Assemble a Web site development plan that is integrated with your overall marketing processes. The content should be consistent with offline materials; the graphics/images don’t have to be identical with traditional media, but should be consistent with your overall branding, style guide, usage of colors, etc.
Hire a Web site design firm that understands your market position. Find one that won’t get “geek crazy” – meaning they are so in love with their own design capabilities, your site gets bogged down with graphics, plug ins, GIF garbage, etc. But, conversely, check your ego at the door when you work with your design firm – we’ve see so many good Web site designs ruined by clients who can’t or won’t listen to sound advice.
Pay attention to “load times,” how long it takes a Web site to load on an industry-average 56 KBPS modem. If it’s more than 12-18 seconds you may experience the “click of death” – the site doesn’t load quickly and the surfer is gone. Of course, if you’re targeting broadband customers who are reaching your site via ISDN or DSL, then you can build a site that incorporates multimedia-ready content that may include streaming audio or video, or Shockwave or Flash capabilities. Go ahead and let those digital geeks get carried away with cutting edge content presentation.
Keep it simple – make your site easy to move around in. Build a menu structure that is consistent with industry standards: local menus (for a page or section) on the left and global menus (overall site navigation) at the top and/or bottom of each page. Keep as much information “above the fold” (above the cutoff point at the bottom of a monitor); don’t make people use horizontal scroll bars unless absolutely necessary.
Inculcate “digital speed” into your overall site design. Your clients/customers should be able to get to their desired area of your site within one or two mouse clicks; they will quickly get frustrated if they have to click through multiple menus to find information they are seeking.
Develop content that is Web enabled. People don’t read Web site content like they do offline media. Keep your paragraphs short (no more than two to three sentences), build in white space with your content, and include links in your pages. Don’t try to tell your whole marketing story on your site – get people to call you (hello the telephone still works!), e-mail you, or fill out a profile form.
Make your site permission-based marketing ready. We recommend Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing” book http://www.permission.com/. He champions building a long term-relationship with a customer by asking permission to continue to market to that customer and incorporating value/information in all marcom processes.
Ensure your site is optimized for search engines. Identify eight-12 keywords that people will use to find your site. Incorporate these keywords into your site content (to drive relevancy with search engine spiders/bots) and then manually submit your site to the top ten search engines. We don’t recommend most of the free or $19.99 specials available; yes, all will get your site registered with the search engines, but getting listed on page 75 of 350 pages (for example) won’t really drive qualified traffic to your site. You need page 1-3 listings on the top ten engines to really drive qualified traffic.
Delve into your log server files to uncover “digital tracks” made through your Web site. Your log files are raw files that show how and from where (in most cases) people accessed your Web site, where they went on your site, how long they stayed, etc.
Think global in your overall site design. The greatest Internet growth is occurring outside North America, so it is essential to build a site that can be accessed easily by people around the world. What issues do you need to look at? 1) Load times are very important. 2) Develop content that avoids colloquialisms that may not be understood by others who may not speak the same language. 3) You may want to make your site’s content available in diverse languages (there are a number of emerging applications that will facilitate this process), ensuring your e-commerce capabilities can be utilized by all.
Marketing to Today’s “Distracted” Consumer. The average person today is exposed to a never-ending deluge of 1,700 marketing messages during a single 24-hour period. Look around you, we marketers have pasted, integrated injected and/or overlaid advertising in any possible place imaginable! Case in point, NBC will start to digitally insert commercial “billboards” into advertising content to be broadcast during the winter Olympics – in essence a commercial within a commercial.
Marketing messages and processes must be condensed, hard-hitting and presented in formats that are easy to understand and digest – not MBA-speak or techno-jargon. Long mission statements with flowery prose simply don’t cut it in today’s “distracted economy” – customers/clients/partners want to understand what products and services your selling, at what price and how they are supported.
A one-page company Facts sheet is an essential component of any marketing campaign – it provides a snapshot of essentials about your company including markets addressed, contact points, core technology, products or services sold and business partners. A well-written Fact sheet should be one page and provide just baseline information, without any hyperbole.
Power Point presentations by their very nature force you to distill your information down into bullets and short sentences. Enabling you to make a presentation in a meeting, or have content ready for viewing on a 24/7 basis via your web site. You can create several iterations of the presentation which can be tailored for customers, partners, investors, etc. – mixing and matching your core 8-12 slides with others that “speak” to different audiences.
I’ve written several articles on web-enabled marketing and the need for simplicity when designing a web site, with content that is tailored for the online community. Many companies are still spending way too much money on web sites that don’t effectively work as an information resource – unfortunately, many of these sites function more as a testament to the designer’s ability to use cutting edge software graphics tools.
A great number of web sites still utilize text that is just pulled from other marcom materials, ignoring “rules of the road” for content on the web – the online community wants information presented in short paragraphs comprised of 2-3 sentences, with lots of white space.
A good web site should act solely as an appetizer for a four-course meal – whetting the appetites of the viewers and motivating them to take some action that moves them forward in the marketing process such as contacting the company or registering via the web site for more information.
Speaking of web site registration – this too should be optimized for today’s “information overloaded” customer. Only basic requirements should be requested (name, contact points, interest level) with a Privacy Statement linked via the registration page clearly stating your marketing policy; which by the way, you should adhere to without any deviation, or risk the wrath of your customers.
Opt-in e-mail has now become today’s marketing methodology du jour – it works and it’s cost effective. Approximately 50% of opt-in e-mail content is done in HTML (graphics inserted) format and the other 50% in text format. We strongly recommend text format to most of our B2B (business to business) clients – and we utilize a standard format that has generated 8-25% response rates from numerous campaigns we’ve created.
We structure the e-mail message so it is in three short paragraphs, with customer referenceability built in to the message and we utilize at least 10% of the media buy to test 2-3 different messages. The subject line is one of the most critical elements – it has to get the recipient’s attention and cut through the clutter of hundreds (typically) of other messages they will be receiving during a 24-hour period.
Lee Traupel has 20 plus years of business development and marketing experience - he is a principal with Intelective Communications, Inc. http://www.intelective.com, a marketing services company. Lee@intelective.com Reprinted with permission from Intelective Communications - this article may be reprinted freely, providing this attribution box remains intact. (c) 2001-2002 by Intelective Communications, Inc.