If you’re withholding access to your website, demanding information from visitors or otherwise annoying them, you must know that you’re doing your brand a massive disservice.

I’ve seen this done in a number of ways and for a number of purposes. Maybe a brand wants to get its newsletter into the hands of more potential customers, so they demand email addresses before access to the website is granted. Another brand might be desperate to create recurring income, so they decide to charge a monthly subscription fee for content that is neither exclusive nor relevant. And maybe the most common: pop-up ads bullying visitors into handing over their contact details in exchange for a peaceful stroll through the site.

website-adviceThere’s nothing wrong with subscription services; in fact, I recommend them for creating passive income and for increasing brand equity (value). However, you must give your customers something of value first. Publishing teasers on social media or in emails, and then hiding your entire website from anyone not paying the subscription is just bad business. You must give freely in order to freely receive.

So how can you create that recurring income, or gather those contact details, without offending or taking advantage of your ideal customers?

Rule number one has to be Quality over Quantity. Not every visitor to your website will be your ideal customer. In fact, many of them will land there by accident. Asking everyone to join your mailing list will not only disappoint them, it will muddy your effectiveness when you later attempt to communicate with these people.

I always suggest focussing solely on your ideal customer’s needs, and show that you understand him or her through every piece of content on your website. Give freely of advice. Offer wisdom and intellectual property that is relevant to their plight. In short, make them want more, so they’ll look for ways to get it. Publish your SUBSCRIBE button, and lead them to it with strategically placed, provocative calls-to-action, without shoving it down their throats.

Rule number two would have to be Keep it Human. Banners, pop-up ads, gates, exit stops, and other robotic tactics leave your website’s visitors feeling unimportant…as if they’re being treated like nothing more than another number for your list. Instead, show people that you have the intention of building personalised business relationships by starting out that way. Invite comments, conversation and interaction. Really dig in and get personal, particularly if you own a consultancy-type business. Do this right, and you won’t have to bully anyone into giving you their contact information. They’ll practically offer it up.

Rule number three is Personalisation. This can come in a lot of forms, including website content delivered according to geography (based on IP addresses), pages aimed at different stages (e.g. advanced, intermediate, beginner), and list placement based on click history. It also comes in the form of attitude toward each click, lead and enquiry. Your website is your brand’s welcome mat, and when anyone interacts with it or through it, it’s up to you to make that person feel like a unique individual, in the way you respond and serve them from that point forward.

Rule number four is Website First, Profit Second. Your job as a brand builder is to serve, above all. Do this right, do it as a first order of business, and the sales will follow. Too many people who build websites focus primarily on selling, before they’ve even won over their ideal customers. Remember that your website is, essentially, a replacement for your physical store. Hold the door for them. Welcome them. Ask them how they’re doing and about what problems they need help with. This isn’t just your website—it’s your business. Don’t blow it by going too hard, too fast.

We love our websites. They gather contact information, track consumer behaviour, make conversions and take orders whilst we sleep. However, that’s not the starting point. That’s the result.

This is a give-before-you-get proposition. Speak directly to your target audience through your website. Make it clear, from the start, that you intend to help them without expectation of return. Demonstrate your expertise. Show them how much you love what you do, and maybe even reveal just how much fun you’re having. And then, when you establish that deep, human connection with them…answer all their questions about how they can move forward with your brand.

Have questions regarding branding, marketing or sales? Want to know how you can enhance these areas, so your business can thrive? Then it’s time to look into the B.R.A.N.D. Building Bootcamp, a one-day event hosted by me, Sammy Blindell, which will teach you the three strategies that Miles and I used to take our business from £0 to £18,000 in only 12 weeks. Learn more here.

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