Want More Business? Think More Strategically About Your Website

Want more business? In this episode, I speak with web designer and strategist Christina Petrie. She has a unique perspective and a diverse background in software development, teaching, project management, photography, and a Masters in Business Administration. She shares her tips for generating more leads with your website.

She stumbled into her career while searching for a job and friends, and family kept asking her to fix their terrible websites. She quickly realized the potential to help them understand what they were missing and to help them start fresh with a website that would convert customers and generate value.

When she’s not designing awesome websites and helping clients grow their business, you can find her trail running in one of my favorite places – Seattle, taking a group fitness class, reading a book, listening to podcasts, or spending time with the people she loves.

This episode is jam-packed with her tips for overcoming limiting beliefs, getting up the courage to put yourself out there authentically on your website, what your website should do for your business, and the questions you should ask a web designer before you work with them. We also talk about:

  • The three keys to building a strategic website that leads to new business
  • The questions you should ask when choosing a web designer, and the questions they should be asking you
  • How she overcame her own limiting beliefs and learned to put herself out there more authentically
  • Her tips for how to make your website stand out from the competition

“I call myself a web designer and strategist because the strategy is the critical part. You have to have total clarity around your business before you build your website. That strategy is going to dictate that web design. That’s where the magic happens. That’s how you build a website that will build your business.”

Resources from this episode:

Accelerate lasting success through harmony of mind, body, soul, and business


JM: Hi Christina, how are you?

CP: I’m good, Jennifer. How are you?

JM: I’m so good. I am really happy to talk with you because you have really important expertise that I think a lot of business owners want to understand. It’s kind of like social media, website development is that thing where there are so many people out there who say they do it and yet for some reason it’s so difficult to find somebody who actually knows what they’re doing. I can’t wait to pick your brain, tell us a little bit more about what you do.

CP: Wow. Basically I build website and then I go on to support my clients by maintaining and making any changes that are necessary to the website. I also take on clients if they have big projects that they want to do on their website, make changes to it. I do that as well.

JM: That’s so awesome. And you are in one of my favorite cities, obviously, I love my hometown, I’m based in Phoenix, Arizona but you’re in Seattle which is my next favorite place to be, how did you get started in your business? What kind of drew you to website development?

CP: Wow, that’s a great question. Years ago, I worked for a software company, I was in software development and took some time off. Then when I came back, I went back to school and got my degree in web development, basically all the programming languages that are specific to developing websites. While I was taking that program, I took a class on how to build WordPress websites. I’ll tell you, it’s just like this light bulb went off. I have an MBA so for me it was like the perfect melding of business and technology and combining the two. I just kind of saw the power in being able to take this technology and be able to use it to build your business.

But the funny story, being in Seattle, there are so much technology out there, there’s Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Expedia, so say like when you graduate, you’re going to have no problem finding a job and so I graduated, found a job immediately with a six-month contract. Then after that, it was like for six months I kept interviewing and it was like every job I was either overqualified, underqualified, too young, or too old.

JM: You can’t win.

CP: And then people kept asking me like, “Hey, I have these problems with my website. Can you fix it?” Then there are some people say after me, “Hey, can you build me a website?” I kept saying, “No, because I’m going to get this perfect job and I don’t want to tie myself up because when the job comes along, I don’t want to leave you stranded.”

After a while, it was like the universe was telling me, “You just got to hang out your own shingles after six months,” what I did is I just hang out my own shingles and it was kind of out of desperation at that point but it was like the best decision I ever made. I just grew up from there and started by fixing websites and then realized that so many of the websites that I was fixing actually are really bad websites and then I just actually do better.

JM: Like, “Why am I just like putting bandaid on this horrible website?”

CP: Exactly, I always felt badly that I was going in and taking this website. It was like putting a bandaid on a bad website so I thought I much better off going in actually building it from scratch or redesigning a website and making a really effective website.

