Dreams fascinate me – how about you? Do you dream in great detail? Do you ever have flying dreams (LOVE them!) Do they ever feature you using a broom handle to stuff Foghorn Leghorn in a pipe, until all that’s visible is his beak, saying “Chris, I say, Chris….”? Okay, that last one wasn’t mine, and I’m still jealous over that.
Last night I had a dream that was fairly dull until this tall, kindly, middle aged guy walks up to me and says, “Really, web pages are about two things – “show me” and “tell me”. Show me (the customer) what I came here for, and tell me where to go next.”
When I woke up, this was all I remembered from the dream. The middle aged guy wasn’t impressive, but what he said was — and is true. These two phrases sum up web page content design in a nutshell. Let’s unpack these concepts here.
Show Me – Paired Page Titles and Content
When your customer searched for a word or phrase, your page showed in their results, appearing as a title and introductory text. It seemed your web page would give them what they needed above all others, so they clicked.
Respect the honor paid by your customer when they clicked on your web page among thousands. Deliver content based on the promise that your page title implies.
Show Me – Concise and Clear Content
Write your page content for a human being (not a search engine). When you write for people, you are rewarded twice. Well written web page content gives your customer what they want and creates beautifully organic search engine friendly content that withstands each new change of search engine algorithms. Concise and clear web page content:
- Communicates to your target audience
- Avoids jargon
- Considers the reader’s level of understanding of the subject matter
- Presents the information logically
- Relates back to the main point
Now that you have the “Show Me” part of the equation, time to move onto “Tell Me.”
Tell Me – The Next Logical Step As You See It
Many times the content you provide is the final step for a customer, but more often, it’s a step within a stream of steps to achieve some task. Make your web page’s call to action is a logical next step from your content. For example, a do-it-yourself content page for painting should provide something like a link to a place to buy do-it-yourself materials.
Tell Me – What Choices I Have
Using the do-it-yourself painting page again, give the customer choices. Maybe they’ll see that this task is too much for them – provide a link to a painting service. Or perhaps this is just an intro – link to a expanded content on a particular technique, or a place to buy a book. Keep the choices simple and relevant, and natural set of streams from one source – your content.
They May Call Me A Dreamer
I also have a dream that one day all web pages will deliver on the promise they made on Google’s search results. Yes, it’s a big dream, but you can be a crusader with me by following these simple rules of web page content design. And you will be rewarded with delighted visitors who become customers and will tell others about their good experience. This is meat and potatoes, or web content design in a nutshell, if you will. I dreamt it, you do it.
I’m still looking forward to the night Foggy shows up in my dream.
That answer seems a bit counter productive for a web professional. Why won’t I? Here are three reasons, and what will change that answer.
Reason 1: It’s Their Website
I know – you bought the domain, you pay for the hosting. It seems unfair! But it’s not your website – it’s theirs. Yes your customers – the folks who come to do something that you want them to do. Trust me, I want to work with you, but you must understand this foundational fact. You aren’t your website’s user – your customers are. Once we agree on that, we can work together.
Reason 2: You Don’t Know Your Customers
Even I don’t know my customers as well as I think I do. The great news is, you can know them on a level you haven’t before. What it takes is asking them success-tested questions that dig deep into why they do (or don’t) purchase or buy into whatever you’re selling (whether it’s product, information, or cause).
I know what you’re thinking. That you do know them, they talk to you all the time. The problem with this is, you aren’t your website. When it’s just them and your website, the truth comes out. When you ask the right questions, frustrations (and successes) rise to the surface.
Reason 3: I Want To Be Part Of Your Success
Ten years ago I built websites to client specifications, or just how I felt like they should look (when the client allowed that free rein). I learned that these websites follow a predictable pattern:
- A website that doesn’t deliver, which leads to
- Client disappointment, and
- An endless ritual of redesign, which never really solves the core issue —
- The customer was not involved correctly in the design process, especially at the beginning.
Sadly, this is how many designers and do-it-yourself-ers still create websites. I bet you’ve visited plenty!
I like success, and I”m sure you do, too. I truly don’t care how “beautiful” I can make a website, if it doesn’t succeed as part of your organizational goals, it’s bad for you and I can’t point to it as a “model” of work well done by me.
Yes, this is the only place where you can be “all about me” – if you place your successful goals and objectives over arbitrary inputs* – give me a call or drop me a line. We can achieve great things together!
