The drive, energy and sheer brilliance of the business owner should be the most important aspect of the website – and that simply cannot be achieved if responsibility is devolved to someone who was not part of that initial business vision. Marketers have all the skills and techniques required to create an engaging website, packed full of social media feeds and content – but they don’t have the love.
The website is now central to business success. In an era when every prospect or supply partner will Google both company and management team before considering any interaction, the website and associated social media content are a chance to display the essential vision of the business.
Today’s websites are a world apart from the original static brochure style sites. Such sites did little more than demonstrate a company’s existence and basic area of operations. They prompted one off visits and had minimal impact in building a reputation. That has changed: sites now are live, dynamic and interactive. They are designed to bring customers, prospects and partners to the company through content and thought provoking discussion. So it is essential that both the design and content reflect the essence of the company – from the quirks of the founders to the experience gained to date. The website should be a lens into the company; a way not only to attract the perfect customer but also, to be frank and show off culture.
Mechanics plus vision
There are a number of essential components for a website – from responsive design to ensuring it looks good from any mobile device. Even more important is its integration with social media, as well as content marketing to drive continual engagement. Blogs, eBooks, white papers and newsletters have fast become a key part of the overall marketing mix.
Most businesses that recognise the need to embrace this dynamic website model – and, unfortunately, far too many do not – assume the process can be delivered by marketers, either in house or third party agencies. But this is not an out of the box, one size fits all solution. Marketers are fantastic at putting the right mechanics in place, but does the marketer have that essential business vision or understand what led to the creation of the company in the first place? Not unless the marketer was the founder. It is only the owner who understands why the business was set up. And it is a failure to communicate that message through the website that is a real missed opportunity.
Capturing the voice
An interactive, engaging website needs to be the voice of the company – and that clearly demands input from the person who is that voice, the business owner. But it is also important to gain input from across the business – even the youngest intern will have more understanding about the company than any third party marketer. So coming together to discuss the company voice is invaluable. Key questions can prompt new insights and make it easier for a marketer to harness the nature of the business. Questions such as: What do people always get wrong about you? What do customers most frequently ask? What is it you wish people would do differently if they were to be the perfect customer?
The process of answering these questions will inspire the right kind of content that reflects the company ethos, matches the needs of the audience and provide ideas for the creation of content, from blogs to eBooks. And following on from that initial discussion, owners need to stay engaged. It doesn’t need to be onerous – but an hour every month discussing ideas, from customer issues to market change, is essential. It is also important to dip into the social media presence now and then.
Essentially, it is time for small business owners to re-evaluate the company’s public presence. This is the portal to the business, a way to drive engagement with prospects and customers, suppliers and business partners – and it needs to be as good as possible. If not, it is time to take back control. A misaligned website can do more harm than good by creating a barrier that the company will have to work hard to sell past. Business owners are typically driven, opinionated and focused – so harness that uniqueness. Don’t accept a generic website that masks the true nature of the company.
Keren Lerner is MD of Top Left Design.
Social media is more accessible to most people, offering quick, personal responses that require little effort and with more people turning to social media to voice complaints, or ask questions, it is vital that companies start using it as a customer service gateway.
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