You may have a great company, but your prospects may never find out.
Today, people do their research on-line before they buy, and it doesn’t take much to lose the trust of someone who doesn’t know you. They will find your website whether it’s good, bad or indifferent and judge you by it, regardless of what else you have to offer.
Unless they’ve worked with you before, almost everything they know about your company may be based on what they see on your site. And when that happens, nothing else matters — not your beautiful facility, your caring staff, your great product or your outstanding service.
Unfortunately, many firms have websites that don’t reflect the best they have to offer, and there are many reasons why. In our practice, we often find that management shies away from personal involvement in anything they consider ‘technical’, and, in some cases, the CEO doesn’t even know what’s on the website. In other cases, managers are continually responding to crises, and doing what’s urgent rather than what’s important.
We’ll have more to say later about ways to engage your prospects and make your site spring to life, but let’s start with the basics.
Both web design and the technology that supports it are evolving rapidly, and you probably don’t want your site to be state of the art 2006. Not only are presentation standards different, but newer technology allows you to merchandise your company and its products and services much more effectively. Today’s higher resolution displays make older sites look small, while your competitors may be showing dramatic, high impact artwork, full web pages on their dropdown menus, translucent overlays, and other features that are not only attractive but also significantly improve usability.
Your content should reflect sufficient detail about your current offerings to allow web visitors to do their homework before they contact you, or you may never hear from them. Visitors will make inferences about your priorities based on the amount of content on each product area or subject. Your core website content should reflect the different product and service offerings of your company in approximate proportion to their importance, and your home page should allocate its valuable real estate accordingly.
It should go without saying that your content should be up-to-date, well written and accurate, and not contain poor grammar, spelling errors and typos. Assign someone to be responsible for content updates, and make sure you pick a person who is knowledgeable about your operations. A good content management system will save you money and allow you to make updates more frequently, because you don’t have to involve your web developer each time.
So far, we’ve only touched on the basics. Your core website content will help visitors do the necessary research before they call you, but it probably won’t hold their interest for the long haul. In order to keep your prospects and your customers engaged on an ongoing basis, there is nothing like a good story, and some of the best ones surface nearly every time a staff member walks through the door.
A sales rep lands an important new account, or breaks into a new industry. A customer service rep helps a customer solve a long standing problem. Events like this offer an opportunity to engage your audience, and create loyalty and trust.
The more you can engage your site visitors in stories about you customers, your staff and your community involvement, the more human your organization seems. There is nothing like engagement to foster trust, and nothing like trust to create loyalty. And this is as it should be.
For more on using stories to drive engagement, please see our recent blog post, Bring your website content to life.