By Marie Wiese
“What should we do with our website?” A company came to me recently with this very specific, very common question. The company deals with information technology (IT) system integration and helps other businesses implement software products into their operations. They were suffering from a common issue: They expected too much upfront from their customers. They had grown up in the click-to-buy way of thinking, where they expected someone to come to their website and immediately take action to do business with them. “We’ve spent $100,000 on our website and yet, when people visit, they don’t pick up the phone to call us,” they told me.
So I took them through the process of developing digital content to engage their audience, walking them through the steps of how to build an online presence that will engage and entice. But they weren’t having any of it. They decided that since they had already spent all this money to redo their website, they weren’t going to spend any more. They were happy with a website that was “good enough,” but they were missing a major opportunity to go after something that was truly good, or even great.
There is content out there (websites, newsletters, etc.) that companies constantly push to their audience without any process to back it up. People think they can just throw a newsletter together with what they—the company—thinks is interesting, when instead they should be building content around a framework dedicated to understanding what their customers care about.
Let’s go back to the IT company for a minute. While digging around their website, I discovered blog posts about a company picnic they had just held. When I discussed this with them, here’s how the conversation went:
“Who is this blog post for and why did you post it?” I asked.
“Well, we were told by an SEO company that we should be constantly posting new content,” was the response.
“Do your customers care about your company picnic? Are they likely to search for it?”
“Probably not. . . .”
The content was out of line with the service the company offers—it made no sense to have it on their site. It was jarring. And the same mistake was evident when I took a look at their newsletter.
This is a problem I see a lot. People don’t know what kind of content to create, so they take a template and try to fill it with whatever they can think of instead of taking the time to go through their goals for a particular piece of content. We think that the most important thing is just to get something out there into the universe, anything to show we have a presence online. But you may be doing more work than you need to do.
Rather than posting about the company picnic, for example, you need to be thinking about questions like: Who is this newsletter for? What do we want the reader to know, feel, or do as a result of receiving it? What kind of engagement do we expect by sending something out?
Why Good Enough Doesn’t Cut It
Content that may matter internally is not the kind of content you want people to be focusing on in the marketplace. A story about your company picnic does nothing for your customer. When you create an e-mail marketing message or a newsletter or a blog, whether you’re conveying industry news or content that educates, you just can’t guess. You need to do the work to figure out what your customers care about and then meet that need. It all starts with tracking data and building off what is working. Once you do the research and use the tools that are at your disposal, suddenly you have this great opportunity to have a customer conversation that no one else is having. But now that you know the content on your site needs to change, how do you change it?
When you take a step back to investigate who your content is for, how you’d like that audience to feel as a result of receiving it, and what you want them to know, you begin to create a framework that serves your customers rather than you, and this is a good thing. Once you’ve established what your goals are, you need to make sure you’re tracking performance to see if what you’re doing is working. Measuring results will allow you to pivot if necessary, reinforce what is going well, and determine where to go next.
Until you focus on your buyer’s journey, your web strategy is not going to be effective. Simply throwing something on your site, shrugging your shoulders and settling for “good enough” doesn’t cut it anymore. Your website will not perform as a lead-generating tool.
Companies try to use content to be everywhere. They think that if they post something, stick it in the monthly newsletter, share a photo on social media, and simply get it out through as many channels as possible, then people will pay attention because content is content, right? Well, it’s not. These companies may be meeting the criteria of the activity, but they’re missing the other half: what the customer wants. Too many content creators think that putting up content they believe is “dynamic” will help their dynamic search ranking.
When Google crawls a website, it sees two types of content. The first is content that’s been sitting there for a while, like the About Us section, the Products and Services page, or a company’s contact information. This is identified as static content. However, if you have a blog or a newsletter, or something that is frequently updated and time sensitive, this is seen as dynamic content. Because dynamic content is by nature new and fresh, it indexes higher on Google.
This causes a problem. People have caught on to what makes a page rank higher in Google, and they’ve tried to hack the system. They think the only thing that matters is to update their page with something new and fresh, so they focus more on the quantity of posts rather than on the quality. This is how you wind up with a post about the company picnic on the blog: someone is simply trying to meet their update quota for the week. But what they are missing are the tools they need to create the right content properly—content that is good, rather than just good enough.
Define Your Value
Good enough doesn’t cut it because there is too much choice and too much competition. The possibility of being overlooked is instantaneous. When you are a smaller organization and you’re fighting for eyeballs, good enough just doesn’t work.
You need to focus first on getting the basics right—your site, your content—before you try to be anywhere else. You can’t be everywhere, and you shouldn’t try to be. It’s more important to be in a few places and be good rather than be everywhere and be merely good enough. I would even argue that you are better off doing nothing than settling for something that is just good enough for your customers.
Instead of trying to do everything and be everywhere, being truly good means going back to the basics and focusing your efforts on what makes you—and your business—special, different, and important versus the alternatives, your competitors. Content that is truly good starts with developing a value proposition spectrum that spans your entire business, from your overall purpose to the problem you solve for your customers.
Defined value is what builds a brand and ultimately leads to a sale. Compelling and clearly stated values move a person quickly from doing research to becoming a customer. A value proposition is the primary reason somebody buys from you, and this is what many businesses struggle to articulate in a compelling way. What is important is what your customer finds important.
The spectrum upon which value proposition is composed is multi-faceted, diverse, and complex, but what many people don’t realize is that by not having a compelling value proposition, they are not giving their customers a reason to interact or engage. You should always be asking these two questions:
- Why would somebody want to hear from me on this topic or about this product or service?
- What is the value (in a customer’s eyes) that only I can bring to the table?
You want a potential customer to engage with your content and to be led to a point where serious consideration is given to your product or service.
The next critical step is to create a buyer persona based on a clear understanding of the buyer’s journey.
Marie Wiese is the founder of Marketing CoPilot, a leading Canadian digital marketing agency that helps companies increase leads and sales using digital marketing. She is an Executive-in-Residence at the Innovation Factory, an Adjunct Professor of Mentis Academy, and the author of You Can’t Be Everywhere: A Common Sense Approach to Digital Marketing for Any Business, from which this article was adapted.