Let’s face it, most business websites could use a little love. Make that a lot of love. Honestly, it’s rare for me to find a site that really speaks to me, that encourages me to do any more than simply read what I want and leave, generally to never return.
It’s the human side that’s missing for me. The day of the static website is over; done, finito, all she wrote. Static websites remind me of the dark old days when someone would hand us their product catalog and we’d simply put it on line, in the hopes someone would find it and buy something.
What we’re missing is the human side; the fact that a business is a community. If we’re doing our brand right, our customers really want to think of themselves as part of the team. Think of Harley-Davidson; you know you’ve reached brand nirvana when your customers are tattooing your logo on their arms (and elsewhere).
Okay, realistically most of our brands will never inspire our customers to set ink to flesh, but nevertheless they do indeed want to be inspired. It’s up to us to provide that inspiration.
So how do we accomplish this on the web? We do it by embracing community. By showing our websites the love they need. We tend our garden.
Here are some points to consider in your quest to make your brand sing online.
1. Press releases don’t take the place of real website updates. People need a reason to come back to your website on a regular basis. Keep your site absolutely up to date with the latest product information, and consider offering alternate means of getting that information. Avoid pdf datasheets, instead go with short flash animations showing the product in use. Instead of vast pages of text, go with bullet points. Keep the main product page short and if needed link to further information on other pages.
2. Become the go to source for information on your industry. You are professional, act like it. Blog on industry issues, and bring those blog posts forward to your homepage. Actively solicite questions, and answer them on an open format, such as a blog or forum.
3. Literally define your industry – consider putting a wikipedia on your site and allow your readers to help build the dictionary of your industry. It will become over time one of the best evergreen (always fruitful) content areas of your site, bringing in new eyeballs day after day, week after week, and year after year.
4. Participate in the online community at large. Post on forums, comment on blogs, and do so without trumpeting your products. It may seem counter intuitive, but the truth is the web is a place where less can sometime be more. By taking part in the online discussion, you will create good will. The problem is such groups have extremely limited tolerance of overt commercialism. Be careful.
5. Pull your products to your homepage. Try rotating a product of the day or product spotlight on the site, which will give a new look to the site on a daily basis. Customers will become accustomed to visiting your site more often.
6. Sponsor niche communities in your industry. Community sites such as forums generally offer advertising at extremely competetive rates. Get your name in front of the right eyeballs by sponsoring a site where your potential customers would be found.
7. Give people alternate ways to get information from you. Email newsletters, rss feeds, blogs, etc. All are viable means to keep the customer up to date on all the great things happening at your company. Also allow them to request email updates when specific product pages are updated.
That’s just a start. Let’s hear your ideas…