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10 website sins every business should avoid

Forget the seven deadly website sins -- by my count there are many more mortal online offenses. How many of the following 10 transgressions are you or your business committing?

1. No clear positioning statement. Your website should tell prospective clients in as few words as possible what you do, whom you do it for, and what results you achieve. If you have a proprietary process or an extraordinary guarantee, this is the time and place to mention it.

2. Lacks free resources. The key to earning prospective customers' trust is to demonstrate that you know how to solve their problems. As such, your site should be filled with how-to articles, white papers, and special reports that offer valuable information -- free of charge.

3. Does not declare your specialization. The No. 1 attribute for prospective clients is specialization, so put your expertise up front. No successful small to midsize firm is all things to all people. Figure out who you serve, and how, and put that information on the homepage. Also be sure to describe the positive outcomes you have achieved on behalf of clients, such as decreased costs or increased revenues.

4. Long mission and philosophy. You should include a mission statement, but keep it short and meaningful. Customers say they don't much care about such statements of purpose. Still, if you can use one to further differentiate yourself, it's a good idea.

5. Hard to find contact information. Don't make prospective clients work to find you. Put your phone number on every page. Make it easy for potential customers to e-mail you with requests for more information or for a meeting. And definitely consolidate all of your contact information on one page, including physical and email addresses, fax numbers, and other information to help people get in touch. 

6. No map and driving directions. If prospects ever visit your physical location, then you must include a map and driving directions to your office. This will not only save you time, but is also another reason to have prospective clients poking around your website.

7. Lacks an e-mail subscription link. Forrester Research studies show that converting prospects into clients via e-mail is 20 times more cost-effective than using direct mail. Once you capture their messages, why waste the postage for first-class snail-mail? Offer prospective customers solid reasons for giving you permission to e-mail them, including free reports, studies, white papers, or notifications of site updates. And, of course, state clearly that subscribers can easily opt out of your list whenever they want.

8. No on-demand materials (PDF). What happens if a prospect wants to tell someone else about you? The problem with a beautiful website is that is usually looks far homelier when the pages are printed. The way around this is to offer professionally designed PDFs, readable with the free Acrobat Reader. But don't just offer a standard  brochure; your menu should include a how-to guide or tips brochure that details your capabilities.

9. Does not claim a proprietary process. After specialization, clients want to know that you have a specific problem-solving process. So create this process, name it, trademark it, and describe it with reverence on your site.

10. No seminar information. Do you sell a service or a high-end product? Then your best lead-generation technique is the seminar, webinar, briefing, teleseminar, workshop, or roundtable discussion. Focus on the biggest problems that you solve for clients. Your site should prominently list upcoming seminars (to promote attendance) and past seminars (to promote your reputation as an expert).

Do you think we are done here, sinners? We are just getting warmed up. My next blog will cover 10 more deadly website sins.

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