JM: I love that. I love how spontaneous it was. It is funny how sometimes the universe conspires for us and when you’re looking for a job and there’s all these available business. I do have one quick question, I personally also prefer WordPress. I am by no stretch of the imagination a website developer, I know enough to be dangerous at this point but, my first company is a social media company. We dabble in posting blog posts and changing content and simple things like that. But I, too, prefer WordPress. What is it that you really liked about WordPress? I mean anytime I talk to a client who’s thinking about building a website I tell them, “Go WordPress. It’s just so dead simple like you’ll always be able to find somebody that can help fix it if your web person disappears.” What do you think are the benefits of WordPress and why do you prefer that?

CP: That’s an easy question to answer. It’s because the sky’s the limit with WordPress. As you know WordPress is open source so you can access the code. In terms of functionality and what WordPress is capable of, there’s nothing out there that can compare. If a client comes to me and is not sure, I’ll often ask them to articulate where they want to see their website in five years. And if they see it growing or becoming a more integral part of their business or adding more complex functionality, then I tell them just start with WordPress because Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly, they certainly have their place out there but they’re so much more limited in what you can do because they are self-hosted and because you can’t access the code. That really is the benefit of WordPress.

I think a lot of people start with Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly and then end up having to redo their website as their business grows and as they need to add maybe ecommerce or add some of these more complicated functionalities. It really depends on where you see your website going in five years. If it really is just always going to be just more of a brochure site, Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly are fine. But if you see it growing with your business, then WordPress is definitely the way to go.

JM: That’s awesome. That’s a great explanation. I completely agree with all of that. It’s funny because a lot of times, our clients come to us and they do have one of those websites and then for a while it was like I don’t know, some other one. I mean, you’re right, they all have their own place. But in terms of just that ease of use, being able to start simple, and knowing that in a few years you do want to add something that you can keep building upon it, I really love WordPress.

Let’s talk a little bit about you building your business because you and I, we exchanged some emails ahead of talking today and I know that for you, you realized that limiting beliefs very quickly were going to hold you back. I think so many women entrepreneurs are in that place and some of us are not even aware that we have limiting beliefs. We just think like, “Oh, this sucks. I can’t do this.” So I think to come to that realization that you are dealing with limiting beliefs but then to just say, “I have to have the right mindset. I have to be able to move this forward,” is pretty amazing. It takes a lot of work to get to that place. Talk to me a little bit about how you realize that you were dealing with this limiting beliefs and how you changed that to get into the right mindset for success.

CP: Think of it like peeling an onion. It’s like one of those things where every time I peel back a layer and I’m like, “Oh, yeah, there’s like fifteen layers under.” So I don’t think it’s something you’ve ever fully get to the core of but certainly, if I were to close down my business today, one of the most valuable things that I will have walked away with was really sort of getting to know myself on a deeper level which I think as you know, when you’re in business for yourself, there is just no room for those limiting beliefs. Because you just can’t make it out there if you are going to get stuck with things like, “I’m not worthy,” and issues around money, valuing yourself, putting yourself out there, be vulnerable, overcoming fear, and all of these issues that are going to hold you back or keep you small and not allow you to grow your business if you don’t get to the root of it.

I’ve done it all. I’ve had to delve into, big one for me, and I hear with a lot of my clients is the fear of putting yourself out there, fear of being vulnerable was a big one for me and worrying about what people are going to think if I put myself out there. You just kind of have to let go of it. You can’t get caught up in that. It’s such a crowded market these days and there are so many people out there that your voice is going to get lost if you don’t get past that.

JM: And really put yourself out there. We talk with clients about that all the time and it’s really tough specializing in branding especially for women entrepreneurs is very interesting. There’s a reason that I chose that audience because I know for myself so much of what I teach is because it was trial by fire and the lesson I had to learn. It is so hard about ourselves out there, we are our own worst critics for sure.

But you’re absolutely right, if we don’t get comfortable with, for one, I think being authentic, this whole myth of people show you what they want you to see in social media and this whole myth that we have to compete with everything looking curated, perfect, and photoshopped is bullshit. The future of leadership is really like, “Hey, it’s not all pretty and perfect. This is what I learned from it. This is how we dealt with it. If you want to talk, let’s talk. Leave a comment below. Send me a message.” That to me is the future of leadership is really kind of that authentic real view into somebody’s life and how they are truly building success because it’s not all easy.

