Materials and musings that will help you make your marketing more effective and help you understand why your marketing is or is not working. Website development and digital marketing strategy specialists since 1996. Message is everything.
For many years, my wife worked in magazine production. 18 years later, it’s still impossible to read a magazine with (or near) her without her offering a running commentary on paper quality, color registration, and many other details I simply don’t understand.
So I get that as a web professional, I may notice details on websites that others don’t. That’s part of my job. And some may find the nits that I pick to be just that – inconsequential trifles that should be ignored in favor of frying bigger fish.
But before you dismiss this discussion of About Us pages – and where they live on your main menu – give me a moment to make my case. You’ll see there’s a larger point.
Let’s start with the main menu. If your About Us page is anywhere other than the last item on the right other than the Contact page*, you’re doing it wrong. The reason why is captured in one of my favorite sayings.
Your prospects don’t care about you. Your prospects don’t care about what you do. Your prospects care about what you can do for them.
So if you’re talking about yourself and your expertise and years of experience and fancy college degrees, you’d better have made them care about you first by making them understand that you can help them.
Making Them Care About You
In other words, they’re not going to do any more than glance at your bio and related “About Us” fluff until you’ve laid out what you do, why it’s different from other potential solutions, and how they’ll benefit from working with you. Once that’s clear, then they’ll go looking for reasons to justify the feeling they have that you may be the one.
So they’ll want to see pages about your services, your work examples, case studies and testimonials, and even articles you’ve written that paint a picture of your approach and expertise.
Then, they just might dig into pages that are all about you. And that’s your opportunity to lay out who you are and what makes you special.
About You (As in You, My Prospect)
There’s another opportunity related to “About” pages – the About You page. The best example we’ve seen of this is on Newfangled’s website. I’d still fault them on having About Us come first. (And both coming before sections I’d judge to be more important – Outcomes and Insights.)
But the page speaks in language that is clearly all about the prospect and written with their perspective in mind. It outlines what Newfangled does, but in terms that are completely and totally focused on their target audience’s needs, desires, and pain points. That’s an addition worth considering, and not only because having an About You page is likely to set you apart from your competitors. Especially if it gets you thinking about your entire site from your prospects’ perspective.
This past fall, I was invited to speak at WordCamp NYC, a gathering of WordPress tech geeks and business owners / marketers who use WordPress as part of their business marketing. In my presentation, The Power of Planning: How Site Maps, Wireframes, and Functional Specs Will Make Your WordPress Projects More Effective and More Efficient, I dissected the documents you need to ensure that your web development process goes smoothly and your finished website achieves your goals. I also discuss the importance of perspective and what is required to build a site that attracts your target audience, engages them and ultimately converts them to clients.
The presentation itself is about 20 minutes and there’s a lively Q&A following. Have a look – there are even moments when I’m funny!
Note on Speaking:
I am available to speak to groups of all sizes and can tailor a range of digital marketing and web development topics to fit your audience’s interests. As with this WordCamp presentation, there’s no sales pitch, just useful, actionable information. Knowing my material cold, I can respond to the room and encourage conversation and learning. Reach out if you’re interested in more information or would like to book me to speak.
One of the things I’m most fond of saying (besides, “Why, yes. I’d love another drink.”) is this:
Your prospects don’t care about you.
Your prospects don’t even care about what you do.
Your prospects care about what you can do for them.
There are a lot of ways that ignoring this truth can hurt your marketing, but perhaps the most damaging, in terms of digital marketing and your website, is in the perspective you adopt when building your website and developing content for it.
If your website slavishly mimics your org chart, or the first item on your main menu is “About Us,” or if your home page copy mentions “we” more than “you,” you’re looking at your potential relationship with clients from your own perspective.
And your prospects just don’t care. At some point they may care “About Us.” But when they first arrive on your website, their primary interest is figuring out whether the solution you’re offering is the answer to their prayers. Or at least their business problems. So the first order of business needs to be a focus on how they’ll benefit from your solution. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about the details of your solution. They want to know if your solution can help them.
Differentiation Comes Second
Once they feel that your solution may be a viable option, they’ll begin to focus on who you are and what you offer that others don’t. They still don’t care about you, per se. But now they are beginning to care about the details of your solution.
And that’s what you should cover in the pages of your website that are designed to appeal to prospects who you’ve convinced to dig deeper. How your solution works, who it works for, and most importantly, what benefit they’ll realize.
