Web Marketing Basics

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Imagine this: You decide one day that you want to make money by selling something. In what form, that “something” takes, well, this is yet to be determined. So, then, you also decide that you want to sell this “something” from a shop. OK, now you find a place where you can build this shop; or, maybe you simply lease an existing structure. You proceed to set up shop and you figure out what that “something” is and you make sure you have plenty of it. Now there is nothing left to do but open the doors of you new shop and turn on the “OPEN” sign and wait for the traffic to pour in…

… several days later…

…The only traffic you have coming into your new store is a few of your friends and neighbors whom you smartly “invited” to come and visit your store and check it out. Notice I said, “visit.” You didn’t ask them to buy anything. You didn’t tell them to do anything. They did precisely what you requested of them– they visited.

So, I ask you, what’s wrong with this picture?

As this scenario is laid out, one could probably spot several flaws in our shopkeeper’s business strategy. You might say to yourself, “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” Or, “He was doomed for the start because it seems that no thought was put into his business plan.”

Business plan? What business plan?

You’re right. It shouldn’t have been done that way. You’d be surprised, however, how many businesses (offline or online) are started and operated in this way. Even established “brick ‘n mortar” businesses that have been around for a while, have suffered the same fate. What’s worse even worse is that there are plenty of sites… maybe, millions of sites… that suffer from the same problem.

It would appear that our shopkeeper thought he had a great idea to sell “something” and it may have been a good idea; but guess what, he failed and so, too, will every Web site that follows the horribly over used mantra: “If you build it, they will come.”

AAAAAAAh! If I here that just one more time, I swear my head will explode! I hate it more when I hear from some so-called expert that smugly spouts off some variation like, “Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.”

[Insert another exasperated scream, here]

OK, deep breath.

There, I’m back now.

You say again, “I wouldn’t have done it that way.”

Ah, but you probably did do it that way; or your company did it that way.

I’ve seen countless sites of all types that attempt to conduct business in this same fashion. It’s as if they have something to hide or worse yet, are trying to completely hide from their customers. Oh, the sites were designed well enough (sometimes), some were even spectacular, but they still fail to execute one very important tenant of any business model:

Do your research. Find out everything you need to know about what it is that you are selling. Whether it’s a widget; a whatchamacallit; or a very specialized service for cleaning thingamabobs. It doesn’t matter. In order for a website to work… and I mean to use the word, “work” as a metaphor here because you need to think of your site as more than just another way for customers to find your company. You have to think of your site as your business. The only difference being that your site doesn’t have four walls and an industrial grade carpet, populated with a colony of cubicles.

You have to think of your site more as a group of employees; all of whom have specialized job functions.

Your site needs to act like your marketing department; your sales department; your public/customer relations department and every other department you can think of.

This is because your site needs to perform with the precision of an orchestra, with all its various instruments coming together in harmony and be able to answer the following:

  1. Who are you and why should I even visit this site? What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)?
  2. What information is available at your site and how is it organized?
  3. Is the site fresh and timely; or does it contain the same old information (see question 1)?
  4. What do you want visitors to do at the site? View something? Sign up for something? Buy Something? What’s your “call to action”?
  5. How can the visitor get help?

1. Who are you and why should I even visit this site?

I’ve seen many examples of sites that at no point on the first or “Home” page do they tell you what the site is all about. Unbelievable, but true. On these sites, there is no mention of what it is that the company does, who they are; what it is that makes them unique; or, in the very least why you should by from them.

You also have to research and identify your target audience. Who do you want to visit your site and why? If you don’t tell them about your products/services or even why you want them there, how are your visitors supposed to know?

First of all, tell visitors who you are. You need a statement that says what you’re about. It doesn’t even have to be a long statement. And, I’m not talking about a “Mission Statement,” necessarily. Instead, write a concise, visitor-focused phrase or headline (<h1>) and short statement of what the site is about. Do you think the Wall Street Journal would sell many papers if they didn’t use catchy headlines? No? Well, then, why do you think it will work for a Web site? It won’t. The headline needs to grab the attention of the reader and provide some clue as to what the reader can expect to find on the site. A title or tag line needs to do the same thing. Its purpose is to provide a clue as to what is on the page and what type of information the site contains, and give the visitor a reason to continue.

2. What information is available at your site and how is it organized?
The home page should indicate to the user how you’ve organized or structured your site. And the site structure should be obvious and logical. Now is the time to establish a theme for the site. Is the site ordered by product or by service? By department or by region? Make it easy for the visitor to locate information; especially, information that will answer questions they have. The home page must enable the user to determine where he will find answers to his questions. If an attempt to find answers doesn’t pay off, you may have, then, just lost a sale.

3. Is the site fresh and timely?

Now is the time to tell the user about special promotions or sales, new products or services that you offer, or content updates. Create a sense of urgency — limited product offers, breaking news — that get visitors to do something. A good example of doing just that is Blue Tomorrow.com. This site does an admirable job of getting the visitors attention and “teaching” them about Bluetooth technology and where they can buy Bluetooth products.

4. What Can The Visitor Do At Your Site?

Remember that websites promote interaction. At your home page give the user a way to interact: sign up for a newsletter; enter a contest; participate in a poll, quiz, or chat. Even better, some home pages allow users to personalize the interaction. A return visitor to Amazon.com can get personalized product recommendations. At office supplier, Staples, a return visitor can “check order status” or “view order history.”

5. How can the visitor get help?

Don’t make visitors scour your site in order to contact you. Your contact information, or a link that leads to complete contact information, should be obvious. Make sure this contact information includes e-mail, telephone, fax, street address, and the name of a contact person to whom inquiries will be sent. The Internet is about interaction and the commerce of information. Just because the Internet offers a form of anonimity doesn’t mean you should be cowering behind your Web site. Where would Nordstrom’s be without customer service? They might have become Hecht’s. Ooops! Did I just write that? Sorry. Anyway, you get my point. If you don’t want to interact with visitors and customers , don’t go into the business of selling “something”.

There’s actually a lot more questions that need to be answered; but this is a start. I’ll have more for you next time.



One Response

  1. Thanks again, Matt. Like what you’re doing here. And thanks for adding me to your blogroll. Someday this will all make sense. Hang in there, mate. You’re super-valuable to somebody. Just make sure you’re ready for them when they’re ready to find you. Cheers!


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