Can you create a good professional website as a business owner? Website building is not for everyone. But if you ask yourself the right questions, there’s no reason you can’t create a website that works well for your business.
Even if you’re a non-designer, you can create a website site that’s a marketing asset without a lot of technical experience.
But where to start? Many people start their DIY website with the question: “What is the best WordPress theme for business?”
But that’s the wrong question. The key to taking best advantage of any pre-built theme is knowing what to put in it.
So if you want to create a successful professional website faster, ask this first instead:
Start with the audience and the message.
Matching your message to your target reader’s identity, needs and emotions will help you make the most of your website building efforts. That even includes what theme to pick.
When you know what your website needs to say – and who it needs to attract – selecting and using a theme that’s right for you an your business becomes faster and easier.
Why choosing a template is NOT the best way to start or revamp a business website
It’s tempting to rush off and choose a template because leaping into a new design is exciting.
Okay, now, what do you do with it?
Without planning the message ahead of time, it’s too easy to get lost adjusting the settings. (So many fonts! How do I use the slider?)
Soon you’re speeding through different layouts and text styles and colors and images when you need to be sharing your mission. It’s so easy to sink tons of energy into trying to get your website to look right, and getting upset about losing so much time and productivity.
Planning a simple message ahead of time helps you focus on making the impact your site needs to make.
Your website’s message needs to:
- Attract the clients you want to work with
- Present your solution so clearly and easily it inspires trust
- Inspire readers to make a connection — such as a click or a call to contact.
That’s a tall order. When you hone your message first, you can make better design decisions to serve your message.
- Your message informs the images and words you pick.
- The emotions you want to evoke direct your choice of font and colors.
- The plan you need to explain dictates a few blocks to lay out steps.
How planning your message will help you build a better website
Crafting a strong a marketing message does not require lengthy writing. It only takes a few well-thought out words to:
- Clearly identify the intended reader – to spark an instant connection
- Specify what they care about – to focus fleeting attention
- Mention emotions – so that the target reader tunes in: “This is for me”
- Excite curiosity and interest – to inspire action to connect
When you’re in the thick of working with settings, you’re too busy to also summon the words that will resonate with your readers. A process to prepare a compelling message can help you stay on track.
Here are the top 5 steps to help collect, distill and pre-organize the ideas you need and where to present them in a theme.
5 Steps to Pull Together Professional Web Site Content for Any Theme
Step 1: Develop a clear idea of your target audience
What words or phrases do your target readers use for themselves?
Imagine how would they introduce themselves in a few words. Fill out your word list from a few different aspects of their work:
Identify job titles your target reader may use
List some words for the role they fill in their industry.
- Business executive
- Coach or consultant
- Technical service provider
- Business owner and operator
List professions among your target readers
Name the business field or professional group they identify with, such as:
- Doctors, medical professionals, mental health service providers
- Social services, family advocates
- Writer, interior designer, creative
Describe your target reader’s organization
Find words describing they type of business where your main type of client works:
- A nonprofit
- Small business
- A team
- A one-person business doing everything solo.
- A freelancer
Find words for your target reader’s career phase or stage
What stage or place does this career have in their life?
- It’s a side hustle
- This is their livelihood
- They are starting a second career
- They’re dedicated to a goal, purpose or vision
- They’re a beginner
- They are an expert, thought leader or influencer
List the activities you help them accomplish
What task must they all do that you’re in business to support?
- Cook dinner every night
- Work with young children
- Groom a pet
Make a list of 5-10 the terms and phrases from these lists that fit best.
Use these words to find actual search terms that sound like descriptions your client would agree with.
- Established leaders in national nonprofit organizations
- Nonprofit leaders
Explore terms by typing a search and seeing how your search tool automatically completes the words you are using. This confirms whether your terms are on track.
Bring the best terms together to describe your target reader
Combine terms and phrases that would help your target reader self-identify and react “This is for me!” For example:
- Mid-career female executives who want to foster a more inclusive and creative team culture
- Licensed psychologists new to marketing their local family therapy practice
- Established law firms who want to attract clients in a specialized niche
- Busy people who have to shave every day
How to represent your target audience on your website
Put the target audience as close to the top of the page as you can. Think of placement in:
- Your banner
- Your main headline and/or subheads
- Tag line
- Your brief self-introduction
- Service names
Target audience examples:
- Shave and grooming made simple (tag line from, Dollar Shave Club)
- We work with small and medium business, associations, and community groups on marketing strategies to achieve their goals (sample “about me” statement)
- Google for Small Business (service name that targets a specific size organization)
- Marketing for Hippies (header)
- Black Girl Ventures (header)
Step 2: State the main problem your target reader is facing – one they know they need help with
When you’re sitting behind a computer doing the work, it seems like you’re fully immersed in your client’s world. But working for a customer is not the same as understanding your client’s needs – in their terms.
