It’s Not About You

As appeared in the Presence Pointers column of the November 2007 issue of “Business Watch” magazine.

What is your website? Is it a marketing tool? Is it a sales tool? Is it a source of information? These are important questions, but they aren’t the most important question you should be asking. There are six fundamental questions, (who, what, when, where, why, and how) and there is a reason why “who” is the first question. Without “who?” the other questions just aren’t as important anyway.

Unfortunately, many websites answer this first question wrongly. So what’s the correct answer? Let me give you a hint…it’s not about you. You may develop, manage, and even pay for your site, but it’s your target customers’ or potential customers’ site. If you doubt this-seriously, when was the last time you visited your own website anyway?

It can be challenging, but it’s important to approach your site from the point of view of your audience. Take some time right now, grab a pen and a piece of paper—don’t look at your website—and think about who your target client or customer is and what they are looking for when they come to it.

Now, read through your site page by page and ask yourself whether each page is there for you or your customer. Are you using the language and terminology that your customers use or are you all about the lingo of your industry? Impress your customers by talking to them, not over or at them. Don’t let brand-speak and techno-talk get in the way of communicating with your audience.

This is where focusing on answering the questions that your customers ask can be extremely helpful. By using this approach, it can dramatically change the way you present information on your site; from being self-centered, promoting products or services, to customer-centered, providing answers and solutions.

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Take another step back and ask yourself whether your site is laid out in a way that makes sense to your customers. Is your site laid out in a way that makes sense to them? Do you have clearly labeled sections on your site for “products” or “services?” What about your contact information? This all sounds overly simplistic, yet it is one of the basics that many sites get wrong. Too often this happens because someone gets too cute or clever with words used in the navigation or sections of the site.

It is far too easy to get caught up in the excitement of your website. It becomes less and less about the information you are providing and how you are providing it, and more about how it looks. Ironically, most if not all of your visitors care far less about how it looks than what it delivers. Sure, we all like to visit sites that look good, but substance is far more important. I don’t know about you, but give me an average looking site with great content over a great looking site with average content any day.

5 Questions for every website

  • Who is my target customer/client?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What is important to them?
  • What simplifies their life or job?
  • What questions are they seeking answers for?