Ideally, your differentiation sets you so far apart from any possible competitors that you become the only logical choose. For many B2B firms, that level of specialization is difficult to achieve. Still, it’s worth striving for as it not only stands to tilt the playing field in your favor, but it can increase your margins and fundamentally change the nature of your relationship with your clients. (You’re the expert and trusted partner you strive to be seen as, rather than a vendor or supplier.)
Better Isn’t Better – Different Is
It’s critical that you stifle your impulse to point out all the ways you’re better than the competition. It’s been many generations since anyone believed the hype – any hype: yours, big consumer brands’, politicians’ – and “we’re better” is almost always hype. Even if you back up the claims with data, most consumers, including B2B consumers, recognize the ease with which you can cherry-pick the data that supports your story and ignore everything else. Better is generallly a hard sell regardless of the underlying truth.
You should still quantify results whenever you can, but do so while emphasizing the differences in your approach, in your strategy, and in your process and why those differences matter.
And crow about the ways these differences reduce risk for your prospects. That not only can help you win against your competitors in the marketplace, but can also give you a leg up on what may be your most powerful competitor – inertia.
Make them care about you and you’re much more likely to get them to take the scary first step of abandoning what they know in favor of what you promise.
Over the past 9 or 10 months, I’ve adapted for different audiences a presentation about the value of good planning for website development projects. As it has evolved, I realize that what had started out as a comprehensive “How to” guide for planning successful website projects has added a significant “Why” component, as well.
And as valuable as it is to learn about strategy statements, key performance indicators, site maps, wireframes, and so on, the audiences have become most animated about the Why.
Thinking about that now, that shift should have been obvious all along. I mean, just because you create the documents I listed above doesn’t mean you’re going to get a great website. It just means you’re going to get a better website, with less pain and frustration, than if you didn’t have those documents.
But the Why of the process can make it much more likely that your new website will achieve what it was designed to achieve. Let’s look at, well, why that is.
Knowing Why You’re Building a Website Reduces Risk
As a marketer considering a new website, you’ll never say no to saving time and money. That’s understandable. But the lowest possible cost and quickest possible turn-around are rarely your main motivation. Knowing that your new site is going to work is far more valuable.
To put it another way, decreasing your departmental costs by 2% may get you a better bonus at the end of the year. Presiding over a big, fat, hairy, expensive failure may get you fired.
So a solid development plan needs to probe for the underlying business goals, tie the website’s functionality and features into achieving those business goals and providing ample opportunity to measure, evaluate, and correct against whatever KPIs are identified as top priority.
Generally that means identifying key audience segments and addressing their needs. Which means that your planning docs only really reduce risk if their created with those goals in mind.
The Importance of Perspective: Why Does Your Client Care About You?
One of the key ways we can reduce the risk of failure is by creating a process in which we evaluate what the website will do and how it will do it based on the audience’s perspective. What problem are they trying to solve? What other options are they considering? What might keep them from taking action at all? How long might they take to make a decision? And so on.
If you answer those questions and use the answers you arrive at in your planning documents, you’re almost guaranteeing that you’ll build a site that appeals to the target audience.
Otherwise, you wind up focusing on things like your team’s decades of combined experience and the fancy advanced degrees your principals all hold. Your prospects don’t care about any of that until you make them care. Once you’ve convinced them that your offering is the solution to their problem, then they’ll begin to look at your credentials as they compare you to other firms offering the same or similar solutions. Until then, they’re focused on themselves and their problems. Your website should be, too.
There’s no way to eliminate the chance of sub-optimal results entirely, but if you create a planning process that focuses on the Why – particularly on your audience’s Why – you stand a much greater chance of seeing a successful outcome.
Big data is not the answer, no matter whether you’re a big business or small. Big ideas from big business is what can create an impact on your bottom line. Unfortunately, one doesn’t always lead directly to the other.
Data on its own isn’t necessarily worth a whole lot. All the proof you need is in the fire hose of data that tools like Google Analytics provide. Here are some ideas for generating your own big ideas from the big data at your fingertips.
Cartoon by Thierry Gregorius.
Patterns in Marketing Data
Rarely is a snapshot as accurate or as informative as a moving image. That holds for data, as well. You’re much more likely to find insights in patterns that you can detect over time.
Searching your data for patterns that emerge over time can help you improve marketing performance by separating the signal from the noise, as they say. In other words you’ll be able to see what is changing over time for your business, and what are one-time outliers that can be ignored.
