I had this client — I swear, she has more energy than anyone else I know. I told her she needed to market whatever her secret was for that. Those little energy supplement who-knows-what’s-really-in-it things have nothing on her.

But this is not about her energy, however superhuman it may be.

It’s about how when she first started working with me, she was doing great with people in person, from the stage, on the phone…

So far so good…

But for some reason, she said, her website was like customer-repellant. She wondered why that might be.

She was branding herself as an expert in a very small niche with a very specific focus. She had some fairly high level packages and products with correspondingly high price points.

Selling ’em wasn’t her issue, unless people went to her website. If they’d buy from her without going to her site, it was fine. If they went to her site first, no sale. So clearly, the site was a problem.

I popped over to her site, and the answer was immediately obvious.

The website was a freebie site. And it looked like it.

You know the kind — it’s free to sign up, anyone can do it, no techy knowledge required.

The domain will be something like mydomain.freesite.com and there might be ads in the sidebar or footer that you can’t control, and you have limited control over the appearance of the site…

That’s where this highly-niched expert had set up her online homebase, all for the sake of saving a few bucks so she wouldn’t have to pay someone to set up a non-freebie website for her.

Happens all the time. A hopeful entrepreneur will spend a few grand on an info product about starting her business, but then try to skimp on the costs of actually starting the business, like the website.

File under “Decisions, Unwise.”

Anyway, here’s an easy way to tell whether a freebie site is right for you:

Freebie sites are good if — and only if — what you’re doing online is also free.

If you hope to earn money from what you’re doing online, freebie sites are not for you.

“But isn’t there an exception?” Sure. Here’s your exception: If you say you want to earn money from your online business but you actually do not want to earn money, then freebie sites are fine.

Attachment to the freebie site is a good gauge of business longevity.

Many of us (me included) started with a freebie site, often because we just didn’t know any other way to get started.

What we do once we realize there is a better way available, though, gives a good indication as to the likelihood of our business’ longevity.

Entrepreneurs willing to leave the freebie site in favor of a real web solution are promising. Their businesses are far more likely to be around and making strides in 12 to 18 months.

Entrepreneurs who insist on staying with the freebie sites because they’re cheap and easy are red flags. Their businesses typically wind up dead in the water within a few months. (Their websites may stay up much longer than that because, hey, they’re free after all… but their businesses are long dead.)

Here’s the deal: freebie sites confuse your would-be customers, and confused minds do not buy.

On the one hand, you’re offering a product or service that’s supposed to be valuable to the customer in some way.

But on the other hand your cheap ‘n easy website is a big neon sign proclaiming, “I’m new here! I barely know what I’m doing!”

On the one hand, your cheap ‘n easy website is delivering the clear message, “I did not part with MY money to ensure a clear and cohesive experience for you, my customer, the person I’m purporting to want to serve and help.”

But on the other hand, you’re saying, “…But I sure do hope this cheap ‘n easy website convinces you to give me some of YOUR money!”

You’re repeatedly delivering conflicting messages to your prospective customers. And as the marketing principle states, “A confused mind says no.”

Using a cheap ‘n easy site to “save money” makes it harder for your business to make money.

You put a barrier between your product or service and the people you’re trying to serve.

The “cheap and easy” freebie site winds up costing you time, money, and customers, in the long run.

It’s a bit like setting up a lemonade stand in your front yard and trying to convince people that you’re running a serious business from it. Your words say “expert-level business,” but your environment says you’re not serious about it.

Your website must match the message you’re sending your customers. If you’re telling them “Expert,” your website needs to tell them that too.

A freebie, cheap ‘n easy site just doesn’t cut it.

For my super-energy client, I helped her scope out what she’d need so she could hire a good graphic & web design team, with the goal of getting her online homebase to match her brand, message, and expertise. She did.

A few months down the road, with her new online branding launched, she saw her online conversion rates leap and continue climbing.

Once the message her prospective customers were getting matched the website they were visiting, they weren’t confused anymore.

That cheap ‘n easy freebie site was no longer standing in between my client and her customers’ ability to say YES to what she was offering.

If you want your customers to view you as an expert, to trust you and the products you create, to believe in you and the services you offer them, then your message and your online environment need to match.

Speaking of energy, I have four dogs with too much of it, so I think it’s time to head outside for a game of fetch.

To your well-matched message and online homebase,
Marissa

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