client. At the very outset of the project, have a conversation with your client about what their end goal is. How will this project result in a win for them? Let the answer to that question guide everything you do from here, until the end of the project.
2. Exceed expectations.
If you’re awesome at what you do, then you know how important it is to exceed expectations. That doesn’t mean delivering extra items or rendering services that weren’t agreed to. But it does mean holding yourself to higher than average standards, and always looking to your client’s end goal as the prize — not your final pay check.
3. Follow up a few months after the project ends.
About three months after the end date, shoot your client an email to check in and see how things are going since you finished work together. Did that goal you set out to achieve actually materialize?
4. Get those results in detail.
Ask them to describe how things have gone since your project. Are there any hard figures they can point to, such as a 30% increase in sales, or a 200% increase in traffic? These types of hard results are very powerful components to include in a testimonial or case study.
5. Get specific.
Aside from facts and figures, ask them to get specific about what they liked best about working with you (or which part of your product has the most value for them). A testimonial that says “Jane is a nice person to work with” isn’t nearly as impactful as “Jane answered every email within the same day. We were never left in the dark!”
Take those quotes and ask your client’s permission to include them as case studies on your website.
Email Newsletters Matter
It’s a real, educational resource that you spent real-time creating, all about a topic that your target customer truly cares to learn about.
It’s almost 2014. Isn’t it all about social media and mobile these days? Are email newsletters relevant anymore?
You bet they are. In fact, I think an email newsletter is more important than ever, simply because it’s the place where your audience attention is most focused on what you have to say (whereas a Tweet or Facebook post can easily get lost in the noise).
But nobody cares about your newsletter if it’s promoted off in a corner of your website, with a sentence that reads, “Sign up for updates” — boring.
You have to give new visitors something of value, such as an email course with real nuggets of wisdom packed into it, or a 20-page guide that you wrote. This gives them a real incentive to join your list. It’s not an empty “bribe”. It’s a real, educational resource that you spent time creating, all about a topic that your target customer truly cares to learn about.
See the email newsletter opt-in box from Sacha Greif’s website. It communicates that you will receive something of real value if you decide to sign up.
You’ll also notice a seemingly minor detail, but something that has a great impact on conversion and engagement: In small text at the bottom it reads, “One email every Sunday. No spam.”
That sets a clear expectation for what exactly I’m getting into by typing my email address into the box and clicking the button. Setting this expectation can increase the number of signups because it reduces the inherent risk in giving up your email address. But it also reduces the number of unsubscribers, because they’ve already agreed to the frequency of emails that will be arriving from Sacha.
Getting them to subscribe to your email is just the first step. Once they’re subscribed, you have to actually send them emails! Touch base on a weekly or bi-weekly basis with something new: An article, a collection of relevant links you found interesting, anything that’s relevant and keeps your name at the top of their mind.
This is what nurturing leads is all about. Staying in contact with them on a consistent basis. They may not need your services today. But you can bet that when the day finally comes that they’re in need of a professional, your name is likely to float to the top of their list. Because by now, they know you!
Lead Calls to Action
We can’t talk about crafting a website that converts visitors to leads without talking about the most important part: your call to action.
It amazes me how many freelancers and companies fail to provide a clear call-to-action for visitors to take that next step. They have an impressive portfolio, a well-written bio, even a few testimonials. But they assume that visitors will figure out on their own how to get in touch and engage them for a new project.
The truth is, you have to be explicit about what you want your visitors to do.
Somewhere on every page, include a prominent callout with a headline and button like “Request a quote today!”, or “Schedule a free consultation call”.
Visitors don’t want to guess at where they should go next, or work to figure out how to contact you. That part of the experience should be a no-brainer!
Here are a few high-impact tips you can use when crafting your call-to-action:
- Be explicit. Give direct instruction to take a specific action.
- Set clear expectations (What will happen after clicking this button?).
- Focus on one call-to-action per page. Too many calls-to-action will compete for attention, which dilutes the impact of all of them.
- Reduce friction by focusing on the positive aspects of the action.
Here’s a call-to-action button found on the website for Flow:
First, they offer explicit instructions to the visitor. The button also sets clear expectations: That by clicking this button, you’ll be starting a free trial, and later you can choose a plan.
It also reduces friction by mentioning that “No credit card is required”. This gives visitors that extra nudge they need to take that vital next step in the conversion funnel.
Another great example of an effective call-to-action is the newsletter opt-in box found on the blog for WPCurve:
It follows many of the tips I mentioned above in regards to offering something of value when asking visitors to join your email newsletter. It’s also an effectively designed call-to-action for the following reasons:
- It gives explicit instructions in the intro copy, in the form labels themselves, and on the button label.
- It focuses on the benefit (value) the person will receive (they will increase their conversions).
- It uses a bold and bright color scheme, which helps it stand out on the page and attract attention.
Design Your Website to Convert
In the end, every business is different and what works for one may or may not work for the next. If you know your customers well (and what business owner doesn’t), then you’ll know how to speak their language. Use what you know and translate that to your website.
Soon enough, you’ll be attracting more leads, and more qualified leads, which will help you build the steady stream of new business and avoid the feast and famine cycle that so many freelancers run into.
How are you converting visitors to leads on your website? What has worked? What hasn’t? Let’s talk about it in the comments!