I think also just getting comfortable with who we are, the more you kind of work your stuff and process through things and try to live better and better, the more you can just authentically be who you are without trying to fake, curate, or overthink it too much. But that is something certainly that we deal with regularly, “I hate my headshots. I have bad skin today,” like everybody kind of goes through that. I so totally appreciate what you say because you’re right, at this point, unless you are disrupting in industry like you are going to have a lot of competition especially the main channels that everyone is using, it’s all digital, it’s all online so if you don’t put yourself out there, you’re going to get lost.

I love what you say about making sure that you are putting your headshot – you have a great website for this, see yourself, go figure out – you’ve got this great picture, you seem like this cool chick I want to hang out with. You’ve got great messaging on your website and you talk about how you really have to do that to have credibility in this day and age. Talk to me a little bit more about the strategy because that’s what you specialize in. You have this great blog post on your website that talks about the three things that you have to think about when you’re designing a website and clients always are like, “Well, we want this scrolling bar and we want an animation and we want colors and we want fonts,” but you say, “No, there’s really three things that you need to focus on first,” what are they?

CP: Let’s go back to the strategy part because I think that what most people don’t realize is actually building the website is the easy part and the hard part which most people overlook is creating the strategy that’s going to enable your website to be successful. That’s the part that’s the most overlooked because as you said, a lot of people want to start with the fun, sexy stuff like the fonts, the moodboards, and the color palettes. But what they don’t realize is that it’s more than just the design and it’s the strategy behind the design and how you visually communicate with your audience and without that strategy and tension behind your brand in your website, your business is going to fall flat till empty.

I think that in order to have a successful brand or business, you really need the right strategy which connects your big picture to your website. A lot of people tend to think about your website in a box but it’s so integrated with every other aspect of our business and what we do. And I learned the hard way. I spent hours on my first website. I fretted over the fonts, the colors, and my Pinterest mood board. I spent hours and hours on that website. It is a beautiful website but I launched it and it had sort of like visions of clients clamoring for my services, money rolling in, and going from like zero clients to fully booked in two months and all I got was like I had no clients coming to me, it’s not making money.

So that was when I took a step back and I realized that something was missing. I realized that everyone sort of thinks of their website and their business each in their own corner, doing their own thing but the truth that matters like the two is so integrated that you really can’t look at one without looking at the other. I realized that the missing part was really doing a deep dive into my business first and then reflecting those key objectives into my website.

There’s this term out there called like strategic web design and I call myself a web designer and strategist because I think that strategy part, as I was saying, is the critical part. I think that you have to have total clarity around your business before you can build your website. Total clarity around your business is a prerequisite to an effective website because that strategy is what’s going to dictate the web design. So when you have a web design that’s dictated by the strategy, that’s where the magic happens. That’s how you build websites, you’re actually going to build your business. I feel like if you can answer three questions like the three most important questions that you have to ask yourself before you build a website are the following; what is the purpose of your website? Who’s your ideal client? And what makes you unique? You have to have absolute clarity around those three questions before you start building your website.

JM: That is such incredible advice. I will tell you, and maybe that’s because this is what I do in a population that I serve, but oftentimes, the clients that I work with couldn’t answer those questions right off the bat. We have to help them work through that. Do you find that most entrepreneurs have a good handle on it or do you find that oftentimes you’re helping them to work through those three areas?

CP: Absolutely, with every client, I’m helping them work through those three areas. Some have it on some level but I’ll tell you almost a hundred percent of the time, they haven’t gone deep enough, like really deep.

JM: To be able to articulate it.

CP: Yeah, and again there are variations but I would say that it’s rare that a client comes and has that nailed and we’re like, “Okay, let’s go. Let’s just start building the website,” because honestly, it’s like 90% of what I do is getting that part done and then everything else just kind of falls into place once you have that because that’s reflected. Because really you’re not building a website for you, you’re building it for your ideal client. Once you figured that out, then you know the look and feel of the website and the colors and the fonts, all that has to be a reflection of your ideal client and not necessarily what you like and want because that may not be what your ideal client can resonate with.

JM: That is such a great point because a lot of times, I have found that we tend to market to ourselves like the messaging makes sense to us but it doesn’t make sense to the customer. You’re absolutely right. We talk about that a lot in branding because branding has to be authentic to who you are but you have to be able to marry that with the colors, the fonts, the messaging that make sense to your audience. It’s like what is compelling to your audience, what are the emotions that they’re dealing with, what are the pain points and speaking to those.