For example, when they ask if you can make the logo bigger, why do they want this? What do they hope a bigger logo will do?
The question concerns visibility. It reflects a need to know how people will learn to recognize the business, remember the name, and think of it when a certain problem comes up. Maybe another issue is impact. They want their impact to feel bigger, so a bigger logo seems like a good way to convey that.
Understanding the client’s concerns under the questions the first step in stating a client-focused view of what problem you solve. Start with the problem they think they have and the need they are talking about (even if you don’t agree with their solution.)
Collect your target reader’s problem language
The best source for words about the problem you solve is clients themselves.
Check client email messages you’ve received. Look especially at any notes or transcript of their first call. Think of how they put their problem in their own words. Use language from questions clients have asked at every reasonable opportunity.
Take the client’s terms and expand them to find good search terms. The auto-complete feature of many search engines is a great place to start.
Then look for related phrases to fill in your grasp of the problem. Use tools like:
Keywords everywhere: A chrome browser extension that lists common terms people use in online searchers, related to a term you use
Answer the public: A question finder or listening tool that takes a word or two from you, gathers complete search phrases based on your input, and returns questions visually organized by search volume
Buzzsumo: A research tool that lists what web content is popular for a search term or phrase you type in, according to social shares
How to integrate problem language in your website
These are some good places on your website to be clear about the problem you solve:
- A home page headline that specifies up what you and your client both know they need
- Mission statement: “Our mission is to help <people> with <problem> use <service> so that they <experience this change> “
- A “who we help” page: Share your own bullet list of questions you know your target clients are asking themselves
Problem language examples:
- Switching out your favorite foods for healthier alternatives usually comes with a laundry list of high-carb filler ingredients. But at Cali’flour Foods, the base of all our low-carb, keto-friendly recipes is simple…. (Source: Califlour Foods)
- Good design is more than pretty fonts and colors. You also need words that sell. (The home page headline on Bank Creative)
- Helping horse owners with a lack of time
Step 3: Connect with the feelings your target reader experiences
Why does your web content need to be emotional (in the right way)?
Emotions bring your humanity to life. Screens are cold one-dimensional things. Touching on emotions helps form a human bond. Describing how your client’s struggle feels sparks your reader’s curiosity about you. Your empathy with your client’s emotions can work like a VIP pass into your customers’ inner world.
Touching their strongest emotions gets them asking: Who ARE you that you know my life so well?
How do you find emotions? Search discussion forums like Reddit. Engage your imagination. How would you feel in your client’s shoes?
Start with one word if that’s all you know. Try on different emotions such as:
What are their aspirational emotions – the ones they want to feel
- Hungry for relief
- Wildly successful
How to integrate your reader’s emotions into your website
- In crafting a clear statement of purpose: to transform a specific painful situation into a the relief of a distinct desired outcome
- On your About page: You understand how <emotion> it can be to <experience this problem>
- In crafting a statement about who you serve.
- In your color choices – A skillful use of colors can help you evoke the feelings your visitors want to experience
Emotional empathy example:
- We empower business owners to master just the right WordPress skills, so they can stop spinning their wheels, create a simple marketing plan, and have more energy for their business. (A sample one-liner)
- No more ho-hum for you, you beautiful misfit. You were born to take over the world. (Emotion-enriched value proposition from Helen Tremethick)
- Think of ways to strengthen an emotional experience with color. People react to color in personal ways. While color choice won’t force feelings outright, you can play with common associations between color and mood to engage emotion (summarized from Smashing Magazine’s extensive article on color theory):
- Warm colors (red, yellow, orange) often signal importance, warning, or high energy, creativity, or love (depending on the time of year)
- Cool colors (green, blue or violet) tend to be more soothing, calming, quieting. They can signal wealth, fresh growth, calmness, strength, reliability or for purple, magic or majesty
- Neutrals (browns, grays, black, white) can evoke elegance, steadiness, luxury, sophistication, or formality.
Step 4: State your customer’s goals and what moving towards them really means
What does receiving the product or service you offer mean for your customer’s impact?
Think about what your clients ultimately want. A good number of business people care about impact as much as money. They want to make a positive, meaningful impact on the world through their work. So what they want is to invest well in something that makes their impact better.
Say your service teaches how to write articles with the best chance to go viral. Is writing a viral post an end in itself? A traffic spike is fun. But what’s the meaningful impact?
