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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Is Your Website Customer Focused?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

You’re at a dinner reception. The stranger next to you strikes up a conversation.

It only takes a few minutes before you realize: “This guy’s completely self-absorbed.” No matter how hard you try, every topic leads back to him. Soon, you find yourself inching away.

Guess what? You can find the same thing on the web. Sites that are egocentric. More interested in talking about themselves than solving customer problems. However, unlike the dinner reception situation, your escape from a self-absorbed website is quick and painless.

(Although there are offenders across the board, the biggest culprits seem to be business-to-business companies and small- to mid-sized firms.)

To heck with product benefits or helping prospects and customers solve their problems – the narcissistic website dwells on the company’s spectacularly engineered offerings, their superior manufacturing techniques, the brilliance of their people, the company’s offices. Is there a place for bragging? Sure, but it’s secondary to the customer’s issues. Too many websites forget this.

When you consider that the average visitor has an attention span measured in seconds, and that he scans the web instead of reading every word, a narcissistic website has the same effect as a narcissistic tablemate: it turns people off.

In contrast, an intelligent website doesn’t leave a visitor stranded, searching for the customer benefits of the company’s products or services. It:

¨ Provides clear statements that are customer benefit oriented

¨ Supports its claims (often using customer and third party support)

¨ Proactively addresses potential objections

¨ Ushers the visitor into a dialogue

Let’s look at a very simple before-and-after example.

We’re at the website of a widget manufacturer. Their target market? Widget buyers from manufacturing firms.

The homepage leads off with:

"Since 1908, Acme Widget has precision-manufactured more than 10,000 varieties of widgets. What’s the Acme difference? State-of-the-art technology – including the latest laser manufacturing techniques – along with six sigma processes to ensure the highest quality."

Sound good to you? Where does the customer fit in?

While prospects and customers care a lot about the companies they deal with, they care first and foremost about their own needs. In this instance: “How will Acme Widget solve my problems?”

Here’s another take on the copy:

“Whether you are looking for red, green, purple or color matched widgets, no other company offers a wider selection, faster delivery or more production-friendly engineered designs than Acme Widget.

Independent tests show that using the Acme ViperWidget can result in improving your production speeds by as much as 35%, while significantly reducing defective rates over traditional widgets.

Great selection. Fast delivery. Increased production speeds and reduced defectives for lower overall manufacturing costs. One name. Acme.

Download our free white paper, ‘Increasing Your Production Speed while Lowering Defectives with Better Engineered Widgets,” highlighting the recent tests of more than five hundred widgets conducted by independent testing laboratory, International Widget Laboratories."

This time, the copy speaks to the interests of the customer. Customer problems – and Acme’s solution – stand front and center. Note, I still referred to the Acme's engineering abilities. The difference here is that the reference to engineering is now linked to customer benefits.

Imagine a widget buyer visiting two sites: one with the first copy, the other with the second.

¨ With the first site, the buyer learns a little about the company, but not enough to differentiate it from the competition. And not nearly enough to understand, and appreciate, the benefits of doing business with the firm.

¨ At the second site, the buyer learns about the company’s wide selection, fast delivery, exceptional production speeds and lower defect rates. All strengths she can quickly grasp. What’s more, the white paper provides third-party support – validation – for the company’s claims.

The underlying concept is simple and an underlying marketing communications truth. The most effective marketing communications puts your customers and prospects first, not your company. By focusing on customer and prospect needs, you are more likely to fulfill your company's needs.  See these marketing magazines for a better understanding of how to properly segment your customers.

As obvious as this statement would appear, it is similarly obvious that many marketers don't really follow it.

A Quick Check-up to Find if Your Company Website is Doing the Job

Pretend you are a customer visiting your company's website for the first time. Write down five key concerns you have related to purchasing these kinds of products or services or choosing a company that you feel (or marketing research indicates) reflects the key concerns of your target market when researching companies like yours. Spend up to one minute at your website. Close the browser. How many of your five key concerns were addressed? How well did they address your concerns? A brief amount of copy addressing a key concern and a link to more detail is fine; no mention of these concerns is not.

Did the web page copy get to the heart of your concern or was it focused on the itself instead of the prospects needs? Use what you have learned to further test your website in front of real prospects and customers. Find out their most important problems they are hoping your website will help them answer and re-design your website around helping them.

Post provided by Mr. Peter DeLegge, the publisher of Marketing Today. He has more than fifteen years experience in marketing and marketing communications management and marketing consulting with Fortune 500 to medium size corporations. He can be reached at peterdlAThotmailDOTcom. 


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