Content marketing is about more than generating leads and traffic. Great content communicates — and that doesn’t start on your blog. It starts on your home page.
With so much focus on content that’s new, fresh, original, dynamic (you can fill in the rest of the blanks), static content is often neglected. But that static content — your home page, your about page, etc. — is foundational. If your static content doesn’t do a good job of establishing who you are, what you do, and why anyone should care, then your dynamic content — your blog posts, your social media updates, etc. — can’t save you. So let’s step back from blogs and other dynamic content and take a look at your website as a whole. There are a few things it needs to make explicitly clear:
Who you are, what you do, and why anyone should care
In more technical terms, your home page has to establish your unique value proposition (UVP). Depending on your business, that could mean just a few sentences, or it could mean paragraphs, subsections, bulleted lists, etc. But even with a longer version, you still want to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question right away.
Nobody is going to spend 15 minutes digging through your website, trying to find the part where you tell them why they should give you money. It may seem silly, but a lot of businesses mess this one up and make readers work way too hard to come to a buying decision.
Ironically, the focus on content marketing seems to have caused people to forget this premise. That’s because content marketing — blog posts, social media updates, etc. — is all about the indirect sell. But you can’t be so indirect that no one can figure out what your offer is.
That’s why the rest of your site — your home page, your About page, your Products and Services page, etc. — needs to just spit it out and make it explicitly clear: This is what we sell, and this is why you should buy it.
In the eloquent words of a gentleman I worked with in a former life, “Put the hay down where the goats can get at it.”
And when you write about the “what” and the “why,” don’t get too focused on features. Instead, talk about the benefits:
- How will your product or service make the buyer’s life better, and what will that look like?
- Will they be able to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in 6 months without lying awake worrying about X?
- Will they be able to get rid of the one task they hate so much that they have to force themselves out of bed on the days they have to do it?
- Will they be able to get a handle on controlling and managing expenses rather than just trying to staunch the bleeding?
Yes, it’s important to clearly state what you do, but don’t stop there. The final touch is to paint a picture of what things will look like once your solution is in place.
Want to see some examples of copy that didn’t quite get there? I’m not going to give any names — my parents (not to mention nuns with rulers) drilled Southern manners in me far too deeply for that — but see if you can figure out where these sites fell short and how they could improve:
Company A is a technology solutions company. We hold the most comprehensive patents in the industry. While others throw people at problems, we and our clients use robust Telecom and Mobile Expense Management software to automate the entire process, ensuring the solution stays in place within your organization even as the environment changes. The result is that you experience the most efficient, streamlined Telecom Management ecosystem possible, whether you use your team or ours to manage it.
Sure, this one communicates the general idea: They apparently sell a service that helps people manage their telecom expenses. Beyond that, it’s fuzzy.
- Do those comprehensive patents have anything to do with this particular offering? Or might they hold patents in underwater basketweaving?
- If the patents are related to this offering, how do they add value?
- And what the heck does it mean to “ensure the solution stays in place within your organization even as the environment changes”? Do we have an epidemic of solutions running amuck, outside the confines of any organization?
More importantly, how will the prospect’s life be better when everything Company A promises has been accomplished? What will that feel like, and how will it look?
Welcome to our hub! Featuring content and case studies for technology sales and marketers.
Short, sweet, and effective. What could be clearer than, “Come here to learn and to stay up on the latest developments”? The only thing left to add is the warm fuzzy — the verbal picture of how life will be better when people use the resources on this website.
This business’s home page didn’t say a thing about what the company does. It featured newsy blurbs from the industry but lacked the context that would explain why that mattered. I had to dig through to the “About” page to find this:
…background screenings could be greatly simplified by infusing it with technological sophistication. His vision has been realized through web-based client interfaces that support both pre-hire and ongoing background and criminal screenings, along with a constantly expanding line-up of other services.
That explains (kind of) what the company does, but it doesn’t explain what makes them different from a gazillion other companies doing the same thing. And it definitely doesn’t give me a glimpse of the new and improved life I’ll have once I give them my money.
We engineer intelligent visibility across silos, platforms, systems and enterprises. We employ a cloud-based solution to combine unprecedented upstream and downstream network connectivity with sense-and-respond collaboration tools, to provide near-real-time, actionable information.
This gives our clients a unique and measurable advantage in planning and executing demand-driven supply chains.