A viral post helps spread your message, build name recognition, and expands your reach to new audiences.
Connect all the dots from achieving a goal to what it means for the impact that matters to your customer.
Whatever your website offers, it needs to spotlight the outcome your target reader wants to achieve, and that your process takes them there.
How to represent your customer’s goals on your business website
- The customer’s desired outcome
- What’s at stake to lose the chance to get there with you
- How success impacts or changes life for them
In images: Choose images that help the customer see themselves in the better world you envision for them.
Use positive images of the destination, rather than negative ones representing their current painful state.
Positive images help visitors envision the path to the desired change you want to make with them.
Goal focused examples:
Vision To transform the foundation and development of black businesses by educating and encouraging entrepreneurs. (Black Women in Business)
Our vision – A world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia® (source, Alzheimers Association
Step 5: Position yourself as a partner instead of a seller
In the popular marketing book Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller argues that the best role to adopt in your customer’s success story is their guide.
This is great advice. Stepping up as a guide, helper, empathetic friend positions you as an ally, not an antagonist (like a pushy salesperson).
Think of your job as expedition planner. Helping your customer to face their challenges is like guiding their expedition to reach the top of Mount Everest. You are part climbing partner, part indispensable lifeguard. You understand how important this experience of success is for them, what the result looks like, how serious the risks are, and how it feels to reach the summit.
In position as a seller, you risk making people defensive against things they don’t want: being lectured to, or overwhelmed with details they didn’t ask for.
In position as a partner, the job of your marketing becomes offering a path to where your target reader wants to go by showing them how to be safe and successful with you along the way.
How to position yourself as your client’s partner
Describe a few simple steps using bullets or brief paragraphs.
A common website home page section is a set of 3 blocks in a row. Not only does this add nice graphics and rhythm. These 3 boxes are stepping stones to show how to work with you in a few simple steps. Credit goes to Donald Miller again for this advice.
“The Plan” is a simple 3 or 4 part section laying out what happens when clients work with you.
For a consultant the 3 steps might go like this:
- Step 1: We analyze your goals
- Step 2: We recommend a strategic plan
- Step 3: We put the plan in place and help you manage it to serve your goals
Adopting this structure helps you avoid several web design pitfalls:
- Over-explaining in big blocks of text.
- Focusing on you and your skills instead of the reader and their needs
- Presenting vague promises when you are asking for a leap of trust
This format works because people want to put trust in something solid.
Presenting a few simple steps gives readers something concrete, sensible, and reasonable to trust in.
A brief outline of your 3 or 4 step plan is a great way to position yourself as a trustworthy helper and guide
Example positioning as a partner:
Okay, now we’re ready to check out some WordPress themes!
- They give you space at the top for a headline and image to identify your target audience
- They help you set up separate sections to lay out the problem you solve, the goals you serve, and images that tie into the emotions that connect you with your readers
- They help you organize groups of 3 or 4 blocks so you can help step readers into partnership
- They are designed and developed to look professional with the needs of business owners in mind
- They have simple layouts – which help you keep things simple and clear.
On top of all this, these are some of the fastest-loading themes around. They are widely used, so inspirational examples abound.
Many other great themes exist too. Choose a simple layout that is easy to set up. And be willing to edit down your ideas so that the best ones come through in about 30-word paragraphs on your home page.
Recommended Image Sources
Tip: Choose images that help the customer see themselves in the better world you envision for them.
Smiling happy people are almost always a good choice
These are royalty free or free to use
For photos, illustrations and icons
- Wikimedia Commons
- The Noun Project
This is hard work. Keep your eye on the prize: A professional looking site you built yourself
You want a professional website that helps you attract clients who are pre-sold and eager to work with you. They willingly pay the fee that keeps your work rewarding and sustaining for you.
Building a business website is a big undertaking. Your website has to do many things well. Design alone isn’t going to attract your customers. Your website is the vehicle for something unique and valuable – the difference your work makes, and the value that sets your business apart.
It takes hard work to infuse your passion and expertise into bits and bytes, so that the promise you offer comes alive for your readers
Taking these steps to hone your website message puts you on a path for what you ultimately want: a professional website that
1) Reflects your target audience like their image in a mirror
2) Describes the main problem your target reader is facing – like you’ve seen them struggling with it
3) Expresses the emotions they experience, like you’ve been there too
4) Identifies the main goal, what reaching it means, and what’s at stake if they don’t make it
5) Positions you as a partner (rather than a sleazy marketer)
Get exactly the help you need with a live WordPress expert showing you the way.
Even with great preparation, building a website can feel overwhelming
I’m planning a live training program for a small group of people who want a more productive way to build and launch their website.
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