First in a four-part series detailing the four most important things you must do with your new marketing website.
Tell your story quickly, update it regularly, collect contact information, measure – all with an eye to setting the stage to create, manage and improve your online marketing efforts.
These days everyone’s talking about SEM, SEO, social networking, mobile apps, blogs and lots of other online marketing techniques. Many of these are effective and worthwhile, but if you’re starting a new business, don’t have a lot of money to spend, have a small staff or are generally in a rush, you need to focus on the basics before you tackle more advanced techniques.*
Here are the four basics for every new marketing website:
1. Tell your story quickly.
2. Update regularly.
3. Collect contact information.
4. Start measuring.
Back in the late 20th century, web designers coined the term “brochure-ware” to describe corporate marketing websites. It was used to describe websites that were boring, lifeless and essentially served no real purpose. The phrase “brochure-ware” meant the website “didn’t do anything.”.
But the truth is your company’s first corporate marketing website will be “brochure-ware,” and it will serve an extremely important role in your company’s marketing and sales efforts – it will be the most effective way of telling your company’s story, establishing your brand, collecting sales leads and setting a baseline to measure all future initiatives against.
This article is the first of a four-part series that shows how you can do it right, and gives example of some companies that are doing it right – right now.
#1 TELL YOUR STORY QUICKLY
People have very short attention spans. On the web, it is estimated that you have less than 2 seconds to grab a viewer’s attention. And nothing causes a viewer to lose interest faster than confusion. So, your company’s homepage must instantly and clearly show what you do, or viewers will not understand why they should learn more.
Technique A – Be Obvious
It is hard to be too obvious on a website. If your company’s offering is straightforward enough, like a law firm, put “law offices” or “law firm” on your homepage. If you repair bicycles, put those words on. However, for many companies, that isn’t enough. They need to quickly differentiate themselves from the competition. Or they have a complex product or service that needs to be rapidly explained to their market.
Enobia Pharma, Inc. (www.enobia.com) is a venture capital-backed biotechnology firm that develops therapies to treat serious genetic bone disorders for which there are no approved treatments. That means their stuff is really complicated! Since their lead product is targeted to a rare bone disease, they show x-rays of bones, their science team and crystaline structures on their homepage – these images mean something to their market. And, although the images don’t tell the full story, they give enough information to put visitors at ease and feel comfortable about clicking further into the site.
Technique B – Tell Stories
Case studies, client success stories, news – these are all great ways to show, rather than tell, what your company really does. In other words, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Here’s an example: which do you think more effectively tells your company’s story?
a) An “About Us” page which says: “We’re a fantastic company. We’re client focused and deliver results.”
b) A homepage with a news item on it that reads: “Our client saved $1 million using our services. Date: last month.”
The answer is b), of course. The news item shows that your company provides a real benefit to its clients (you saved your client money). Answer a) could be from any company, on any website in the world.
When you visit Cardinal Venture Capital’s website (http://www.cardinalvc.com), you immediately see stories about their portfolio companies. So, visitors immediately know three things: 1) since Cardinal has portfolio companies, they are a venture capital firm, 2) Cardinal’s portfolio companies are successful, and 3) Cardinal is, therefore, a successful venture capital firm. They are powerfully showing both what they do and that they are good at it!
Technique C – Look Appropriate – Allera Health
Viewers need to be able to tell that your website represents a company that will take care of their needs, so it must look appropriate to your market. If your business is a super-contemporary shoe store, it should look groovy. If it is a bank, it should look solid and reliable. It’s all a matter of appropriateness.
This appropriateness is a matter of design and brand, and is too broad a topic to cover here in any real detail. However, to discover what is appropriate research what viewers will expect from your type of company by looking at your competition’s websites.
Other businesses that do what your business does may have already created a kind of design language that applies to your business. They probably use colors and shapes that viewers expect to see, and the more conservative your business is, the closer it should stay to these visual clues.
Allera Heath’s visitors to www.immunextra.com see the words “immune system”, a medicine-type box and a healthy young woman. These words and design clues tell visitors that the website is about enhancing health, and creates a comfortable, familiar environment for Allera’s products. But, although the themes and imagery may be familiar, their are still unique and branded.
If your site shows viewers exactly what you do and why they should care, you’ve taken the first step to creating a great online marketing tool.
> Also, see our San Francisco Web Design blog for more