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High-converting websites do their thing without the benefit of a sales person. Studio1design’s Greg Merrilees shares how, in this episode of James Schramko.
James and Greg discuss why brand perception is such a huge consideration online.
They talk about the ways website anatomy can fall short of the goal to sell.
And Greg outlines the ideal landing page structure that sells.
Table of contents
1. Controlling your presence in the industry
2. Why the look and feel are important
3. The holes that Greg sees in websites
4. Are you forgetting what’s in it for the client?
5. How sales copy and design are related
6. Why you don’t show your offer to just anyone
7. How to educate potential customers
8. The page that does the heavy lifting
9. Do people expect to deal with the founder?
10. The role of proposals
11. Defining what is and isn’t covered
12. Items for review
Controlling your presence in the industry
James thinks we’re in the age where we can control our own presence, we can control our marketing distribution, we can control our look and feel.
The founder of an esteemed firm in which James was investing was impressed with his online presence. And it was immediate to James that things like a quality microphone and camera, a well-designed backdrop and environment, can have huge impact on a complete stranger.
When he started engaging help with design, improving the look and feel of his branding on his website and elsewhere, it lifted the quality of everything. It lifted the quality of the clients he attracted; it lifted the profitability of his business.
Greg has been a big part of that, designing James’s website, podcast logos, mastheads and merch.
Why the look and feel are important
People are more motivated to be involved with things that look good and feel good. So there is an argument for investing in your brand, to make it look and feel more significant in the market.
Is that what Greg’s seeing on people’s websites, asks James? Is that how they’re selling without salespeople?
Exactly, says Greg. It’s a big part of it. That, and strategy.
The look and feel are how people perceive your brand. So if you’re selling a high-ticket item, you don’t want a look and feel that looks homemade, because people won’t take you seriously.
Greg’s agency designs about 10 or 20 websites per month for their clients, and often the “before” has a bit of a Frankenstein feel – you can tell multiple people have worked on it.
These are people with seven or eight-figure businesses. Their sites have a lot of content and elements that are working, but when you dive deeper, says Greg, there are also a lot of holes.
The holes that Greg sees in websites
Let’s talk about those holes, says James. As a designer, when Greg audits a website, what are some key points he looks at?
One, says Greg, is if you look at the podcast page, or the blog page, or the video page, the content pages, essentially, they don’t have a clear next step. Some may have a lead magnet, but it’s somewhat disconnected from the content topic or the category – so you want to make sure there’s a little bit of an alignment there.
Also, if you do sell services, he suggests having an offer for booking a call, the next step to bring people closer to understanding your services, essentially.
Greg often sees that thank you pages either don’t exist, or just have a little message saying thanks. That’s a wasted opportunity to get people into that next step.
So obviously, the look and feel is part of it, but Greg thinks the main thing is the strategy, and that people don’t invest in good copy. And there’s a lot of little conversion leads throughout all of their pages as well that he can go into.
What does that mean for these businesses in real terms, asks James?
Realistically, they’re leaving money on the table, says Greg.
Say you sell a product or a service for $10,000, and your conversion traffic is 5000 visitors per month. You might have a two percent conversion of that lead magnet, maybe 25 percent for inquiries, and that means you would send out quotes, an estimate, for instance.
Then from that, ideally, you want to get as many qualified people booked onto sales calls as possible, but they need to be qualified. From that, you could probably expect 80 percent or above if you’ve got all these other pieces in place to convert those into sales.
So they’re probably good metrics. But if you don’t have all those pieces in place, then those metrics are going to be terrible.
Some clients don’t have a lead magnet. And their sales pages lack conversion elements like social proof, proven results or leading benefits or SPIN Selling.
Are you forgetting what’s in it for the client?
And often, says Greg, they completely forget what’s in it for the client. They talk all about how good their product or service is, with no mention of the benefit for the visitor.
When you have a good professional copywriter working with you, and you have all these psychological drivers placed in a way to make the copy the hero, all these things will help boost conversions.
Take James’s sales funnel pages, says Greg – they segment people initially based on their problem, then lead to a sales page, which has all the elements just mentioned.
But then they also give the option, if people are not ready to buy and have questions, Have a question? Ask James. That, says Greg, is just brilliant.
James can tell you, anyone who asks a question is more than likely going to end up buying. Or, he sends them to the right place – he may not be the best fit for what they’re trying to do, but he almost certainly knows who is.
James makes a lot of referrals. With or without commission, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about getting that customer to the right place.
How sales copy and design are related
Now, Greg talks about the relationship between sales copy and design. Is he expected as a designer to be able to do the sales copy?
When James did his website, Greg’s team did the design; Brian McCarthy produced the copy. Then there was a merging of the two.
So should one come first? Do they typically get done by the same person? Or is there a little bit of back and forth?
There’s definitely back and forth, says Greg. So what they like to do is get started on the look and feel of the pages, because they understand copy can take a lot of time, with research and interviewing clients and so forth.