Then I tell people anytime we deal with any type of design – we do a lot of graphic design – I say, “Hey if you have your brand nailed down, you don’t have to make any of those decisions at that point because it’s done. Everything needs to be cohesive with your brand.” It’s great that we love the rainbow and we want to use all the colors but really it needs to come down to being very clean, branded, and matching that brand that you have developed to marry who you are, how you serve people, and what it is that they need, your audience. I think that’s an excellent point.

In terms of being unique, this is a tough one. The third one is to be unique. I think it is so hard to put ourselves out there and to differentiate ourselves. How do you help your clients, for one I think we have that struggle of putting ourselves out there anyway, that’s hard. Many of us just want to hide, we don’t really want to be on our websites, we don’t want to be in our social media, I don’t want you to look at my pictures, none of that. But not only that but you talk about you also want your clients to put themselves out there in a way that is unique and thinking a little bit bigger and more boldly about their business because they’re promoting themselves on their website. How do you help somebody who is maybe not really sure what differentiates them?

CP: Again, I can’t do the work for them but I certainly can give them questions to think about or things to think about. Because I agree, I think this is maybe fifty years ago, this was less of an issue, not everyone had a website. But these days, everyone has a website. It’s the kind of a really crowded, noisy, competitive online market these days and it’s only getting worse. There’s like two thousand websites being launched everyday or some crazy number. It’s getting increasingly harder to stand out above the noise and to be memorable. You have to make sure that your message gets heard.

I think that more so than ever, the key to attracting more of your ideal clients is stand out from the competition so that you become the obvious choice for the right people. One of the first things I always have clients do as a place to start is to think about the story behind your business, why did you start your business, how did you get to where you are today, you have a unique perspective because of your story even though you do the same thing that a thousand other people do, you do it differently because it’s you.

JM: Oh, that’s great advice.

CP: And your journey and your story make your business unique. Use that to your advantage when you’re figuring out how to position your business and establish your mission.

JM: I love that.

CP: So really what you want to do, and we all do this, let’s say you’re working for a chiropractor, you Google chiropractor Seattle and then you pull out several chiropractors. Then you have to decide between those pre-tabs which chiropractor you’re going to go with. And so if you don’t have that website that’s really clear and resonates with your ideal clients, maybe a chiropractor is not a great choice, but maybe for example someone who does web design, that would be maybe a better example, then they’re going to go with the one that stands out for whatever reason.

JM: The one that resonates with the person who’s looking at it and to take it a step further I think in this day and age. I was looking actually for a naturopath, so it wasn’t a chiropractor but very similar, so I looked at their website but then of course people start trolling like I go see what people say on Yelp, I can look at their social media, when was the last time they posted, what did they post. It’s so important to make sure that not only that, I mean, your website is that beginning of, “Do I even want to look any further?” It’s like I can pull up all these different websites for whatever I’m looking, whatever it is and so I go to the website and there was a statistic I read around just recently, and I don’t remember what the number was, but it was like within just a few seconds, somebody looks at your website and they decide if they want to look further or if they’re going to back out and go back down the list of Google results, search results. So it really is so important to make sure that you are differentiating yourself.

I love the advice of focusing on your story because it’s what makes it unique and to tie it back to the purpose, you can also bring your purpose into that because so many times, our story is mission driven. One of the TED Talks that I love is Simon Sinek’s, I forgot the name of it but it’s about finding your why, we’ll make sure we link to it in the show notes but he talks about the golden circle and how so many people – and this is anywhere in your business, this is website development, this is cold calling somebody, this is email communications – so many of us have a tendency to say what we do, how we do it, and maybe why we do it, I think a lot of people haven’t thought that deeply about it but really we should always start with our why, why we do it, how we do it, and what we do. I think that’s like another opportunity that you can bring into any of your marketing and branding to make sure that you’re coming across this unique, I think it’s great advice to talk about purpose and the story that makes you unique.

CP: And don’t you find that as an entrepreneur too, if you really think about your really big why on those days that when you are ready to throw in the towel, that is what keeps you going and we all have our bigger why.

