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I do consultations and competitive analyses for aviation-industry websites.  I was asked to evaluate a site last week and my first impression was – “Wow!  This is great!  I can’t improve on this.”  They had jaw-dropping graphics, slick animated effects, and breathtaking photography of airplanes.

After doing some analysis of the site, I could see what the owners were unhappy with – this site drew little traffic, made no sales, and seldom came up in internet searches on Google, Yahoo or the other search engines.

They later informed me that they had spent a half a million dollars on the web site but had not had ANY new sales or  business whatsoever that they could attribute to the web site.

It was like an airplane with a half-million dollar paint job and no engine.

And people wonder why it won’t fly!

I’ve run across versions of this story all the time, but none quite so dramatic.  People put a lot of time and money into their website design and then the find that it doesn’t get traffic, or doesn’t convert traffic into paying customers or even interested leads.  Many sites don’t even have the means to capture contact information from someone who is interested.  We all have been to interesting, beautiful or impressive web sites that we don’t remember a day later.

A great company web site has to do what it’s designed to do, otherwise it doesn’t matter how pretty it is.   An airplane is designed to fly.   A company website is designed to either sell products, collect leads for your sales team, or at least provide customer service for your customers.  A website that’s not getting traffic and not making sales is not living up to its purpose.

My advice- don’t buy another paint job.   Beautiful design and effects won’t get you off the ground.

You need a well-designed, powerful marketing campaign under the hood. Your web site should be powered by a well-thought out campaign to sell your products and services, and your web site should have the horsepower and the features to attract traffic, make connections with potential customers, provide the information customers need, collect their information, make sales.

As you know, your airplane needs an engine, wings, a tail, and flight controls.  Your website has some bare-minimum requirements as well. Your website needs the following:

  • A way of attracting visitors. (This could include earch engine optimization, social media, a direct-mail campaign, email, etc.)
  • Your unique selling proposition. This is a good explanation of who you are, what you do, and how you’re different from your competitors.
  • Information that answers the top 10 questions that a potential customer might have about each of your products or services.
  • Information that shows that you are credible and an authority in your field.
  • A way of collecting information from visitors that are interested in your product or service (this works best if you ask them to subscribe to a newsletter, offer a free report, or some other incentive to provide their information.

Without this, you have the website equivalent of an airplane that won’t get off the ground.

As with airplanes, you can have optional equipment that is very helpful  – a navigation system can help you go more places more safely.  Wet wings can help you fly in weather.  Your website can also include optional features that can help you get the most out of the experience.

Optional features for websites:

  • A way of purchasing products or services. This would be a shopping cart and transaction handling system.
  • Customer service for existing customers- so that they can find instructions, answers to questions, a forum, etc.
  • Some reason for customers to keep coming back to your site – additional information of interest to your customers, a blog with comments, a referral or incentive program, or some other way of staying connected after the sale.

Once you have the basics, you can work on the options.  Once you have the options, you can work on cosmetics.  And granted, your website IS your “front office” and it must be consistent with your company’s character and branding.

But save the airbrushing and gorgeousness for a site that works.

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