Are you killing your chances in the first two seconds?

How many prospects visiting your website have never heard of your company before? If you’re a household name, the number might be very small, but for most businesses, it will be alarmingly high, especially if you’re in a competitive market and they’ve found you just by typing “widget suppliers” into Google.

Of course, your website analytics can tell you how many visitors have never been to your site before, but that’s not the same as knowing how many hadn’t previously heard of you. That’s a figure you’ll probably never know, but it’s bound to be significant.

So what do we need to say to these people? I think there are three things which it’s essential to convey at a glance. The first is simply who you are and what you do. Look how Stowlin Croftshaw, Krüss or Control Integration have website designs which instantly lead the eye to the company name (shown clearly), a statement of what they do, and – if relevant – where they operate. That should all take place in the first second of a prospect visiting your website.

Simultaneously, the website needs to imply, by its design, that you could be the sort of organisation a prospect would want to do business with. Now that even your local kebab shop has a great-looking website, it’s hard to use design alone to position yourself as a serious professional company. But it’s easy to look like a garden-shed operation with outdated design.

Finally, you need to answer the question all visitors who’ve never heard of you are going to be thinking, which is: can I trust these people? Assuming you’ve kept their attention past the first second, the one sure way to do this is to demonstrate that you’ve been in business a while and have existing customers (assuming that either or both of those are true). I always think the best way of communicating this quickly is the string of customer logos, but if that’s too hard to organise, why not link directly to some case studies you’ve got on the site? “As used by” is a hugely undervalued marketing phrase. Failing that, at least just state prominently anything which might inspire confidence, such as: “Over 2,000 customers in the UK” or “Supplying widgets to the UK engineering sector for 25 years”.

First impressions are everything, and you have just a couple of seconds to convince skeptical prospects who haven’t heard of you before that they’ve just made a great discovery.

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