You’ve finally done it — After much deliberation, and ‘should you/shouldn’t you’ discussion, you’re taking the plunge to get a new website. Congrats!
Maybe it’s your very first site. Maybe it’s a complete redesign of your current one. It’s a big job either way and you want it to go as smoothly and simply as possible. With that in mind — whether you’re doing it yourself or paying a professional to do it for you — here are 6 things for you to prepare before you get to designing.
1. Fabulous photos
We have an entire blog post on what sort of photos work best for your website and why your usual snaps won’t — no matter how awesome they are.
However, here are some additional things to consider when you’re having photos taken for your marketing material (including your new website).
Image is everything
The easiest way to make your marketing and website look polished, professional and cohesive is to wear your brand colors in your photos. If you have a branded uniform — polo shirt, sweatshirt, cap, etc., wear it for the photoshoot. If you don’t, wear an item of clothing that’s as close as you can get. For example, if one of your colors is purple, wear a purple top or hat.
Alternatively, if you can’t find something for you to wear, have your dog wear a bandana or jacket that matches your colors.
The idea is to have something that ties the photo in with the brand colors of the site. Obviously don’t over do it! If both you and your dog are decked out head to toe in your brand colors that might look just a little contrived.
Every picture tells a story
What do your clients dream of doing with their dog? If you can depict their dreams visually your site will pack a far more emotional punch.
Work mainly with families? Show pictures of happy families having fun with the family pet. Sports dogs? Have flashy ‘action’ shots of dogs and their people doing the sport you specialize in coaching.
A nice touch is to ask previous clients if you can have (and use) some photos of them and their dogs doing fun stuff, or just relaxing together.
(Remember you always need written permission to use photos taken by other people. You don’t want to find yourself having to swap out a bunch of pictures because someone didn’t fully understand what you wanted to do with them.)
2. Refresh your own bio
I know, I know. Writing about yourself is hard and it sucks. But if you’re going to be in business it has to be done! Your clients are going to want to know who you are and what you stand for.
Because this is a task that almost everyone loathes, it makes sense to get it out the way well before it’s going to be needed for your new site.
You don’t have to start completely from scratch. Look over your previous bios, any material you’ve had to write introducing yourself in other contexts, your CV, whatever you can find. You can even ask friends for inspiration if you’re really stuck!
Think about the credentials and values that you want your clients to know about. What information about yourself do you want to share and how do you want people to view you in your business?
Don’t try and write the whole thing straight away — it’ll morph into a nightmare very quickly. Instead, jot down bullet points. Use these as a framework so you can keep your bio lean and focused. You can read more on About Pages here.
3. Deep dive on features vs benefits
As dog trainers, the benefits of what we do are crystal clear to us! Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for our clients.
You can speed up the copywriting process for your service pages by first taking a deep dive into the features vs benefits of what you have to offer. First, grab a sheet of paper. At the top write the name of one of your classes, programs, or services. Underneath this draw a line down the middle of the page. On one side write “features” at the top, on the other write “benefits”.
Now list all the skills you teach in that class, program, or service. Note the focus of the class — what are you working to achieve? If you do weekly classes, what do you usually cover each week?
Next, alongside each skill, write WHY you teach it and how it benefits the client. You understand why teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash is important, but your client may not. Be explicit!
- Why teach loose leash walking? Because walking on a loose leash is more comfortable for both human and dog, which results in more frequent, more relaxed walks.
- Why teach ‘leave it’ to a pet dog? In case someone drops something toxic or dangerous, such as medication or a cooked chicken bone; the dog can be asked not to grab it.
- Why focus on foundation skills in a dog sport? So that the dog and handler team learn what they need the right way the first time; avoiding do-overs when the competition requirements become more complex.
You don’t need to stress over the wording at this stage, just get the ideas and topics down on paper to be crafted later. Just remember not to use jargon. Clients might be interested in your methodology but they won’t be looking to get a science degree!
4. Should you show your pricing on your new website?
Well, that depends…
First, what’s everyone else in your area doing? If everyone else has their prices on their website, then so should you — you don’t want to be the odd one out.
However, in general, for private lessons or in-home programs, it’s best not to list your prices. You want people to contact you rather than decide on the spot that you’re too expensive. Prospective clients won’t instantly understand what they get for their money or why the financial investment is worth it. To make the sale your best bet is actually talking to them.
Conversely, for group classes, do list your prices. No one has the time to hold sales calls with every individual who’s interested in signing up for a class!
5. How do you want people to get in touch?
If you’re already in business you already have a process for how prospective clients can reach out to you. Make a note of what you currently have in place.
Is it working well for you? This is the stage where you can troubleshoot your current process and decide to either keep it or tweak it.
So, if at the moment people typically call you, make sure your phone number will be easy to find on every page of your site. If you prefer email, again make sure your email address will be easy to find. Perhaps you’d like them to use a contact form, messenger app, or a booking tool such as Acuity.
Whatever your process, make sure it’s going to be clear on your site. And that means making sure your ‘contact’ buttons clearly tell people what you’d like them to do. You can read more about effective Calls to Action in this post.
If you want to use a contact form, plan for its creation and inclusion — where do you want it? On a separate ‘contact us’ page? At the bottom of each service page?
Make sure you’re clear on what your contact process will be, otherwise your clients are bound to be confused — and unlikely to bother getting in touch at all.
6. Use a professional-looking email address
If you’re creating a website, you have a domain name, right? If you have a domain name and hosting you’ll also undoubtedly have a custom email address in the form of firstname.lastname@example.org (or something similar).
It makes a huge difference to how professional you look if you use your custom email rather than an email app account such as email@example.com, hotmail.com or yahoo.com.
If you prefer to use your app account, rather than the free custom account your hosting company gives you (and let’s be honest, they’re sometimes not very user friendly) you can set up your custom account so you’re using a firstname.lastname@example.org account, but it’s pulling in all of your email from your custom email address and sending from your custom email address. More on setting this up in a future blog post!
Why bother with prep?
You might be thinking “Wow, that’s a lot of hard work before I even get started! Maybe I’ll just wing it as I go.”
And you can totally do that if you want. (But for the sake of your sanity I wouldn’t recommend it. Been there, done that. Not pretty!)
Creating a great website is complex. And, just like training a dog to do a complex behavior or task, it’s MUCH easier to achieve your goal without overwhelm if you get the foundations in place first — then create your masterpiece by bringing it all together.
Want to build your website from the ground up yourself but don’t know where to start? Check out Melissa’s FDSA class The Business End of the Dog – Building a WordPress Website.