The Billboard Effect: Why your website is an expensive failure.

If you feel like your website is just sitting around waiting for a visitor, you too could be suffering from The Billboard Effect. Find out the signs of failure and what you can do to save it.  

Often websites are sold & built with the promise of professional design, cutting edge functionality, mobile-responsive layouts & SEO optimised content. All of this is 100% super important (which is why we offer it too).


If this is where the list of inclusions ends, you’ve essentially paid for a digital billboard, and potentially wasted your money.


Because unless your target market happens to be scrolling (“driving”) past your site in a list of search results, they won’t see it.


Picture this:

You’re a new cafe in town, and you want all the mums & dads in the area to get their daily cup of I-didn’t-get-enough-sleep-last-night from you as they do the daily school run (nice & specific). So you sell off a few internal organs to invest in a monster billboard on the main road going through your town. It’s well designed, it’s got a great headline & a spot-on image to go with it.

Best. Billboard. Ever.

Make it rain.

And yet...

Where’s the rush? Where’s the frenzied, caffeine-addicted mob? Where’s the crowd climbing over each other to get their hands on your life-giving coffee?
What you didn’t account for is this:

  • Local parents want to avoid traffic, so they take the back streets to steer clear of the main road
  • Some of the parents have set up car-pooling, which means some only have to do the school run once or twice a week
  • A lot of the local kids catch the bus, taking mums & dads out of the equation altogether
  • There are 5 day care centres, 3 primary schools & 2 high schools in your area, all spread out along different routes, some of which can be accessed without going anywhere near the main road.

Your billboard, amazeballs as it is, has zero understanding of your target audience, puts zero effort into seeking out potential clients & offers zero reasons to choose you over your competition.

That’s three zeros. 000.

(By no coincidence, that’s the same as the emergency services phone number.)

The same applies to your website.

It will never attract the attention it needs if it doesn’t fit within a strategy that

  • understands your target audience on a deeper level
  • actively pursues them (as opposed to just waiting for them to arrive) and
  • gives them a reason to sample your products & services.


So what can you do?

Your website strategy needs to address 3 keys areas to set itself up for success:

1. Have a clear target market

REALLY get to know your audience.

Create a clear image of who it is you’re talking to, beyond the obvious. What kind of work do they do? What are they up to on weekends? What family activities do they enjoy? Whilst this might seem irrelevant at first, the action steps you take later are built upon your in-depth knowledge of your target market.

Cafe example: mums & dads (age: early 30s - early 40s) with 2-3 children (age: 4-12) with office jobs in the CBD of town. Their workplaces are generally 10-20 staff members. Kids play sport on the weekend. Family loves bike riding, enjoy the local park’s new upgraded bike trails.

Be aware of their needs.

Now that you know more about their lifestyle, what are their needs? What are frustrations & ambitions? What do their day-to-day lives lack that would bring them more peace, more happiness, more time? Again, you might feel like you’ve strayed from the beaten track, but this line of thinking circles back to speaking their language and creating solutions that really get them.

Cafe example: between getting kids ready, morning traffic & making work on time, there is no chance to grab a coffee on the way. By the time they get on top of work, it’s already early afternoon and that magic coffee hour has long passed. On weekends, they’re at soccer/netball/footy and the canteen coffee is pretty awful.

Let them know you get it.

Use this understanding to revamp your website copy (the written content of your site). Talk about them, show that you know what they're up against and you've got a solution ready just for them.

Cafe example: create a catchy headline on your homepage like ‘Drop in to Cafe123 for your morning chaos cure-all. Extra hot. To go.” followed by a button that clicks through to your location on Google Maps. Or try “Off to a rough start? Cafe123 has your morning meltdown fixer-upper. With chocolate on top - don’t worry, we get it.” Imagine seeing that as a caffeine-deprived working parent?


2. Give them a reason to give you a go

Be the solution.

Now that you know who you’re talking to and what their needs are, think about solutions you can offer them within the capacity of your business. This will evolve into a reason to give you a go.

Cafe example: work with local office staff to create a coffee-carpool offer. Make it super easy for everyone to get their orders in ahead of schedule through your website, nominate a pick-up time, and staff can take turns on the pick up. Include discounts for bulk orders to encourage everyone to get involved.

Good karma - be generous.

Think outside the box and be generous with your solutions (well, as generous as you can without breaking the bank). Your goodwill will speak volumes without seeming sleazy & salesy.


3. Get out there

Find their natural habitat.

Circling back to your target market again, think about where they are, what they look at & what they do. This becomes a list of options for getting their attention. Imagine what their day looks like, and be creative about where you can conveniently make an appearance.

Cafe example: they check Facebook during their breaks, so run a Facebook Ad Campaign boosted to your target audience in your local area. They might go to the gym after work, so ask your local fitness centres if you can leave flyers somewhere prominent. Sponsor a local sports team to have your logo on shirts all weekend. All roads should lead back to your website for more information & to take action.

Cast a wide net.

Don’t rely on one means of finding you. Like in the example above, think about digital (Facebook, Instagram, emails with links), print (flyers, loyalty cards) and practical (sponsorships & events) to get your brand noticed & get potential clients heading online to find out more.

Don’t be a salesman. Be a mate.

In everything that you write/say/do, be passionate and eager to help. We can all sniff out a sales pitch from a mile away, so truly want to help your target market - your sincerity will shine through where sales tricks fall short.


What’s all this got to do with my website?

Your website should be the focal point of all these endeavours. If you run a Facebook campaign, it should link back to your site for more details. A flyer should give enough to introduce a promotion & direct the reader to your site for further information. Solutions like order forms, downloads & tutorials should be hosted on your website.

Your website shouldn’t be a billboard you drive past. It should be the destination.


Your next move

If you’ve just invested in a website and are starting to think it’s actually a digital billboard, don’t despair! This isn’t rocket science; this is about taking the time to understand

  • who you’re talking to
  • what problems you can solve and
  • where you can find them to let them know

Your web designer should be able to assist you with tweaking your website text to align with your new direction. (If they’ve gone MIA, we’re happy to give you a hand.) From there, it’s about taking action based on what you now know of your target market and being there to serve them a hot cup of we-got-you-covered when they walk in the door.

About the Author: Meredith Heeley is the Lead Designer, Web & Marketing Strategist for UpBound. Need a hand with your website & marketing strategy? Get in touch & let's get started.

Kyle BrownUpBound