Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Building a labyrinth your customers get lost in
We just launched a new website. It’s a time to remind yourself that you are not the customer. Normal people don’t have the same insatiable interest in your company as you do.
When it’s new site time, it’s so tempting to keep adding more and more. Just because you can. It’s the same mentality as the 100-slide investor pitch deck, when the yes/no decision has already been made three slides in.
You can end up with an online encyclopedia that pleases all departments in your business. A labyrinth your customers get lost in. And a massive burden for whoever has to maintain the beast.
Our new site was an exercise in how little we can get away with. It’s not an approach that suits every business, and I’m not saying you should do it.
But you should ask yourself: does more information mean more sales?
Or is it a distraction, burying your core advantages beneath a mountain range of generic info-spam?
Search: a rich source of the wrong customers
For years we worried about SEO and SEM. How did we rank for Audiovisual in each city? We’d have pages of copy jacked up with all the specific key words: Adelaide events, Brisbane video projection, Melbourne PA hire and so on.
Then we realised almost every search enquiry was a tyre-kicker, trawling for a dirty deal. Looking for three or four suppliers to email for a quote. If you’re a brand that’s never going to be that cheapest quote, that’s a problem.
Bonus problem for 2022: we’ve spent the last two years holding an amazing team together while others let staff go. Our sales people are also project managers, and now they’re out-of-control busy as the market gets back up to speed. New sales people are almost impossible to find as skills shortages bite hard.
For us, the best sales system is the one that wastes as little of our salespeople’s valuable time as possible.
The ideal result is to get them talking to people who already know a bit about us. It’s a blog piece for another day, but our view is that responding to RFPs where we are one on a list of six is an expensive waste of time.
The website is the last step of a longer strategy
So about eighteen months ago we committed to a long-term branding campaign. It’s a decent investment every month. Particularly when our market turned to shit for a second year running with the Delta variant shutdowns. But we believe in the margin-building value of long-term brand campaigns.
I’ve linked to this before, but if you haven’t seen it, watch this Mark Ritson brand ROI talk* It’s literally the most useful business presentation I’ve ever seen.
The brand campaign is underpinned by a lot of the principles of SEO/SEM, but uses more interesting video.
Our website acts as the final step in that awareness process. People have a look, recognise some of the images from the brand campaign, and their risk-averse, reptilian brains think: I’ve heard of them, this is a safe, low-risk option.
Everything we want them to know is on the home page.
From that point, our only goal is to get them off the site and in contact with one of our people. Who will come across as a reassuring, helpful person.
Obviously this suits products with a higher spend and a need for personal interaction. But even if you’re an e-commerce business, too much choice is a massive barrier to purchasing.
There’s even a law about the effects of information overload: Hicks’ Law**. Here’s a story on how that applies to UX if you’re interested.
Too much information: 5 things to cut
Whatever your product, there are so many common website elements you might not need.
1. Product information
Do your clients really need to know all the products you use or sell, and everything about them? If you’re Bunnings, yes, because those customers are doing all the work themselves.
If your business offers more service, is your real advantage that your people can listen to what the customer wants and just make it happen? Without the client needing to know what’s going on behind the scenes?
Websites full of product can make you look exactly like your competitors, so price becomes the only differentiation.
And the more product information, the more your site becomes a maintenance monster, full of never-visited, out-of-date back alleys.
We are a technology company, and we used to have a big tech section. Now we have one short page.
I can confirm it takes borderline personality disorder to keep a blog going beyond three months.
If you are a busy business person, you can’t do it yourself. Blogs are brutal in showing everyone when you last did one. And before you know it, that date will be years ago.
3. Unedited material
I spend as much time editing these stories as I spend writing them.
Business people think they can write. But it’s a big jump to writing stuff people will read.
There was a time when Google rewarded bulk wordage stuffed with keywords. That’s over.
Every word on that site has to justify its presence.
Hiring an editor/checker is well worth it. They’ll help you focus on what’s in it for the customer, rather than just things you’d like to say at great length.
They’ll add the line breaks that 2022 attention spans need.
An external eye really helps. One of our competitors, a world-class outfit, offers a stack of case studies on their site. One of them includes the actual words “(unsure if true)”.
I believe the point in question was true. These glitches are just what you get when your website gets huge, with contributions from everyone, and nobody has time to check before they hit publish.
4. Forms with too many fields
Your marketing team would love more data to present in their Tuesday morning PowerPoint update. So they’ll ask customers to fill out seven fields for a simple enquiry.
Customers don’t want to fill out your forms, and they aren’t opening a bank account. If it’s not essential, don’t ask for it.
5. Mahogany Row
That Leadership Team submenu under About Us? Delete.
No customer gives a fuck who your CFO is.
And that’s enough words for today.
* Shout out to sales training king Mark McInnes for providing the video.
** I know a few readers who will wish it was Bill Hicks’ Law but no.
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