Editor's note: "The First 90 Days" is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you're making the First 90 Days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.​

When a company is just starting out, it's OK to have an amateurish website. Once you're established, however, you need a site that both reflects your current success and positions you for further growth.

Here's a step-by-step method to make your website pack more punch.

1. Select a web strategy that matches your business model.

The most common problem with small business websites is that they pursue a strategy that doesn't match their business model.

There are four types of commercial websites:

  1. Media. Provides content to sell advertising.
  2. Catalog. Presents product for purchase online.
  3. Lead-gen. Gathers data to identify potential sales leads.
  4. Brochure. Provides credibility when potential customers "vet."

With Media and Catalog sites, the website is the business. To support that business model, the website must provide as much content as possible to generate as much traffic as possible. This post doesn't address this strategy.

With Lead-gen and Brochure sites, the website supports the business. The best strategy is to streamline the site so that it gathers customer information more quickly and easily. That's what this post is about.

2. Rewrite your topline message to address customer needs.

The home page or top portion of most business sites explain what the company does, what products and services it offers, when it was founded, and who founded it.

This forces the customer to go through the mental effort of mapping that information into what they feel they need to achieve their goals. Many customers won't bother.

Make your website immediately more meaningful to customers by changing your top line message so that it describes how the customer will benefit once he or she has purchased your product or service.

Wrong: "ZYX Solutions creates state-of-the-art, platform-agnostic video presentations that can be tracked by access type to specific demographics. Founded in 2007, we have experience working with technology companies to activate their go-to-market strategy."

Right: "ZYX Solutions helps you build your brand by creating viral videos that customers can view on their phones and computers."

3. Replace self-praise with testimonials.

It's a common misconception that customers believe you are "the best" when you claim to be "the best." In fact, when companies praise themselves, customers are unimpressed at best (as it were) and skeptical at worst.

Rather than make unsubstantiated claims about your company, have your clients provide testimonials to your ability to deliver and delight. For maximum effect, place the testimonials immediately under your top line message.

4. Create a single call-to-action.

Media and Catalog sites want customers to view as many pages as possible, either to see ads or to purchase products. Such sites therefore have plenty of places to click.

Lead-gen and Brochure sites are the exact opposite. You don't want customers to wander around. Instead, you want them to take action that either identifies them as sales leads (Lead-gen) or tells you that the customer has visited (Brochure).

In this case, you should have a prominent call-to-action, like a try-before-you-buy offer, a free eBook, a contest, etc. that allows you to harvest information about the visitors to your website.

5. Reduce the amount of content.

For Media and Catalog sites, content is king. The more content you have, the more money you make.

That's not true for Lead-gen and Brochure sites. While you must include enough content to induce a customer to take action, providing too much information will distract the customer from taking action.

A "content-rich" website is like a spray-and-pray sales presentation. All it does is make whatever you're selling seem more complex and even boring.

6. Simplify the navigation choices.

As you eliminate content, make your website easier to navigate by removing menu choices, especially at the top of your home page. Remember: You want the customer to follow your call-to-action rather than browse around and get bored.

Put all the corporate stuff (like "press room," "management team," "job opportunities," etc.) at the bottom of the home page in little tiny letters. Those who care about such things will find them.

7. Eliminate the stock photography.

On a website, nothing says "Boring!" more than cheesy stock photos of models pretending to be at work.

You know what I'm talking: the smiling call-center blonde with a headset, the racially diverse group sitting at a conference table, the handshake shot with perfect coat-cuffs, etc.

Such photographs are the visual equivalent of biz-blab. They add nothing, so just delete them.

Published on: Jan 5, 2016