Via a pointer from Mary Schmidt (that’s a hat trick on the links for her this week, but good links is good links…;-)
Jeremiah Owyang, Director of Corporate Media Strategy at PodTech.net, has a great post on his Web Strategy by Jeremiah blog entitled “Web Strategy: How to evolve your irrelevant corporate website .” Since I’ve carried the moniker “Corporate Webmaster” for about a decade, I’d say I’m almost obliged to comment.
First, a quick summary, although I encourage you to read the full post at his site, as well as the comment string.
But we’re tired of the corporate website and all it’s happy marketing speak, stock photos of smart looking dudes or minority women crowded around the computer raving about your product, the positive press release, the happy customer testimonials, the row of executive portraits, the donations your corporate made to disaster relief, the one-sided view never ends.
Bravo! I too am utterly tired of the cookie cutter sites that don’t represent reality, or even truly reflect the corporations goals, products, services, etc. Memorably I had issues with one corporate site where they were attempting to “expand their reach” and literally debranded their site to the point that you couldn’t tell what industry they served. But we still had those happy smiling young folks…
Jeremiah posits that the solution is to include social marketing into the corporate site to make it relevant. Let the site become a community, present a balanced view between products and customers, and allow unfiltered product reviews. A noble idea, but my experience in community clearly demonstrates that unmoderated discourse will quickly turn to a flame fest and spam haven. Hence we’d need to adopt a clear cut moderation policy, which will most probably call our motivation into question eventually.
Your website will be a Community Resource
This means that you’ll put your customers first, No Really, I mean it. This means providing analysis of not just yourself but to competitors as well, this means that you’ll link to competitors.
I like the idea, but I’d question how it would truly be percieved. I know that I take those “comparison charts” I see so often with a very large grain of salt. When we look for assessments or product reviews, we expect a certain level of bias from people who by their nature should be biased. There are places where one gets unvarnished reviews, and a corporate website isn’t one of those places.
But I am probably splitting hairs here. I agree, to a degree with Jeremiah’s ideas. Here’s how I’d aim to provide relevance for the corporate website:
- Every page as it’s own homepage, designed as a point of entry which makes it easy to identify who you are and what you do.
- Easy to find *brief* product information pages, with the ability to get more indepth information on deeper drill down.
- Customer support community, which also offers the ability for non-customers to discourse with existing customers. This would be similar to the way the vBulletin.com site has a pre-sales forum where potential users can ask questions not only of the staff, but of the customer base as well.
- News that goes beyond press releases – find everything written about your product and make it available on your product pages. Think of it as a reading room, or “In the Press.”
- Provide open discourse from your knowledge matter experts – blogging, case studies, etc. The perception still at most companies is that their information is a proprietary resource. By allowing them to speak on issues in your industry, you create customer good will, and become the go to voice in your industry. Think of Robert Scoble at Microsoft – if they can do it, you can.
- Consider giving a semi-authoritative voice to authorities within the customer base. Possibly allow customers to blog under the corporate auspices.
- Think about the Ombudsman model at newspapers – have someone who’s job it is to represent the customers internally, and make their position highly visible on the site.
- No more hand shakes, no more group hugs – watch the stock photos, if you can’t find an image that helps to get your message across, it’s time to look at your message.