Your website needs to feel like a coffee shop. Here’s why.

Think about your favorite place to meet a friend or business associate for coffee. Does it feel like a waiting room at the hospital? You know, bad lightning, uncomfortable furniture, even more uncomfortable silences. Or does it feel like one of the most welcoming places you can think of? The best coffee shops will have comfortable places to sit, an energetic environment, and a lot of great conversations happening. What does this have to do with you and your company’s presence online? Everything!

Pretend like you work at a bank — specifically, you approve loans. Someone comes to you with the following business proposition. Do you approve or deny it?

  • People come to our establishment.
  • They get to use our furniture, internet access, power outlets, and bathroom.
  • They don’t have to buy anything.

Not the most promising business model, right? This is what the most successful coffee shops do, though, and this model works over and over. Why? If you spend enough time in a coffee shop, eventually you’re going to buy coffee. You’re going to get thirsty (and hungry, eventually). If you enjoy being in that environment, why would you not spend a few bucks and stay there?

Contrast this comfortable coffee shop model with more of a drive-thru style java shop. Very little operating overhead, no people loitering about your property, and no bathrooms to clean. Does this model work? Periodically, yes. But can you name one drive-through coffee shop that most people in the country recognize by name? You know, like that one from Seattle?

Why not? People are patronizing their favorite local coffee shops because of the experience, not the commodity that is coffee. If you need coffee right now, the drive-through style shop, a fast-food restaurant, or a gas station can get you that shot of caffeine.

Could your company’s website be the equivalent of a comfortable coffee shop? If I’m like most people — after all, there’s a reason it’s called web browsing — I’m looking for more detail than the just the product or service your company sells.

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I browse the web doing research before I make a buying decision, and your website can be the source of that content. I want your site to welcome me in and offer me a comfortable virtual chair so I can sit and hear your stories.

Usually your website has a FAQ page, so you already have an initial source of rapid-fire questions and answers. How do we facilitate more engaging conversations, though? Start by turning your website into a teaching tool. Think about all the questions you’re hearing from your customers and potential customers, and start writing answers in a conversational and educational tone.

Consider the website you have now. Is it simply a drive-thru advertisement for your company? Said another way, am I just getting that shot-of-caffeine equivalent from your business, or are you offering me an opportunity to learn from your knowledge and expertise? Start turning your website into the equivalent of a comfortable coffee shop, and you’ll find your visitors are both more engaged and more educated when they’re ready to become your customers.

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