A quick question for you: For most businesses, where would you say is the first contact point between the company and a prospective customer?
Before they see your ad, read your postcard mailer or receive the sales cold call, the first engagement point with your company is most probably your website. So why don’t more companies take their website seriously?
I don’t (just) mean the design and having up-to-date information on your business value offering – i.e. your product or service: whatever it is that you’re selling. I mean having content on there that existing and prospective customers want to read. I mean having a ongoing and regular program of delivering new content designed and researched in such as way for your audience to find interesting. So interesting that they’ll come back again, to consume even more of it. So interesting that they’ll talk about it with their friends.
Today, before a customer ever buys your product or service, they “buy” into your company. They listen to your story, the narrative of why you do what you do. Why you sell, as much as what you sell. I’ll bet you, just as with our company, that if you checked your website analytics, one of the most visited pages on your website is the “About Us” page. Why do you think that is?
If your company’s brand persona resonates with your customers, then (all things being equal) they’ll be more likely to buy from you than from someone else. One of the ways to build that rapport is by developing content. To paraphrase Henry Russell Sanders ”Content is not a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.” Your content is actually one of the things you’re selling (even if you’re giving it away). It’s your first product, and should be viewed as such.
Relevant Content As Part Of The Customer Experience
Let me give you an example. Supposing you’re posting an ad, producing a lead-generation piece, or distributing a press release. Ten will get you five that you’re pointing the reader to your website, right? OK, that’s great. But what’s the reader supposed to do when they get there? Read the press release – again? Read the contents of your product brochure, only this time in HTML form? What reason are you giving for them to go to your website?
Buyers don’t buy stuff in the same way that they used to. Today, most buyers do their research themselves and only get in touch with the vendor company once they’re already part way along in the buying process. They already know who you are, what you sell, and how you stack-up against the competition. As a result they don’t want to read about how great you think you are, how many employees you have, or how long you’ve been in business. Not only do they not care, but they don’t believe you.
The “introduction” phase of the customer/supplier relationship has ended a long time ago. And you didn’t even know it had begun. You’re still serving cocktails and peanuts, while your audience is looking for when you’re going to serve the main course.
Once you understand the reasons why customers are coming to your website today (compared to the past) you’re halfway to turning things around. Today, customers want to feel assured that buying from you isn’t going to be something they’ll regret. They want to know about people in similar positions who’ve already bought from you. They want to know how easy it will be to buy from you. Finally, they want to know how you’re going to treat them once you have their money.
Providing Answers To Your Buyers Questions
More often than not (and I’ll grant you that this really depends on what you’re selling) customers are coming to your website for a pre-determined reason. They are considering buying your product/service, and now have questions that they need answered. This will determine whether they’ll buy from you, or from someone else. Notice they’ve decided to shortlist your product or service as a possible buying choice (often) independently of any direct influence from you.
In such circumstances, wading through pages of corporate BS where you’re introducing your business and shouting about how great you are isn’t going to fly. In fact, it may have the opposite effect and turn them away. Instead, the website needs to provide answers their questions – clearly, and in their own vocabulary. Moreover, the content they need in order for them to make their decision needs to be easily accessible – two or three clicks away, at the most.
If you’re making it difficult then you’re currently losing sales that you could, otherwise, be closing. Potential customers are not “buying” your content and, as a result, they’re not buying whatever you’re selling. In addition, maybe they’re frustrated with how difficult it is to get the answers to their questions – and they’re telling their friends about it online.