Enough About Me…Let's Talk About YOU

Here’s the plan. Find a remote spot in a large forest, accessible only by a narrow path with no signposts. Now, build a huge superstore, fill it with great stuff at great prices. Don’t hire anyone. Don’t advertise.

Now, sit back and wait for the big bucks to pour in.

No luck? Darn.

Well, it was a pretty poor plan to begin with. In fact, it was insane. But, to be generous, I’ll give you a whole month to make a list of all the commerce web sites that were built along those lines.

Plan B

Let’s try Plan B. We’ll do a deal with Wal-Mart and create a catalog of all their fastest-selling items. Well mail it out to a red-hot list of regular customers.

But, to save a few bucks, let’s not reinvent the wheel here. Instead of creating a catalog, let’s just gather together all the fliers they sent out over the last six months and stick them in an envelope. Include no cover letter, no response mechanism.

And why go to all the trouble of targeting with a mailing when we can hand the thing out to everyone who comes through the door?

What? Only a 0.000007% response?

One More Try!

Just one more…Plan C.

Let’s get serious now; we’ll do one of those hard-hitting infomercials. The best talent, the best writers, the best products. And to show our media-buying creativity, we’ll go out on a new cable channel that nobody has ever heard of. In fact, it has no channel number and the chances of anyone finding it are just about zero. But hey, it’s cheap!

Heres the point: Why does everyone’s brain turn to mush when they sit down to plan and build their company web site?

No doubt, the web is a sensational medium. But its ultimately still just a tool that needs a confident touch to tap its full potential. What cant your web site do? It can’t replace common sense. It can’t replace a marketing plan. It can’t replace an advertising strategy. It’s just a medium; it’s a place where you can put stuff.

So if you want to use this tool effectively, start with a purpose in mind. Then, create a blueprint for your site where every page, every line of code, every audio clip is there for one reason only — to serve that defined purpose. If that Java thingy doesn’t serve the purpose, dump it. If the two pages telling us where you went to college and who you worked for before doesn’t serve the purpose, dump them, too. Here’s something else your web site can’t do. It can’t find your customers for you.

I have a good friend who has a small silkscreen printing shop. His latest promotional plan was to create a web site. This surprised me somewhat, as his customers are local soccer team coaches, local realtors and one big recycling company. So here’s the question: when these guys want some silkscreen printing done, do they fire up their trusty computer a do a pan-global search on the internet? Probably not.

A Golden Rule

This brings to mind my first rule of media selection, “Go where your customers are.” If your customers don’t go to the web to look for what you sell, why invest in a place where your customers won’t find you? Sound obvious?

Well, set aside another month to list all the companies that have invested a ton of time and money to get in front of an audience that just isn’t there.

Here’s another thing your web site can’t do. However much it sings and dances and blows me away with its bells and whistles, it won’t hold my attention unless you touch on a need or desire that is close to ME.

Most web sites I stumble across seem obsessively introspective. Lots of buttons that say things like “Our Team’, ‘Our Mission’, ‘Our Services”and so on.

Well, in a word, this is boring. I don’t want to hear about you – I want to hear about what you can do for ME.

And finally, your web site can’t do one more thing. It can’t turn an HTML programmer into an experienced marketer, copywriter and designer.

So do the programmer and yourselves a favor. If you want a great web site that works, look upon it as just a medium, a place to be, and hire a team of people who are really qualified to help achieve the purpose you have in mind.

That way, you at least have a fighting chance of ending up where you want to be.

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