Building your web site

Trust is the key to whether prospective clients race past your site or stay on it. Most visitors want to see evidence that you have a trustworthy site, even if they haven't read its content.

A study by Princeton Survey Research Associates2 indicated that only 29 percent of Internet users trust Web sites that sell products or services. Compare that with the 58 percent of survey respondents who trust newspaper and television news, and the 47 percent who trust the federal government. Since 80 percent of Web users believe it is "very important to be able to trust the information on a Web site," trust must be a major design component in every page you publish.

Seven guidelines will help make visitors comfortable with your site and your practice:

1. Clearly state your privacy policy.

2. Give access to visitors' e-mail addresses only to editors and others involved in creating and maintaining the site.

Guerrilla Tactic: Syndicate Your Content

Draw potential clients to your Web site by syndicating the headlines of your zine, blogs, and other site content. All you need to do is add a small bit of computer code to your site and summarize your important content, and those headlines will be picked up by news syndication services called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Web-based news aggregators sweep sites with RSS and deliver headlines to readers who have requested information on specific topics.

RSS is a spam-free, filter-free way to let interested readers know what is on your Web site. MarketingSherpa.com points out that the 250,000 people now using RSS are ". . . active information-seekers, not passive e-mail readers. And, their numbers will grow rapidly as RSS becomes more user-friendly and as more people get fed up with spam and irrelevant e-mail."

Here are two sources for further details on RSS: NewsGator (www.newsgator.com) and Bloglines (www.bloglines.com). The technology and services for RSS are changing rapidly. To read up on the subject, you can type "RSS" into your Web browser and take it from there.

3. If advertising is on the site, prominently label it as such.

4. Describe any financial relationships you have with other firms, organizations, or vendors.

5. Provide sources for research and links to source documents, if possible.

6. List those responsible for the creation of site content.

7. Promptly correct errors in a prominent place on the site.

Don't expect to impress visitors if your site is little more than an online telephone book or a sales brochure. The clients you hope to attract and the peers you want to impress are savvy businesspeople, and they want solid information. Don't waste their time with marketing babble.

Guerrilla Tactic: Can Your Web Site Pass the FlVE-CLlENT TEST?

Before you release your site to the public, ask five of your clients to review it. Ask them to be brutally honest (well, maybe constructively critical) in their reviews and to answer these seven questions:

1. What is distinctive about the site?

2. Is the content valuable?

3. Does the site convey a clear understanding of what your consultancy does?

4. Would the site's content be helpful in addressing clients' issues?

5. Is it focused on clients' needs?

6. Would you bookmark the site?

7. Would it encourage you to call?

The results of the client reviews will tell you how to make your site an effective marketing tool. Repeat the test at regular intervals to be sure your site stays fresh and relevant.

Remember that guerrilla clients demand more. They want professional sites that give them solid information about who you are, what you do, how you think and, most importantly, how you can benefit them. Providing anything less on your Web site will eliminate you from their list of candidates for their consulting projects.

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