This is a guest post by Michelle Strassburg, co-founder of the company Wood and Beyond.
Is you business website attractive? If so, congratulations, you’re halfway there. In today’s hypercompetitive environment, looks alone won’t cut it on the Web. Functionality–the ability to share content, be available in real time, generate leads, and more–is key in a Web 2.0 world. Here are seven functional features you’ll need on your website to both serve existing clients and win new business.
1. Sharing Your Content and URL
Your business website has to offer an easy way to share content, products and its url with others. The days of coding a script to provide ‘send to’ functionality are long gone. Simply embed one of the sharing services into your pages, for example addthis, and give users an easy way to share your website with others.
2. Share Your Availability
If your website goal is to sell your services, for example you might be a freelancer or a consultant, let users know your availability. One option is to simply add a message such as ‘hire me now’ or you can embed a Google Calendar in a dedicated page.
3. Accept Online Booking
Allowing users to book your services online through an appointment booking plugin or a service business scheduling software. Booking your services does not always imply a paid service, it could also imply a free 15 minute consultation service. You can create a very simply booking form using Google Docs and embed it on a dedicated page.
4. Accept Online Payments
For businesses selling a product it goes without saying that the key is to take payments, a feature which comes with any shopping cart software. However, businesses that offer a service could also accept payments online even if their CMS does not support payments. Services such as e-junkie will allow you to create a shopping cart widget to embed across your pages. A ‘product’ within the widget in this case could be ’30 min consultation’, ‘program review’ etc.
5. Use Lead Generation
For many users the booking or buying process will start with research and in many cases it’s in your interest to talk with the user so you can deal with objections, answer questions etc. If your CMS allows you to create forms great, otherwise consider using a service such as wufoo to create a lead generation form.
6. Allow Contact Us
Beyond the standard email and telephone options, offer ways to allow users to communicate with you via Skype, Twitter and even consider using an online chat functionality. There are plenty available, some are paid and some are free.
7. Offer Newsletter Subscription
These are fantastic to keep in touch with users, customers and suppliers and to especially communicate promotions, offers and new services. Most CMS I know don’t come with a newsletter functionality. Luckily, there are plenty of 3rd party newsletter services. Some, like MailChimp, even offer free plans.
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This guest post was written by Michelle Strassburg, Co-Founder at Wood and Beyond, sellers of engineered hardwood and oak worktops. Michelle has over 10 years experience managing online marketing and is an active blogger.