Marketers: You Build Terrible Websites

Marketers: You Build Terrible WebsitesFirst off, I really didn't mean that title to sound so aggressive. I know you’re not actively trying to destroy the Web one site at a time. And the fact that you (the great society of marketers) build awful websites really isn't your fault.

You’re a key component of your company’s voice. You don’t just drink the corporate Kool-Aid; you mix it yourself and bathe in it. Who else could possibly be better at delivering a site that represents your company to the world at large?

Well…anyone — Betty White could probably do it.

Website design and development that meets your users’ goals requires a level of impartiality that the average marketer is rarely able to muster. When you breathe the company air all day, it’s hard to see things as an outsider. Unfortunately, that non-biased view is what’s needed to engage prospects and get them to drink the Kool-Aid.

Don’t mistake bias for “Instinct”

It’s a key skill for a marketer to be able to understand and empathize with her primary audience — all the good ones can do it. Time and time again, however, I see sites that are basically 30-page variations of “Our company is great because we’re great. Give us money.” The instinct of a marketer is “promote promote promote,” when it needs to be “help help help.”

Some common marketing “instincts” that hurt the user experience:

Instinct 1: Once they see the product, we've got ‘em.

“Our audience wants to get to things quickly. Our top navigation should include links to all of our 140 products/services.”

Reality:

Users can only manage a small number of options at a time, typically around 7 or 8. Carefully portion out information so users don’t get overwhelmed, and you’ll have step-by-step opportunities to strategically reveal your value.

Instinct 2: The most important thing is that they learn everything about us.

“Some people never get past the home page. We better fill it with everything we want to say, so they see it before they leave.”

Reality:

The most important thing is that users feel you can help them. Users need to connect with something: problems they face every day, familiar terminology, and information that looks like it will provide value and make them look smart to their boss. A few clear “you’re in the right place” signals like this will ensure that they don’t leave, and then you've got the rest of your site to tell your story.

Instinct 3: We’re a leading (whatever you are). They know us.

“We have a very sophisticated audience. They know what we do, so we shouldn't waste space telling them we’re device manufacturers/consultants /canine haberdashers.”

Reality:

They don’t know you. Even if they do, they don’t necessarily know your website from a competitor’s or a copycat’s. Typos and mis-clicks get people to the wrong site all the time. A sizable chunk of your audience are new prospects that may have no idea who you are or what you do. There are a billion great reasons to make your identity and value proposition clear from the get-go, and only a few terrible/arrogant reasons not to.

For best results, replace Instinct with Empathy

A simple change in approach — replacing “how can I sell them?” with “ how can I help them?” — will make a vast difference in how well your site engages and converts users. Being the helpful voice in a sea of pushy sales-folk will help you stand out, and endear you to prospects looking for someone who “gets” them.

Take a look at your site and see how much effort you've spent trying to help out your prospects. If you find yourself drowning in sales-speak, contact us to see how we can help with your online marketing strategy.