3 Marketing Tools for Service-Based Websites
The most effective and powerful improvements to service-based businesses’ websites almost always come through improved messaging, rather than improvements in technology or design.
That doesn’t mean you can get away with a site that looks unprofessional or just plain ugly, or that visitors will gladly suffer through poor usability — see “3 Must-Test Areas for Lead Generation Websites,” my previous article on that topic. But it does mean that, assuming your site meets reasonable minimums for design and usability, your real low-hanging fruit lies in improved messaging.
And the easiest way to improve your website’s messaging is through disciplined customer and market research. In fact, the principle rule of copywriting is “Speak to the customer, in the language of the customer, about what matters to the customer.”
Most websites of service providers fail to meet this standard, and the surest path to improvement is customer research that helps to reveal both “what matters to the customer” as well as “the language of the customer.” The following three research tools will prove indispensable in learning both facets of effective customer persuasion and messaging.
1. Forums and Message Boards
Lurking in forums and message boards is an essential activity for seeing exactly how clients and customers of your industry talk about their experiences. And there’s no faster way to ensure that you understand both what really matters to customers as well as the kind of language they use.
Here are some tips, tricks and search tools for helping you find these forums and message boards.
- Search http://omgili.com/
- Search http://boardreader.com/
- Search Facebook and filter results by clicking on “Groups”
- Search Google using:
- [keyword] allintitle:join
- [keyword] allintitle:”Sign Up”
- [keyword] social network
- [keyword] online community
- [keyword] discussion boards
- [keyword] message boards
- [keyword] “powered by phpBB”
- [keyword] “powered by vbulletin”
Once you find good forums and groups to lurk on, pay attention to how the consumers decided to hire somebody. How did they go about searching for and deciding on a provider? What were their main criteria?
If you look for this information, you’ll find it. And chances are, you’ll be surprised by some part of it. If you are surprised, you’ll know that you found something valuable, because the gap between your expectations and what you actually found represents an opportunity for improved messaging on your website.
2. Review Sites
As you might guess, how people review a service can tell you a lot about what matters to them in the delivery and experience of that service and what they really look for in a provider. As importantly, it also gives you a good example of the language consumers use when they talk about your service — all good things for improving your website’s copywriting and messaging.
Below you’ll find some great website and tools for finding service reviews.
- Yelp.com. Most companies search for themselves, but you really want to broaden your search for anyone providing your service, including competitors and businesses outside of your city, town, or state.
- Angie’s List. Look at how the recommended providers are described and what criteria are used in determining recommendations. If there are reviews available, research them just like Yelp reviews.
- Amazon.com reviews. There are no service reviews on Amazon, but there are likely reviews on tools and products designed to allow people to do your service for themselves, and those reviews are worth reading and studying as well, both for learning the language of the customer.
- Google Search on [Keyword] Reviews.
Again, when looking at reviews, pay special attention to the events and situations leading up to the customers’ need for the service and how that need influences buying criteria.
3. Templates and Examples
It’s always useful to look at how other professional copywriters approached the task of selling your service. And even when you can’t find a sales letter or ad for your exact service, it can be helpful to look at related services.
With that in mind, templates and examples can represent a valuable resource for marketing and copywriting research. You’ll find some good stores and stashes at the following websites: