You’re at a dinner reception. The stranger next to you
strikes up a conversation.
It only takes a few minutes before you realize: “This guy’s
completely self-absorbed.” No matter how hard you try, every topic leads
back to him. Soon, you find yourself inching away.
Guess what? You can find the same thing on the web. Sites
that are egocentric. More interested in talking about themselves than solving
customer problems. However, unlike the dinner reception situation, your
escape from a self-absorbed website is quick and painless.
(Although there are offenders across the board, the biggest
culprits seem to be business-to-business companies and small- to mid-sized
To heck with product benefits or helping prospects and
customers solve their problems – the narcissistic website dwells on the
company’s spectacularly engineered offerings, their superior manufacturing
techniques, the brilliance of their people, the company’s offices. Is there
a place for bragging? Sure, but it’s secondary to the customer’s issues. Too
many websites forget this.
When you consider that the average visitor has an attention
span measured in seconds, and that he scans the web instead of reading every
word, a narcissistic website has the same effect as a narcissistic
tablemate: it turns people off.
In contrast, an intelligent website doesn’t leave a visitor
stranded, searching for the customer benefits of the company’s products or
clear statements that are customer benefit oriented
claims (often using customer and third party support)
addresses potential objections
visitor into a dialogue
Let’s look at a very simple before-and-after example.
We’re at the website of a widget manufacturer. Their target
market? Widget buyers from manufacturing firms.
The homepage leads off with:
"Since 1908, Acme Widget has precision-manufactured more
than 10,000 varieties of widgets. What’s the Acme difference?
State-of-the-art technology – including the latest laser manufacturing
techniques – along with six sigma processes to ensure the highest quality."
Sound good to you? Where does the customer fit in?
While prospects and customers care a lot about the companies
they deal with, they care first and foremost about their own needs. In this
instance: “How will Acme Widget solve my problems?”
Here’s another take on the copy:
“Whether you are looking for red, green, purple or color matched widgets,
no other company offers a wider selection, faster delivery or more
production-friendly engineered designs than Acme Widget.
Independent tests show that using the Acme ViperWidget can result in
improving your production speeds by as much as 35%, while significantly
reducing defective rates over traditional widgets.
Great selection. Fast delivery. Increased production speeds and reduced
defectives for lower overall manufacturing costs. One name. Acme.
Download our free white paper, ‘Increasing Your Production Speed while
Lowering Defectives with Better Engineered Widgets,” highlighting the recent
tests of more than five hundred widgets conducted by independent testing
laboratory, International Widget Laboratories."
This time, the copy speaks to the interests of the customer.
Customer problems – and Acme’s solution – stand front and center. Note, I
still referred to the Acme's engineering abilities. The difference here is that the
reference to engineering is now linked to customer benefits.
Imagine a widget buyer visiting two sites: one with the first
copy, the other with the second.
first site, the buyer learns a little about the company, but not enough to
differentiate it from the competition. And not nearly enough to understand,
and appreciate, the benefits of doing business with the firm.
At the second
site, the buyer learns about the company’s wide selection, fast delivery,
exceptional production speeds and lower defect rates. All strengths she can
quickly grasp. What’s more, the white paper provides third-party support –
validation – for the company’s claims.
The underlying concept is simple and an underlying marketing
communications truth. The most effective marketing communications puts your
customers and prospects first, not your company. By focusing on customer and
prospect needs, you are more likely to fulfill your company's needs.
obvious as this statement would appear, it is similarly
obvious that many marketers don't really follow it.
A Quick Check-up to Find if Your
Company Website is a Narcissist
Pretend you are a customer visiting your company's website
for the first time. Write down five key concerns you have related to
purchasing these kinds of products or services or choosing a company that
you feel (or marketing research indicates) reflects the key concerns of your
target market when researching companies like yours. Spend up to one minute
at your website. Close the browser. How many of your five key concerns were
addressed? How well did they address your concerns? A brief amount of copy
addressing a key concern and a link to more detail is fine; no mention of
these concerns is not.
Did the web page copy get to the heart of your concern or was
it focused on the itself instead of the prospects needs? Use what you have
learned to further test your website in front of real prospects and
customers. Find out their most important problems they are hoping your
website will help them answer and re-design your website around helping
It’s your choice: propaganda that only ends up stroking your