In this blog series, I profile creative businesses who’ve impressed me with their marketing, promotion and creative presence. I showcase their best bits and talk about what they could do to improve, giving you best practice case studies to help you improve your business.
Despite there being plenty of other shinier marketing tools available online (ooh, Instagram Stories!), a website is still a key part of any creative business’ presence. It’s your home turf, where you can describe your brand and your offer to customers in the way you want.
Curtisward, an independent art supplies retailer, impressed me recently with their website – it’s easy to use, easy to navigate and enjoyable to visit. Here’s why it wowed me so much and what you can learn.
Easy to find
It’s important to remember here that I never, ever click on Google Ads that appear in search results. Never.
Apart from this time.
Although not strictly about their website, I wanted to note how I found Curtisward as it includes some useful lessons for other creative businesses. I was searching for a specific product – Tombow brush pens – and naturally turned to Google.
You can see the results here:
I visited The Pen Company first, because they had three different adverts which suggested a good range of products. Their website was difficult to use and I soon gave up.
I came back and clicked on the Curtisward advert. Why them? Why not scroll? Why not the Amazon link which I know would be cheaper?
- When I visited their website, it was easy to use (so I stayed)
- Their advert imaged showed multiple colours and plenty of pens, suggesting they had lots in stock
- Their advert image was the only one that showed the pen up close
- Their advert description had the most detail (I know it’s a pen – they told me it was ‘dual brush’)
- I was specifically looking for an independent creative business to buy from
(Yes, these really are all the things customers think about in those few seconds when they click on an advert. Trust me.).
What you can learn
- Don’t be afraid of using Google Ads: there’s a customer out there who will only turn to Amazon if they can’t find you – help them find you!
- Use product images which show the product clearly and in the most relevant way
- Use product images to show range if it’s possible
- Use an advert description which gives specific product detail
Easy to navigate
This sort of thing isn’t very sexy but it’s a critical factor when a customer is deciding whether or not to buy from you. Clear, meaningful website navigation makes it easy for your customer to:
- Find what they’re looking for
- Encourages them to explore (and hopefully buy) more
- Reduces time between exploration and purchase
Curtisward made navigating their website easy through a clear drop down menu – but most importantly, the way they had structured their website and the labels they gave different sections made it easy (and fun) to navigate.
As an art supplier, Curtisward probably stock thousands of individual items. I was looking for a specific sort of brush pen; if they’d simply had a huge category called ‘pens’ I would’ve been turned off from scrolling through hundreds of different products.
Instead, they labelled their sections by what the customer wanted to do. Want to clean something? Click ‘cleaning’. Want to make some marks? Click ‘mark making’. This is an impressive structure because it focuses on what the customer wants to DO, not the product Curtisward wants to SELL. That’s good marketing: “You want to do something, and we can help you do it”.
Within each section there’s clear products, then product types, then brands or ranges. This might seem very complicated (and it might look like that on a site map) but for a customer it’s perfect because it funnels them down a path straight away.
What you can learn
- Consider what your customer needs to know when they land on your website
- Make sections about what they can DO, not simply what you sell
- Lead customers down a clear purchasing path
I searched for, clicked on and bought from Curtisward all on my mobile – and their site was really easy to use on mobile.
This shouldn’t be a thing. Huge numbers of us spend many many hours a day using the internet on a mobile device, for social networking, email, browsing and watching video.
Yet there are still many businesses – and unfortunately, small creative businesses tend to be in there – who don’t have a website which is mobile-friendly. This makes it harder for your customer to navigate and use your website when on their mobile, and harder for them to buy from you.
Curtisward has a responsive website, which means that whatever size screen you’re using, it adjusts to look the best for that screen size.
That meant I could find what I wanted, and explore, and therefore buy more, all on my mobile device. What might have been a £1.85 sale for one product turned into a £15+ sale through ease of use.
What you can learn
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and ideally mobile-optimised
- Most modern website builders e.g. WordPress or SquareSpace will do this automatically
- Test the friendliness of your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
Alongside their product pages, Curtisward have a lovely blog and information page packed full of different ideas and posts. While this engaging content wasn’t a key factor in making me buy from them, it does make me think favourably of them; it shows they want to give more to their customer, and that they really do know their stuff.
They have a good range of articles, from quotations by famous painters to art ‘inspired by…’ and showcase different products, like their travel brush sets. They also occasionally profile customers’ work, which is another nice touch.
I do think they could improve some of this content by making it a bit easier to read (with a larger font size) and perhaps a more contemporary layout. Their articles are also scattered over two sections, so there’s no one, definitive knowledge base they can point customers to.
However, the quality of the ideas and the regular posting mean they’ll always have something to share in other marketing channels, demonstrating their expertise and helpfulness to customers.
What you can learn
- Think about what expertise you can share with customers on your own website to help engage and interest them
- Make sure it’s easy to read and pleasant to look at; customers are used to beautiful blogs
- Re-purpose this content for other marketing channels to demonstrate your knowledge and helpfulness
And now for some exciting news…
If you’ve been reading this article thinking “My website doesn’t do any of these things – eep!”, then this exciting news is especially for you.
I’m running a free, face-to-face workshop for creative business owners on how to make your website read well, look good and convince customers. Because websites are one of the basics of marketing – and yet creative businesses very rarely use them to their full advantage.
There are only 10 places on this workshop to make sure everyone makes the most of the time and activities (of which there will be many, alongside refreshments and fun – of course). You’ll get advice on best practice alongside expert and peer-to-peer feedback specifically for your business; not just generic advice but ideas for you and what you need to do to make your website brilliant.
Interested? Read more and sign up here.
This workshop is in-person, so if you can’t make it (because, say, you live in Madagascar and the bus fare would be ridiculous) then that’s ok too – I’ll be turning elements of the session into an online workshop which you can do from anywhere in the world, including on the beach. Damn you. You can read more about that and sign up to hear about the launch date right here.
Learn more and sign up for the free workshop here.