Archive for the 'Web Strategy' Category

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Writing Great Web Copy – it only Takes a Cup of Tea!

I’ve been working for a little while now with Easthaven Group, an IT consulting company based in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Sheryl Newman, one of the Co-Founders, has been working on wording to define her company’s uniqueness for the value proposition that will go on their new home page. To be honest, she’s struggled a bit to get beyond the usual bland, generic “anyone could say this” platitudes.

Yesterday, she sent me an e-mail with some “thoughts” she’d been mulling. What she wrote was excellent, edgy, direct, and clearly stating how Easthaven’s approach is different from the competition. We can easily take this great start and polish it for publication.

Here’s the key – I asked her if she’d written this just “off the top of her head with a cup of tea” (she’s also a Brit!), and she said “Yes”.

I consistently find that writing in this way – just start by putting down what you’d like to say without judging or polishing it – really helps to get beyond the writer’s block issues.

Customer says “Can you Help Me?” You say “Nope!”

I’m working with a b2b client on a major redesign of their Website. As part of this, we’re installing the Google site search engine (paid version!)

I wanted to see what happened if I searched for a product that isn’t listed on their site. Predictably, I got the following result:

    “Your search – [ search term ] – did not match any documents.

    Suggestions:

      Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
      Try different keywords.
      Try more general keywords.”

Now, I do think that in general Google Search is an excellent product.

However, this feels to me like the ultimate in “Non-Customer Service”.

Imagine a customer or prospect sitting across from you in the real world, and asking if you can help them with a particular product or service. Would you just say “No” and stop talking until they tried to ask their question again differently? Would you really make it sound like it’s their fault that they can’t find what they’re looking for in your store?

I certainly hope not – and yet, this is exactly what the standard “no results found” search utility does. This might be fine for Google itself, which is a generic search engine serving a huge and largely undefined audience, but it shouldn’t be how individual businesses respond to their visitors. At the least we need to be providing links to our knowledge bases, phone numbers or live chat access, and e-mail forms for easy enquiries.

My client’s Web developers are concerned that reprogramming Google’s source code so that we can do this would make it difficult to implement updates. So we’re stuck with giving our prospective customers a brusque “No” when they ask for help. I’m not happy . . .

You Can’t Herd Cats On Your Website!

Last week I was talking with a company which helps owners of intellectual property to register trademarks and copyrights.

The client had requested a “Pick My Brain” session to talk about his plans for the reworked version of the site (which is still in process at time of writing this).

We discussed at length how visitors coming to his site will make decisions, how they might be persuaded to interact with him, and hopefully to make a purchase. Visitors will have different levels of knowledge about the law in this area, about the registration process and its benefits, and they probably also have different levels of readiness to buy. Some might be very price conscious and looking for the best deal (there are other companies who offer similar services), while some might be more concerned about the credibility and trustworthiness of the company that they choose to do business with.

My client started our conversation hoping that he could guide visitors down a fairly set path – that if they read Page A, they’ll naturally progress to Page B, etc. Along the way, he could provide answers to questions, and address their concerns in a logical sequence.

I had to tell him that in my experience, it just doesn’t work that way! People can come into your site at lots of different entry points, and they have all sorts of ways of thinking and emotional response. The best you can do is to ensure that they can access all content that will help them and drive them towards your goals on every page of your site.

Creating user personas can help you understand how various types of visitors might interact with your site, but trying to get every visitor to follow a set path is like herding cats – and I have a calico, so I know never to try that!

“Did UPS Send Me To A For-Profit Business?”

I wasn’t going to post this to my blog, but my good friend Vickie Sullivan persuaded me that it’s a story that bears repeating . . .

I’ve been following up the leads from the cover story on effective Web strategy in the UPS “Compass” magazine for which I was selected as the sole expert (yes, free publicity is a wonderful credibility builder!)

One woman who contacted me described her business as the world leader in their field (which has to do with animal medicine). Her e-mail then said: “Sitting here reading your comments on Website functionality, and thought that I’d write and have you take a look at ours, and see what insights you can share with us.”

So I started describing my “Leaky Boat Website” review, which would provide her with exactly what I thought she was asking for.

She interrupted: “Is there a cost for this?” When I said there was, she was indignant – “Did UPS send me to a for-profit business?”

I was so stunned that I could only reply that I didn’t understand the question. In retrospect, I wish I’d asked her if she provides her world exclusive products for free!

Do your Online Markets Challenge your Traditional Business Model?

Last week while visiting the UK, I sat down with the Operations Director of a small academic institution.

We started to review their Google Analytics. As often happens, we were immediately faced with data that directly challenges the business strategy they’ve followed so far.

To date, the college has concentrated on delivering high-quality programming to in-person groups – and their marketing and fundraising has reflected this model. Yet without any focused online promotional efforts, their Website is attracting traffic from all over the world – far outside their physical catchment area. In fact, 35% of all Web visitors could not easily get to their campus.

This is a scenario that I’ve seen many times. There will always be visitors to your Website who at first glance don’t belong to your established target market or demographic, and your instinct may be to let them go.

However, in this case we can clearly see from the inbound search terms and the pages visited that these people are specifically looking for the college, or for the subject matter that they teach – this is highly qualified traffic. And 35% is a pretty big number of potential customers to turn away!

Of course our discussion turned to the creation of virtual courses, webinars, podcasts, e-books and other offerings that could be delivered anywhere in the world. This would be a major shift in strategy for the college, and like many non-profit organizations, they’re underfunded and tend to move cautiously.

From what we saw in the analytics, I believe that they’re missing significant potential revenue and outreach opportunities – which in my language means that their Website has some major leaks. At least there are proven visitor numbers to make that case to the Management Team and the Board – I’ll be interested to see how they go forward.

Getting the Wrong (Even Though Good!) Reputation?

At the same program earlier this week, I had a great question from Gloria Metrick, of GeoMetrick  Enterprises.

Gloria provides consulting services around Laboratory Information Management Systems.  She’s very well-known in her field, publishes many articles, and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences.

She asked me: “There are so many of my articles out there that people think I’m a writer, not a service provider! What can I do?”

The answer goes to one of my favourite Web mantras: “every page of your site should have a strategy”.

The articles pages on Gloria’s Website don’t currently point back to her services or the rest of her site. I recommended that every article should include links to pages describing related consulting services, and there should be a clear call to action at the top and bottom of each article page inviting visitors to learn more or contact her directly.

One of the biggest causes of leaks in potential revenue from your Website is not leveraging all your great content to maximum advantage.  And building in some links and calls to action is not a major redesign.  So plug that leak!