I’ve helped a few people build web sites. I’ll help them pick a domain name, set up a WordPress site, pick a theme (the overall sight look and feel), set up the usual “About” and “Contact” pages, and convert some of their existing marketing literature to a pleasing online format. I’ll create a mailing list, and a few buttons around the site to entice people to register.
There’s one part I just can’t do: decide what to say about your business.
This happens to be almost every time: I get the basic site set up, including converting some of their marketing material to a few web pages, and then they say, “It looks kind of bare.” I try to be nice and remind them that I’ll put anything they want on their web site, all you have to do is give me the content. That’s when I get the blank stare (often for the third or fourth time now), and they tell me, “but I don’t know what to say!”
This is where I get creative. Not in writing for them, but in asking the right questions, with the goal of getting them to spontaneously start telling me about their business model, and how they help customers succeed.
If I’m at the customer’s site, sometimes I’ll ask, “What if a new potential customer walked in right now? What would you tell them?” Everything the customer says at that point is potential fodder for the site.
Sometimes if there’s a couple of customers there, I’ll go over to them, introduce myself, tell them I’m helping the owner put together a web site, and then ask them a few questions. The first question is, “Why did you pick this place over the others?” Another question is often, “What would you want to know about this business when you went to their web site? What makes them different — better — than some of the other businesses you looked at?” All of their answers are valid… you just have to figure out how to use those answers to draw people in.
As their “web person,” it’s really your job to drag the words out of your customer. Sometimes they’ll give you some material just so you’ll stop bugging them, but that’s mission accomplished.
One Last Note To Marketing Folks
Up above I talked about the button to get people to register for the mailing list. Some web gurus call this button a “call to action”. I know one marketing guy that said this phrase to one of his clients — a friend of mine — for 3 months, before his client asked me one day, “What’s a call to action?” There’s one rule about Call To Action: Never talk about Call To Action! Whatever you are describing, you have to put it in your customer’s terms — not yours. Read all about SEO… then go help the customer get noticed — don’t “do SEO for them”.