Here’s another one that does a fairly good job of communicating what they do, but it’s obscured by the fog of adjectives. And it doesn’t explain why a choir of angels will start singing once I climb on board. Way too many buzzwords and not enough substance. Too many unanswered questions, too, such as, “Will I have to invest a bunch of money in these sense-and-respond collaboration tools?”
Start your baby’s life out right by creating an environment free from toxic chemicals. Shop organic baby clothes, organic baby bedding, natural baby toys, eco-friendly diapers and other organic baby products. If you are expecting, create your Green Baby Shower Registry and receive special discounts.
This one is good. It’s clear and to the point, and the part about being able to create a registry is a good way to differentiate themselves from the competition. And the “free of toxic chemicals” part gets right to the heart of why expectant parents would come to a website like this in the first place.
The bottom line: Don’t be cute. Don’t try to sound over-educated and fancy. Don’t make your prospects work so hard.
Just spit it out already and tell people what you’re all about so they can decide whether they’re in the right place. And then create a verbal vision of life with your product or service…one so real that readers feel bereft when the description is over and can’t wait to get it back, in real life this time.
Proof that you can deliver
Not only does your website need to make your UVP crystal clear, it also needs to explain why you’re the best choice to deliver on that promise. This information fits best on your About page. That’s where you should talk about things like:
- Your team and their credentials/accomplishments
- Awards your company has won
- Certifications you’ve achieved
- Other clients you’ve worked with (with their permission, of course)
Again, this is a time to be clear and succinct. Don’t use a bunch of buzzwords just to sound authoritative (because people either see right through it or have no earthly clue what you’re talking about). Instead, offer convincing proof that you can deliver what you promise.
Who your customers are — and who they’re not
Unless you’re Amazon, the world is not your oyster. Being explicitly clear about the people you’re targeting accomplishes a couple of things.
- First, it’s a hook for your target customers: “Hey, they’re talking to me! I’ll keep reading…”
- It also establishes that you know exactly who you are and what you’re doing instead of just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
- Finally, it builds good will with people who aren’t likely to be your customer because it saves them time and effort. And who knows how that kind of karma might circle back in the form of social shares, referrals, etc.? There’s no guarantee, of course, but it can’t hurt.
What interested visitors should do next
I hate it when TV shows just fade away. You know what I mean…when a series gets canceled and it just…stops, with no finale. Contrast that with shows like M.A.S.H. and Friends that wrapped things up in a way that left viewers wanting more.
Far too many websites do the same thing. They may do a great job of explaining who they are, what they do, etc. — but then they just stop. There’s no call to action (CTA). If you’re going to go to all that trouble baiting the hook, don’t forget to put it in the water!
Tell your readers what you want them to do next — make a purchase, register for an email list, learn more on your blog, contact someone for more information, etc. — and then lead them there by the hand (which is usually as simple as a “Click here” button).
Worried that a direct CTA might be too annoying? Yeah, me, too. Fortunately, the numbers tell a different story. Effective CTAs send conversions through the roof.
There are plenty of resources on CTA best practices — for example, even something as seemingly minor as changing the color of a button can influence your click-through rate — and I’ve included some of those links below. But any CTA is better than no CTA. Don’t think of it as overselling; think of it as providing clear road signs to interested customers.
A face and a name
People like to buy from people.That’s probably not as important for enterprise-level businesses, but it’s essential for SMBs. People want to know that there’s a real person on the other side of the screen and that they’re just not tossing their information and questions out into a bottomless pit.
Whether it’s a phone number, an email address (preferably that of a specific person), or a web-based contact form, don’t play hard to get. Make it easy for interested parties to get in touch with you.
A brag page
Unless you’re already at the top of your game on a global level, offering a portfolio, a client list, or a few case studies is a great way to ease fears that getting in touch with you might start some sort of never-ending Fatal Attraction cycle.
Mission statement, values, principles, etc.
I hesitated to include this one, but then I realized that my reluctance is because people use it way too far up the sales funnel. Could these statements be the deciding factor for someone who’s wavering between two or three options? Absolutely. But anybody can throw a few heart-warming mission statements on their website. It doesn’t mean that they actually live them. The only way you figure that out is by working together. And, before anybody is willing to invest the time and effort in doing that, they want to know that you’re able to get the job done. So, yes, include copy about what you believe in and why you do what you do…but only after you establish your overall awesomeness.
As a small business owner myself, I know how all-consuming it can be. I know how you find yourself “working” any time you’re not specifically doing something else. It becomes part of your identity. So, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t sabotage yourself. If your website doesn’t have these essential elements, fix it today. Or let me fix it for you. (See what I did there?)