A Conversion Question: Do your clients really need a web site?


stop-think about conversionGive me a second…don’t bolt.

I know, I know – you’re wondering if I’ve lost my head. After all, I write about WordPress all the time, so why would I be asking such a silly question. But there’s a reason for my crazy talk here. So work with me.

“I need a web site”

I want to introduce you to one of my failed projects.

mechanics-need-conversionThe guy was the best mechanic in a 40 mile radius. But he had no web site. Someone told him he needed one and so they sent me his way.

You can see it, can’t you? I was walking onto the grounds where guys fix cars. I know nothing about cars. I was shaking the hand of someone who uses his hands – and suddenly my shake felt weak and ineffective. I was a fish out of water.


But this guy was a fish out of water in my world. He didn’t know a thing about the web. But he’d been told he was losing business without a site, so he was ready to pay for one. His first question? Price.

When you interact with people who actually build, fix, or make stuff, and they ask you about price, know this: they’re going to think about your price in their terms (like 4 pairs of brakes fixed). So be ready to articulate value.


But here’s the other thing I wasn’t ready for. They won’t spend money just because someone told them to. They want to know what they’ll get for it. I don’t mean wishy washy benefits, I mean specifics. How would I impact their business? By what percentage?

Until that day, I don’t think I’d worked in a situation where it sounded like I needed to give a guarantee.

Until that day, I don’t think I’d worked in a situation where software had to deliver actual, real, serious results.

So I over-promised. I know, bad idea. But I figure you’ll learn more from the truth. :)

The Failure

In those days, I was unused to those kinds of questions. It was the early days of the web and people were just paying money to get on the information superhighway. Yes, we used to call it that.

Today, almost every client wants to know the value and benefit of the work they’re going to pay for.

And yet, the story didn’t end well. Not because I didn’t create a web site. Not because I didn’t get paid. I did – I built a site, launched it, and he was happy and paid me.

But the results never materialized. And I was scared to call him back, ever again. Or reference him, or anything else.

Here’s the reality of the situation

Why did I tell you a quick story about an early failure? Especially when times today are so different?

Because in some ways, they’re not so different. I’m seeing people spend money the wrong way again. Only this time, I don’t see a lot of folks stopping their clients from these mistakes.

That’s why I’m asking the question.

Let me put it this way

Does it matter if your client get’s to page one of Google, if the traffic on their site doesn’t convert?

Does it matter if your client pays for a custom design, if the traffic on their site doesn’t convert?

Without conversion, it’s all wasted money.

So why are people spending money on design and on SEO before articulating specific goals, specific criteria for conversion, and then measuring every bit of their investment based on the movement towards those goals?

What if?

What if you were the person or company that stopped your client (or prospect) to ask them questions about conversion? What if you were the one to challenge their investments to see if they really needed a web site.

What if they just needed a landing page and email solution, like the one from kickoff labs? They’d be able to tell if their offer was converting, right?

Or if they did need a web site, what if you started, not by talking about the design of their web site, but instead about the goals of the site, from the conversion perspective?

The folks at Bourn Creative do this very thing and have more work coming at them than they know what to do with (trust me, I’m getting in line)!

If I had to do it all over again…

If I could go back to that first meeting with my old mechanic friend, I’d ask a lot more questions, find out a lot more about how his current leads were coming in, and offer the simplest of all solutions.

Then I’d test a landing page approach.

Then I’d test a microsite approach.

Then I’d test a WordPress site approach.

Then I might invite him to write more.

But you know what? We might never get past the landing page, because this particular guy was well known. And simply having the right domain, and a single page to help with conversion might be all he ever needed.

But I can’t go back. I’ve moved on. We all have. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the past and act smarter now.

Start talking about conversion metrics.

About This Site

This site is hosted by Pagely - running on Amazon's hardware, making it lightning fast. They're a managed WordPress host which means they take care of my site so I don't have to. Starting at $24/month, this may be the perfect solution for you too.


  1. Great article and in point. We always respond to a client that was told they needed a website with “why?” Tell us why you think you need a website and we can go from there, then we look at the reality of the request and try to approach it all with a pragmatic point of view, much like you say. But I’d have to disagree on the “landing page is enough” kind of thing. I strongly believe that everyone needs a multi-page website that is able to inform and sell the service/product. A landing page doesn’t cut it anymore, but the full fledged site needs to have a solid strategy, milestones and goals with it. — Great post as always.

  2. Love it Chris
    Just given you a shoutout on #genesiswp.

    “Then I might invite him to write more.” – never going to happen.
    Never had a single client who was interested in writing… not a single client.

  3. Kathy says:

    Thank you, Chris! I loved this entry and follow your blog regularly. Your information is priceless! Thank you for providing this service.

    I’m a bit of a newbie to web design and would love to follow this advice as I move forward. I know this is a BIG question, but what does lead to higher conversion rates? I know a well-built, well-organized, user-friendly site is key, along with all the proper SEO (which seems to change daily) all are basic answers. I’ve not got a marketing background but it seems I should start moving in that direction. Any resources you could steer me toward would be much appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>