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I run into a lot of confusion about websites. Especially among those who sell services.

I talk to some professionals who are so focused — if not obsessed — with SEO’ing their sites that they focus on little else. (A big mistake.)

I chat with others who create sites that look like resumes. (A bigger mistake.)

And still others who have websites that look like they were made with cheap templates — because they probably were made with cheap templates! (The biggest mistake of all.)

I talked about this recently in a webinar I did for American Writers & Artists Inc. The audience were mainly freelance copywriters, but the information I gave is equally applicable to designers, consultants, executive coaches and anyone else who provides a business service.

There’s a lot your website needs to do. As my friend and marketing great, Dianna Huff, says, “All roads lead to your website.”

But  there are two things your website absolutely must do. And if they don’t do these two things, your business will suffer as a result.  

The #1 thing your website must do is get prospects to contact you.

According to several studies in professional services marketing, approximately two-thirds of prospects will visit your website to “check you out” before calling or emailing you to discuss a need.

Think about that. These are prospects who have already found out about your services somehow — and perhaps have even been referred to you by someone they trust. Yet, two out of three will want to pre-qualify you first. How? By reviewing your website.

And if they’re not impressed, they will not contact you.

So your website must do an effective job at what we marketers call “conversion”. That is, converting the interest that a prospect has in your services to a phone call or email to you to discuss a potential project.

Ideally, you want prospects who visit your website to think, “Yes, I’m definitely in the right place. This copywriter is obviously the person I need to talk to about this project.”

The #2 thing your website needs to do is capture leads

You’re not going to like this statistic . . .

Studies show that 80% of potential clients who visit your site are not in a position to hire you yet — no matter how impressed they are with you and your services.

There are two reasons for this.

First, they may not have a specific need at that moment. They just want to find out more about your services in case something comes up down the road.

Second, they may want to get to know you better before they contact you to discuss a project or other need. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame often says that many prospects need to get to “know, like and trust” you before they feel comfortable contacting you.

The problem is, if you don’t have the name and email addresses of these prospects, you have no way of staying in touch and building these relationships.

That’s why having a sign-up form of some kind . . .  for your e-newsletter, special report, or other compelling information offer . . .  is so important.

This “80% club”, as I like to call them, represents your BEST source of future new business.  If you’re not capturing their contact information and staying in touch with these prospects, you’re losing a lot of opportunities for new clients and projects.

So those are the two most important things your website needs to accomplish: Get prospects to contact you. And capture leads.

Now take a good, honest look at your website. Does it do a good job of educating prospects on your services and motivating them to contact you? Does it have a mechanism for capturing leads so you can stay in touch with prospects over the long term?

If your website can just do those two things well, your business is in pretty good shape.