JM: Absolutely, it’s what makes you resilient.

CP: I think that for me that bigger why is sometimes what keeps me, drives me, and why I just will not give up.

JM: That’s a great point. It’s so funny, we’re like kindred spirits. I can’t wait to meet you in Seattle someday. It’s so funny I’m actually working on a presentation, as of the time of this recording, I have another webinar that I will be teaching tomorrow and then as exactly one of the things we talk about in terms of why it’s so important to understand your purpose or your whys because it keeps you resilient. It’s like when you are having a bad day, you kind of go back to that being mission driven.

So many times it’s not about the money when people start their businesses, it’s because they are mission driven and so it really does help you to get past those bumps in the road when you keep going back to your mission. I love that you say that. I think that’s great. Give us some tips, how can someone who is going through the process of designing a website or having their website redesigned, how can you come across more authentically?

CP: I think that if you do the work, that will just be a byproduct of coming across authentically. I think that so many websites don’t reflect people’s true personalities or don’t resonate with people because they haven’t done the hard work, they haven’t figured it out, answered the hard questions. I think that when you see a really beautiful website or there’s a website that you just sort of resonate with, that probably didn’t happen out of nowhere, there was a lot of hard work that went behind that, does that make sense?

JM: Absolutely, it does. It absolutely does make sense. We have worked with a lot of web designers and web developers over the years. We have tried to vet them for clients and sometimes no matter how well the initial conversations go, they end in like flaming tragedy. There’s just so many people out there that they say they do web development and this has always been like a thorn in my side especially when we’re talking about referring our clients out to somebody. It’s not like my team’s doing it and I have control over the finished product. It seems so difficult to find somebody who is both technically proficient at building the site. But I mean in talking with you, I really am so impressed because you understand branding, positioning piece, and really helping your clients to make sure that they are authentic and differentiating themselves.

What are some of the questions that you would suggest to our audience, so if they’re looking to, obviously, call you, so that’s one good piece of advice but if they are comparing apples to apples and they need to ask a few questions to kind of figure out who they would want to work with, what are some of the questions that you think that they should be asking?

CP: That’s a great question. I like to say that when you are looking for someone who’s going to build your website, you’re really looking for a triple threat. I say that because I think that web design is three parts, it’s technical, it’s business, and it’s marketing. You have to understand all three in order to create a really effective website. I often like to joke that you don’t want to hire just the web designer (and I’m a web designer myself so why do I say that?) The reason I say that is because you really want to hire someone who’s more than just a web designer, you need to hire someone who really understands how your business plugs into the big picture. It’s not like you have your website floating in outer space all by its lonesome, I mean it’s connected to your business and your marketing plan so you really need someone who understands how to do build you a tool that you can leverage to reach your business goals.

To get back, I think there are a few red flags that when you reached out to a web designer, you want someone who’s going to be interested in discovering how your website can best serve your business as interested in that as the fonts and colors that you like. If you have someone who’s only interested in the aesthetics, chances are you’ve got just the designer in your hand.

Then another red flag is like pay attention to the questions that they ask you on the sales call. You want them to be curious or start asking about where your business is heading next, your marketing plan, and where your website fits in your long-term vision. If the web designer keeps tearing the conversation back to like, “What do you want your website to look like?” too early, that’s probably a red flag. You really want the web designer that you’re working with to have like that big picture strategy and if they don’t really care about your business or your five-year plan, again, that’s probably a huge red flag. Again, I’m sure that they’re going to build you an absolutely beautiful website but can that website convert?

JM: And translate into business, absolutely.

CP: Exactly, that’s going to captivate the attention of your dream client. Can it capture leads? Can it convert into sales? You really want a website that captivates, captures, and converts.

JM: Oh, I love that. It’s such good advice. It’s interesting because it sounds like partly it’s the questions that, we, as the customer or the client should ask where it’s also a lot about what they’re asking us. I think that sounds like that determines a lot of, if somebody is kind of that triple threat or has that background and it is so important that they understand some strategy and being able to create leads.