Greg and team don’t offer copy, but they understand the structure their copywriting partners use. So they design the pages with the right structure or psychological drivers.
When the copy comes in, the designers revise the design to suit the copy, essentially, and keep revising until it’s all approved.
Why you don’t show your offer to just anyone
Greg mentioned the chooser on James’s page. You shouldn’t show your offer to everybody.
If you skip steps, says James, the right customers aren’t able to buy from you even if they want to. They don’t know what you do or how to do it.
Exactly, says Greg. The way he sees it, the new way of selling is to educate people and to qualify people and then demonstrate how you can help them, basically.
So your website, especially a selling high-ticket item, should lead to booking a call, but then you don’t want just anybody showing up for that call. You need to qualify them, make sure they’re a good fit.
Therefore, if you have a pre-qualifying bunch of questions before that book-a-call page, you can vet people and make sure they’re a good fit, then send them to that page.
And on that page, a pro tip is to make sure you’re not always available on your calendar – only show a certain number of time slots that you’re available. That immediately positions you as someone whose time has value, who they’ll be privileged to work with.
How to educate potential customers
So how do you set people’s expectations?
It starts with your blog content, podcast and other content, says Greg. That helps build trust in your brand initially.
Then in that content, don’t just do things for an SEO play, like focusing on what keywords rank for, etc. You want to put forth your opinion and your methodology around how you solve problems for your customers.
And then if you do get people onto your booking-a-call page, even on that page, Greg would suggest having a face-to-camera video to help qualify. Talk about who you’re a good fit for, who you’re not a good fit for, and let people know exactly what they can expect from the call.
And Greg doesn’t do his free strategy calls – it’s someone else on his team. So he’s protecting his time as well.
On that initial 15-minute call, Greg’s team member will make sure the prospect’s a good fit by asking about their situation and determining if the agency’s solution suits their needs.
If it checks out, they’ll send the prospect a ballpark estimate, again as a qualifying action – Here’s our rough price. If they approve the ballpark estimate, they get a 40-question questionnaire, which is once again hard work, but it does the additional qualifying quite well.
Then they book a one to two-hour call with Greg, for which there’s no charge. And it’s free because, from Greg’s experience, people who put the effort into the questionnaire and jump on the call convert at a rate of 90 percent plus.
Does the process ever stall at the point of the questionnaire, asks James?
It does, says Greg. But the questionnaire actually forms their entire brief for the design team. They have the questionnaire, and they have the call recording (with permission).
Taking a step back, Greg recommends on the thank you page of the call booking to thank people for booking the call, then finish the video by answering some frequently asked questions about your process and how you work, etc. That way when they come to the call, they know exactly what to expect.
On the strategy session, you just demonstrate how you help them. And then Greg and his team dive deep into the questionnaire – they make it all about the prospect, there’s nothing about Greg or his service, it’s just literally a strategy call.
And what they do on that call is show the prospect other websites that might be in a similar industry, etc. and how they’ve helped them get good results.
They show before and afters, their mood boards and everything that they’’ve done to help elevate a client’s brand. And what that does is position them as the authority.
Then at the end of the call, they just let the prospect know what’s going to happen next, and let the decision be completely theirs. They don’t do any selling at all.
This takes them to the next step about sending a proposal, because that can be quite powerful as well.
The page that does the heavy lifting
James wants to talk about the sales page, because that’s effectively the silent salesperson. What should be on that page?
For a start, says Greg, if it’s a sales page, get rid of the top navigation that leads back to your main website. You want to give people no distractions whatsoever.
Then at the top, you want to let people know that they’re in the right place. For instance, if you have a certain niche, you might have, Attention, coaches, consultants, course creators, whoever the target market is, and then have a big benefit-driven headline.
Don’t say, here’s our service, don’t give the service name, just tell them what the benefit is. And then a little explainer description of how you help them with the service or product that you offer.
This is all above the fold. Then you want to have a call-to-action button above the fold as well.
People may not be ready for that call to action yet. But if they do click that, it will anchor link down to the very bottom pricing section or whatever that call-to-action section is at the bottom of the page.
Then what Greg likes to do as well is have a bit of social proof, in the form of what he calls an impact metrics bar. This will help prove you have existing clients or subscribers – it might be how many customers you’ve had, podcast downloads, people in your newsletter database, and the like.
The assumption there is they haven’t seen any other pages on your website, and you don’t want them going to any other pages. You want them to do one thing on that page – that is, take that next step, that call to action.
Remember, some visitors to your page might be cold traffic, other might be warm or hot. Give hot traffic the call to action straightaway – they know what they want to do without scrolling through heaps of stuff.
For people needing convincing, have more of the social proof case studies, and let people know who your product is for. Then introduce your solution at the bottom.
If you think about SPIN Selling, it’s letting people know that you understand their situation and their pain points, the implication if they don’t address it, and the need, which is why your solution comes at the bottom of the page.