* What are arbitrary inputs? Things like “make that red button green – we like green” and “we’re not getting enough traffic to our widget page, so let’s put a banner on our home page, plus lots of links!” These are inputs (requirements) that are arbitrary (they have no basis in research or fact).
Hey, Where Did You Go?
I often ask this myself when I land on a blog that hasn’t been touched in months or years. Did the person give up or move on to another passion? Occasionally you’ll find a final post that explains the abandonment, but often you’re just left with your own assumptions. Perhaps that was you with this blog.
What Happens When You Assume?
Just like with your own customers, when they go silent, you’re left with questions which lead to assumptions. Too often we let these assumptions grow into strategies. These strategies have little chance for actually turning your business around because they’re just thoughts pulled out of the ether.
Where Did The Love Go?
Stop assuming, start asking. Yes, I know asking customers who seem to have lost their love for you is really hard. It’s humbling, even embarrassing. Man up and pick up the phone. They have the answers you need.
If you think I don’t take my own medicine, think again. I have, and will continue to ask customers why they have gone silent.
The Answers Will Reveal The Truth
When you ask your customers about their experience with your company or organization, keep in mind these truths:
- The answers can help you focus your offering or lead you in new areas. You may have one product or service that you think is awesome, but your customers don’t, and it’s overshadowing something awesome.
- You may get unexpected answers. Sometimes the drop off has nothing to do with you or your offering. Sometimes it does, but not for any reason you might expect.
- The answers may reveal jewels in your product or service offering that you didn’t recognize or value. Sometimes this answer is a value in your offering that you didn’t have a clue was important to your customer.
- The answers may reveal a quick fix that will skyrocket success. What if one little tweak to your business model was all it takes? Of course you’d want to know about that, right? Growth might be just an answer away.
So, Why The Abandonment Of This Blog?
My last post was November 20, 2012.
That was 6 days after my Mom broke her hip, and 16 days before she passed from this life.
The loss of my Mother hit me harder than I’d ever anticipated. Thanks to friends, family, and faith, and a great program called GriefShare, I am finding my way through this journey.
Did you assume correctly? Unless you knew me, probably not. Most of my site visitors would move on and not ask why. Do you do the same to your customers — let them move on and not ask why? If so, you’re losing a valuable opportunity.
Speaking of asking questions, many thanks to those of my friends who asked me questions over these 8 months, and were there when I had questions of my own. I am blessed, and stronger than I would have been without you.
Forrester estimates that buyers will find nearly 70% of the content they need on their own, with only 15% sent by marketing and only 15% delivered by sales. [ref]Content Marketing Is A Key Differentiator For Tech Marketers, January 12, 2012[/ref]
Back in the day, not long ago, marketers and the sales force had a lot to say about what buyers got to see. Like sheep, we read the ads, salivated over the sales pitch, and followed their advice to “have it our way.” Now customers really are “having it their way” — and now own the sales process. Marketing and sales have less to do with the process, and this is a great thing.
The Challenge of a Customer Owned Process
The growing irrelevance of sales and marketing means that the real work lies in making your content a perfect fit for your customers. The two factors that play the most powerful part in this are delivering content how and when the customer wants it.
Deliver content to the customer how they want it
Assuming you have relevant content for your customers, are you delivering it how they want it? Are you using email newsletters for updates and news when your customers would rather subscribe to an RSS feed of your blog or a post on Facebook?
Remember that the “how” can change based on what is being communicated. Find out what they expect to appear on social networks versus on your website or via email. Of course the classic way of dealing with not knowing which channel is the best fit is to broadcast on all channels. The problem here is for customers subscribing to your content on multiple channels, who will get bombarded with duplicate content, making your great content feel “spammy”. You don’t want the “unsubscribe,” “unlike,” and “delete” buttons to become attractive. Not good.
Deliver content to the customer when they want it
Just as important as the “how” is the “when” of content delivery. Take a close look at your sales funnel and see how you can anticipate a content need as customers progress through the process. Deliver just the right content at just the right time. Too soon and it’s irrelevant, too late and it’s frustrating or confusing.
How do you find out the “how” and “when”?
Ask your customers in a systematic and proven way that gets actionable information. This is not the time to use analytics or online surveys, because the information they provide is either incomplete or too general. Invest in a thorough interview process of a group of your best customers. Find out what “worked” for them, what you could do better, and use that information to improve content delivery in the sales process.
Need help? Contact us to set up a complete customer marketing research plan.