Some of this is pretty basic stuff – ramping up marketing and advertising in advance of your busiest selling season, for example. Other patterns can be less obvious, like the cadence of visits to your website for your best leads. Finding that information can take some digging and connecting different kinds of data or even different data sets.
Connections Across Marketing Data
And when we think about connections, they don’t only have to be patterns that emerge over time. For example, the connection between your most qualified leads and the page on which they enter your site can tell you about the kind of content they’re most interested in and the prospects you want to engage with most urgently.
That same data point might also allow you to make connections between your best prospects and your most productive promotional channels. How these prospects get to that popular page – email marketing, social media, or some other method – might provide another layer of insight, as well.
Borrowed Marketing Data
Not all the data you use to power your Big Idea Engine need to be your own. You can use the data that others are aggregating.
Sometimes this takes the form of industry benchmark data. If you’re thoughtful in how you make the comparisons, you can measure your efforts and results against those of similar companies. There can be danger in this approach in that you don’t necessarily know how similar the firms in the data set are to yours. And you don’t know how accurately the aggregated data has been tallied and interpreted, so proceed with caution. Still, the low cost can make this a very attractive approach, particularly when you’re starting out and may not have data of your own to read.
In the end, the insights and ideas you gain from the data your digital marketing produces are a result of equal measures of hard work and inspiration. The more time you spend shuffling the cards, the likely you are to see combinations that lead you to insights that produce positive results.
Interesting change from the fine folks at LinkedIn.
They are now offering the option to make Follow the primary option on your profile, rather than Connect. I’ve made the change this and am eager to see how it plays out going forward.
From a content marketing standpoint, this makes great sense. Rather than asking for the sale right away, so to speak, you’re giving prospective clients and colleagues the opportunity to get to know you a bit better first.
Though there are still questions that only time will answer – will this change begets a Twitter-style mania of bots following you to get you to follow back and then immediately unfollowing you, for example – my sense is that it does what we all wish we could do: create a distinction between folks we know well and those we don’t know but with whom we feel some connection or possible mutual interest.
It’s also unclear whether this has been rolled out platform wide or LinkedIn is offering this only to folks who publish long-form content regularly. Their notification email to me began, “As a regular contributor on LinkedIn, it’s important that the right people can see and interact with your thoughts, questions and ideas.”
Check your settings to see if this is an option. And if you’re not publishing content regularly, start now.
Please let me know your experience you do opt to allow Followers.
As the year winds down and we spend time enjoying holiday cards from clients, colleagues, and partners – and working on our own holiday card – we should also find time to reflect on what worked this year and what we’re proud of.
Of course, the results we’ve helped our clients achieve have to be at the top of the list. That’s what gets us out of bed every morning.
A close second is all that we have learned from our clients and colleagues. I’m not sure there’s an industry that isn’t experiencing an unprecedented pace of change, but digital marketing’s changes have to be among the most relentless and head-spinning. Keeping up with it all requires more than passion and experience. Perspective helps; The perspective of others helps even more.
The accomplishment we’re proudest of – not just this year, but since our founding in 1996 – is the number of clients who have worked with us more than once. We’re glad you trust us to help you navigate the incredibly rapid pace of change in the digital marketing world. We’ve come a long way from CD-ROMs (and CD-i – remember that technology?!) to multi-channel approaches across devices most of us hadn’t even conceived of 20 years ago.
Thank you. And here’s to a 2019 filled with peace and prosperity.
You have two main options when you build a website: you can build a website focused on lead generation or a site devoted to brand building. One isn’t necessarily better than another, and they will frequently overlap, but knowing what you want your website marketing to achieve will make success more likely.
First, let’s define these two approaches.
A brand building website’s primary concern is creating trust and credibility for your firm with leads that are generated through other methods – primarily networking and referrals. You’ll also want to encourage them to engage with you in a way that helps build toward a working relationship.
Lead Generation Websites
A website focused on lead generation is tasked with all of the above, plus generating traffic from folks who have not been referred to you by other means. It will do this using features built into the site and with outside help of things like social media and email marketing. There are two big differences.
What Are the Differences, What Do They Mean?
Without the warm introduction of a referral, your lead-generation website has to break the ice. This typically requires content that not only creates trust, but also leads to the next piece of content.
Why the next piece of content? Because of the second big difference: without the expressed interest that networking and referrals often imply, you have to work through the prospect’s buying cycle. You also need to gain insight into their needs and motivation. How they interact with your site and its content can help provide that context.
