Monday, March 21, 2011

Operate Your Website for More than One Audience at a Time.

You’ll see this graphic when you go to Upstream Marketing’s revamped website. Principal Brian Bearden and I were looking for a way to simply show how many more audiences are affected by a company’s website than most businesspeople consider.

We drew an early version of the graphic on a prospect’s whiteboard. (It really wasn’t a blackboard – that’s so 20th Century.) Even in the new website version, Bearden has kept the graphic expression simple.

The effects of the Web are indisputable; but listen, there are about 7.6 million businesses in the US alone (US Census, 2010). Which means that for every spectacularly savvy biz with a great website or two or three, there are maybe 10 or 15 that DO NOT realize all the impacts a website can have on their company’s sales, marketing and growth.

Effects on your audience(s) can be both positive and negative. So I view websites as “conversation changers.” Company managers can’t control every single conversation with a prospect, with an investment analyst, with a shareholder. Yet the website’s going to be the first place people go to have a conversation in both metaphorical and literal senses.

The graphic also imagines that some of the website’s exchanges ought to be two-way conversations, dialogues between you and customers, for example; or employees. Other interactions may be one-way: messages to prospects, perhaps, or trade press editors, at least to start with.

In a 50-word opening paragraph, the “About” section says:

We believe that in today’s world more and more effective marketing and sales conversations start with the website. Your website. So our job is to build engaging, easy-to-use, industrial websites for process and manufacturing industries, engineering and service companies. Conversation-changers. Game-changers…the most effective sites – bar none.

I want you to be strategic about your website before you actually make changes, radical or not. SEO is important; content creation also. But deliberation counts for more. A thoughtless website can kill a sale.

The right website, one touched by human thinking, can change your sales or marketing or employee conversations for the better. This is provably true. The best websites can change your game.

To keep the total idea in mind, simple is what you can draw on a whiteboard.

PS: Having visualized this marvelous model, now I have to figure out how to apply it to my own site. I’ll get back to you on that.


Greg Clock said...

Another fine posting by Signalwriter. I like the idea of a thoughtless website, but even the worst are touched by human thinking. OK, two beers coming up.

Brian Bearden said...

I cannot tell you how many times in last 2 weeks I have referenced the audience chart you and I came up with. People forget when planning for a website redesign how many different audiences to take into consideration. The problem most times with their current site is they took just one audience into consideration... themselves.

Rachel said...

Thank you for another insightful post, Richard.

And kudos to the folks at Upstream for recognizing the need for a strategic approach to one of their most important marketing assets. In these days of search-driven Web traffic, simply having audience gateways on the home page ("Customers click here, investors click here, etc.") will no longer do. *All* of your content needs to work together to create a solid impression of your brand, whoever happens to be reading it.

Oh, and thank you for not beginning the "About us" content with "We provide." If I see that one more ... no, best not go there on the Lord's day.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

"*All* of your content needs to work together to create a solid impression of your brand..."

That's spot on, Rachel - now how to cram all that on to a HOME page? And I did LOL at the "We provide..." comment; something we're all fighting at the moment.

Still, I bet if I look around, I'd call myself, "Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!"