So many websites are not built with, we call it the trail of breadcrumbs, which is somebody comes to the website, you want a visitor to qualify or disqualify themselves very quickly as the ideal client and then move forward with something and opt in, your lead magnet calling you, a contact form, whatever that is because there are so many. That is another thing that we run into a lot is oftentimes even if we have sort of some of those elements, they tend to be very desperate and disconnected and they are not really pushing people along the sales funnel. It’s like, “Oh, on this page over here, we have a contact form or on this page over here, we have this white paper.” I’m like, “Do you really think somebody’s going to click through four pages to go poke around and find that? Because that’s not going to happen.”

So talking to people about what place the website has in their business, and I think the other challenge that we see is that so many people especially I think if they are, well I won’t even say, I was going to say if they’re new in business but I know a lot of people that are pretty well established and they still look at their website as being so low on the totem pole and they don’t want to pay for it. You definitely get what you pay for with web development. Every once in a while, you’ll find somebody who is just an exceptional value for the money. But really I mean if you’re talking about wanting that person who’s that triple threat that they get the technical aspects of building the site. Today, that includes security, voice search, and all these things that are becoming more and more important as web technology changes. But then somebody who also understands business and marketing, you do have to pay for that.

I always challenge our clients who are looking for the cheapest solution and again, it’s not even my website like I’m not selling it to them, I’m just like you have to get a great website and you have to pay for it. You don’t see the value in that because you’ve never had a website that generates leads for you and that is the struggle that a lot of people are thinking about their website is being so unimportant. But these days, your business almost is a website when people are looking for you, your website is your business.

CP: And as you said earlier, you brought about the statistic, they say is seven seconds to make people leave your website. If you don’t capture them within the first seven seconds, they’re going to leave your website, that’s not a lot of time. I often like to ask people to think of their website as an employee and if your website was an employee, would you fire it? I think a lot of people don’t think of their website as an employee. But seriously, it can be your best sales person, I mean, it’s working for you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, promoting you, your business, and your services. I think that a lot of people, their website isn’t making them money and they don’t think twice about it but if you had an employee that wasn’t making you money, wouldn’t you fire that employee?

JM: And replace them with somebody qualified, somebody who’s qualified and more productive.

CP: Exactly. Right. I think that in some cases, your website is actually damaging relationships with potential and existing clients and going back to that analogy or about that example of a naturopath, there may have been a naturopath out there that was phenomenal and would have been the perfect fit for you but if you would go into their website and just like, “Uh-oh,” they just left business.

JM: Right, absolutely. It happens all the time. It’s interesting too because we did touch a little bit on mindset but I do think that is a mindset issue. I think a lot of times, small business owners don’t have to think small, it happens a lot of times where, small business owners, if we would just think a little bit bigger about what we’re doing and why we’re doing, and going back to strategic thinking and strategic planning, that website really can’t be such an amazing engaging representation of your business, we wanted to just reach through the screen and pull people in more deeply into the relationship and getting them to opt-in or to contact you. But oftentimes, we don’t think about it.

You talk about your website being like an employee and I know the small business owners that would fire that horrible employee and just look for the next cheapest employee to replace them with and so we oftentimes kind of keep going through the cycle of the same things without the lesson learned. Your website is so crucially important.

Thank you so much, Christina. I have loved to talking with you. Where can people find you? I really want everyone to call you for a website so how can they find you?

CP: The best place to find me is on my website, christinapetrie.com. I’m on Instagram @cepetrie. Those are the two best places to find me.

JM: Perfect. I will make sure that those are in the show notes and we’ll also link to Simon Sinek’s talk about the golden circle. But please do reach out to Christina. I have been so very impressed with her and how she handles her business and her philosophies and working with her clients to just think more deeply about what they’re doing because the brochure site is I think probably on the small end of what people probably normally need. I think a lot us need to be thinking more strategically about our websites and I’ve been super impressed with you, Christina. Thank you for your time. If you would like to reach out to me, please visit brandwithcatalyst.com. I would love to hear from you. Christina, have a great day. Thanks again for your time.

CP: Thank you so much for having me on the show, Jennifer. As you know, I could talk about this all day so it was super fun talking to you.

JM: We’ll have to do it again.

CP: I would love to.

JM: Alright, have a good one. Take care, bye.