Neither of these types of sites is better than the other, even if some marketers do look down their noses at “brochureware” sites. (Sites that are simple, static, and not actively encouraging engagement.) Even we have been known to talk about making your website more than an expensive business card …
But there are businesses for whom digital marketing is not the best use of their marketing resources. For them, the simpler site provides a better return on marketing investment. If the site’s content, voice, and visual design fit their target audience, any additional investment will yield only marginal gains.
For most of us, a more active approach will increase our site’s effectiveness, even in high-touch businesses such as law, accounting, coaching and therapy, etc.
It should be pretty easy to see which approach is most appropriate for your business. The real danger is in getting caught in between. Any resources devoted to driving traffic to a site not built to convert that traffic to leads is largely wasted. And any site that has the trappings of a lead-generation site but is allowed to lie fallow likely is even less effective than a well-designed brand building site.
Once you determine the right approach, commit to investing the resources to making it do the job it’s designed to do. How to do that is a much longer conversation, and one we’d be glad to have with you.
Even if you leave the inner workings of your website to your development team, you may have heard rumblings about the on/off/back on WordPress update that was released yesterday. Version 5 includes many improvements and changes, but no change is getting more attention than the inclusion of an entirely new content editing system, known as Gutenberg. (But not this Gutenberg.)
photo: Gord Lacey
Gutenberg is what’s know as a visual editor. Visual editors have been around for a few years and are included with a number of popular themes, like Divi. They make editorial updates much easier for some users, though their usefulness depends on a site being built to take advantage of their strengths and on users who understand how best to use them.
Whether a visual editor is a good fit for you or your site will depend, of course, so give us a shout if you’d like to discuss the pluses and minuses. In the meantime, we’ll share some of the wisdom we’ve gathered in recent days. The executive summary: Just Don’t Do It.
At least not now. Our recommendation is to wait until after the holidays when we’ll have seen how the initial rollout has worked for the early adopters. Once things are stable, perhaps with a subsequent release to address small issues, it will be safer to push ahead, with or without Gutenberg. (The “classic editor” will be an option through then end of 2021 WordPress has promised.)
Our own initial testing has found inconsistent results, though not the outright disasters being reported from some developers and site owners. It really all depends on how your site is was built.
Finally, one of our favorite hosting providers, Pair Networks, adds this:
WordPress have announced their intention to launch WordPress 5.0 on Thursday, December 6th. Due to the sudden announcement, and proximity to the holiday season, we are choosing to postpone applying the update until early January for all WordPress Hosting accounts.
If desired, one can update sooner by initiating the upgrade to 5.0 directly through the WordPress administrative dashboard, or by contacting our support department for assistance.
We will be in contact to specify the exact date of the update soon. Meanwhile, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
That’s the dream, isn’t it? Every marketer has visions of their marketing team and the sales team running toward one another in a sunny field with joyous music swelling as they close in on a smiling embrace.
OK, maybe you don’t take the dream that far, but most of us certainly dream of better coordination and more respect between sales and marketing teams. (And do so at least as often as we have visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.)
Content Complements Relationship Building
Unless your sales team is so old-school as to be ossified, they have come to respect (if not fully embrace) the value and importance of content. Sales is still built on relationships, but budgets and schedules are so much tighter than they used to be that it’s harder to get an acceptance to a good old, “let’s have lunch” invitation.
Truly great sales people won’t need to rely solely on content – they have the industry knowledge and relationships to add value to conversations with the client and prospect accounts – but high-value content is now a bigger part of the equation.
Content Encourages Conversation
So providing content that answers the big questions your main audience segments are asking is one way to your sales team’s heart. Even better is content that answers the main burning question and leads to related questions that the sales team can answer.
How do we implement this?
How have others implemented this?
Can this be customized to our needs?
How long until I can expect to see results?
In other words, for your content to work well for your sales team, it needs to encourage an open-ended conversation rather than yes or no answers.
Keep in mind that this is something different from the content that might be better at attracting your target audience, qualifying them, and building a basic relationship over time as the prospect moves through their buying process to the point where they’re ready for contact with a sales person.
Content Creates Cooperation
Here’s where conversations across departmental lines are critical. They are the ones who can tell you want questions they need the prospects to already have answered and what conversations they (the sales team) most want to have with prospects.
If you can work together on the planning, you’re much more likely to see improved conversions and, of course, happier sales people.