Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Why are there all those words on your website?

A prospective client of mine who is looking at a possible website overhaul posed this question to me today: "I noticed that most of the web sites you build are very busy... lots of columns and a lot of words/sentences..."

His current site is, shall we say, "minimalist," with very limited information about either his company or the service they provide. He told me that he had deliberately made a choice to present it in that way.

I thought about his question, and what follows is my reply:

If you’re selling a product or a service to the business community, you know that you’re in competition with many, many other businesses. One of the many challenges you have as a businessman is how to communicate the business value of your offering to a prospective customer, as well as how “credible” are you as a provider of this product or service.

At its most basic level, a website should help you to overcome these challenges, by providing an easy-to-understand summary of exactly what it is that you are offering. With regard to building “credibility,” you can do so on the web by a) providing the credentials and experience of your key players; b) showing awareness of the business challenges of your prospective buyers; and c) demonstrating knowledge of your industry and any coming changes, regulatory issues, or general evolution.

In retail e-commerce, where you’re selling commodity items like shoes or power tools, prospective buyers presume that a name-brand product available through outlet “A” will be the same as the same product through outlet “B.” In these situations, price is usually the determining factor, followed by availability and level of service – i.e., how quickly you can get it. Consumers buying shoes from an “established” player like a Zappos or know that either retailer is “trustworthy,” and will typically base their purchase decision on availability of a style or size, or maybe shipping costs.

However, in the world of B2B, it’s a little different. First the prospective purchaser needs to have a clear picture of your product or service offering, and, presuming that it’s NOT a commodity-type of offering, they’ll need to understand the business value that you bring to the table. Next, they’ll want to understand what about your firm differentiates you from other firms offering similar services, as well as determining how “credible” you are. What about your experience enables you to ensure success for them? They will want to know how likely it is that you are able to actually deliver on your product or service, as well as looking to see examples of documented success in providing your services to other companies.

That's where your web site comes in. Prospective customers will peruse your site, and based on what they see there, will determine whether or not they feel comfortable doing business with you. The aesthetic quality and sophistication of your website are certainly important, as they say a lot about your company. And, more importantly, by providing a compelling “story” about your company and your product or service, your prospects will be far more likely to seriously consider doing business with you.

I presume that prospective clients spend time on my website, making their own determination about my background, experience, and qualifications. Rest assured that others will spend time on your site, for the same reasons. They may do it before they talk with you, and they will most certainly do so after they have spoken with you. But in either case, it will influence their decision to move forward (or to NOT move forward) with you.

Hope this clarifies things for any other folks out there with the same type of question.

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