Having a Why-Choose-Us section can also be important, or who’s behind the brand.
Then have the Call to Action section. If it is high-ticket, Greg would suggest having a strategy call rather than buy now, because people aren’t going to pay $10,000 right there, generally. And then you might have some FAQs as well underneath that, to really reinforce everything you’ve said above, and to give people a quick reference point for everything.
If you do have video, don’t put your sales page videos on YouTube – people will click that YouTube logo and never come back. Upload them to Wistia or Vimeo or something that doesn’t leak off to other sites.
Then really, you just want a footer with no leakage point navigation. Have your terms and your privacy and a contact, but no other page links.
Good tips, says James. What about a free strategy page?
He knows for some people like coaches, it’s not relevant, but surely for a service, there’s still quite a lot of scope to cover, and you need to know whether you can help someone properly.
Greg agrees. And on the strategy page, it depends once again on whether the traffic is cold or warm.
The warmer they are, the less informational detail you need. But if they are cold – there’s a page you can refer to, just go to studio1design.com and click on the main call to action, which is speak with an expert, and that will show you what Greg has on his page.
Really, it’s like a benefit-driven headline. And there’s a video of Greg explaining how they’re going to help.
They have some bullets of how long the call duration is. They’re going to identify what’s holding a website back, in this case, and there’s no pressure, it’s just a friendly chat to see if they’re the right fit, and it’s not disguised as a sales call.
Do people expect to deal with the founder?
Does this build an expectation that Greg himself will deal with the prospect on the call?
Great point, says Greg. He does mention in the video that it will be him or somebody on their team.
In all of his marketing, Greg talks about his team, so a lot of qualified clients don’t expect him to handle them personally.
This is something James urges people to set up from the beginning. It’s unrealistic for clients to always deal with the founder, unless you stay small forever, which is not what you want.
The role of proposals
James wants to discuss something that comes up a lot, relating to beyond the strategy session. This is a phase where you send a proposal.
James tries not to have proposals. At the very minimum, he’s renamed them action plan, because then it’s not something to say yes or no to but a plan someone can be ready to proceed with.
But he’d love to hear Greg’s experience around proposals.
The biggest problem Greg sees is just sending it as an email. It doesn’t feel professional.
And he thinks action plan is good. What they have in their proposal is an action plan and a timeline.
They use software, Better Proposals, which they love, and the format has given them a massive boost in conversions. A funny thing, too, clients have not just accepted their proposals but had them design, with the same software, proposals for their businesses.
That’s a good tip, says James. He should mention that, that apart from websites and logos and merchandise, studio1design also design proposals.
Greg’s own proposals are branded with their color palette and logo. And they have an introduction section, which talks about the prospect’s situation and their challenges and the opportunity.
Then at the bottom of every one of these pages, they have social proof, or they have a client case study or testimonial, etc.
But on the very first page, they actually superimpose the client’s website into a MacBook kind of photo, just to show them what their website looks like before.
And then they talk about that website and the pages that they’re going to redesign. It’s just a sort of bullet point description of what they’re going to include.
It’s a clear expectation of what’s happening, says James. Scope outline.
Exactly, says Greg. And then they have the action plan, which is the steps they’re going to take and the timeline that they can expect. And they give a clear description of what they can expect in week one to three, three to four, four to five, etc.
Defining what is and isn’t covered
Then they have an out-of-scope section as well, about which they’re very clear.
Is that what’s not covered, or if we do it it’s extra, asks James?
It could be either, Greg says. So copywriting, SEO, membership sites, website hosting, they don’t offer that. Website build, they do, and it doesn’t matter what platform – Kleq, WordPress, Shopify…
They let the client choose – they can build it, or Greg’s team can. It’s out of scope on the proposal, but they can quote on it if needed.
Very good to clear up if yours is a service business, says James.
So where to from here? Greg has worked for numerous clients, and with the process he’s outlined, $10,000 sounds like a bargain.
The amount of detail and focus and commitment that goes into delivering a high-converting website sounds very professional.
And they stick to it, says Greg, because at the end of the day, your reputation is everything. And in a service business, you do get a lot of referrals if you do a good job, so you want to deliver world-class.
Items for review
James loves it – some solid small business website design tips there.
A sales page review can read as follows:
– What does it look like from the homepage?
– Are the right people finding the right offers?
– Is the offer clear? Is it removing distractions? Does it point to doing one thing? Does it have social proof? Does it have all the elements someone would need to make a decision?
– Is there the option to contact you if there’s something missing?
– When people do contact you or take the option that you want them to take, do you have a nice thank you page?
– Do you have a good diagnostic survey?
– Do you have all the right visual elements?
– Are you proposing in a way that’s likely to increase your chance of getting an order?
– Are things running smoothly in terms of expectations set, who people are dealing with, what they’re actually doing?
If you want to see a sample funnel by Greg, you can check it out at studio1design.com/james.
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