Time to Judge a Book by its Cover

Websites, when properly used, clearly convey a company’s values, message, services, and do it all in a way that is easy to navigate and simple. However, with most websites this is not the case. They often focus on their product or services far too much. Instead of focusing on building a real relationship with the prospect from the get go, they talk about their product’s features and prices. The foundation of a business relationship, any relationship for that matter, is honor. When I say “honor,” here is what I mean: that we will be true to our word, and that we treat others with respect. That we are worthy of respect. That we take the care of our customers seriously, and that we will not violate their trust or boundaries. We want to build trust and security between our customers and our business. It is a common mistake to talk about the features of ones services and the services inherent advantages first. Look at almost any television commercial: it says things like, the best in its class, or most awarded. This is inherently flawed, it is transactional and not relational business.

It is putting the completely wrong thing front and center. It is giving our customers necessary information but at the wrong time: they do want to know that your products have the “goods.” They don’t; however, want it first, front, and center. They want to know that we are trustworthy and are a company that is worth their time first. We must not fall into this trap with our website. Our website, as an advertising and relationship building tool, can’t just say how great you are and how you are better than your competitor down the street. Those things are important and have their place, but they have to be presented far later in the process than is commonplace in the modern economy.

Most websites look like bad newspaper advertisements from the 90s: jam-packed with messy and distracting statements and graphics. This presents the image that our business is outdated and disorderly. This will, obviously, turn away prospects and give out the wrong message entirely! It could lead to prospects discounting us entirely without even coming to our facility or trying out our product. If people perceive your website as unprofessional, then they will likely view your business as unprofessional.

This could lead to prospects being predisposed to taking their business to the company that has the best website. Regardless of the actual quality of the business. If you have two five star restaurants of the same quality and the only difference is that one has a well kept exterior and one with a poorly kept exterior, then more customers will go to the better kept restaurant. Regardless of the fact that they are both five star restaurants and have the same quality of product.

You might think that all a website has to do is show prices and directions. Maybe do a few other things too but that is basically it… right? Wrong, our website must convey a whole lot more than that. Most websites are beating a dead horse in that they are pursuing a flawed marketing method. First our websites have to establish with our customers that we are honorable. If they don’t feel that we will honor them and their valuable time, then they will not become our clients. Second, we have to make our prospects feel secure and safe. Our website has to show them that their business, their time, and their money are taken seriously. It has to show that we are trustworthy and worthy of their time and energy.

Once we have thoroughly established the honor and security of our business we, if we hope to gain a new customer, we must take a risk. We could offer a free article or tour, virtual of in person, whatever it is, it has to show that we are willing to take risks for our customers. That we are extending an olive branch. See Total Integration’s article Our Golden Olive Branch for a deep dive into the philosophy of professionalism and why it is vital. Now, often in business you have to give before you receive. After we have given some then we have laid the foundation and should make a business offer. It could be in person or on our website where we make our business offer. If we have done it right, our prospect will feel clear on their options and will most likely feel ready to make their decision fairly soon. Yet, we should never rush a prospect into a decision.

There is a scene in Steven Pressfield’s novel Gates of Fire in which he describes the first several lines of the Spartan army readying their weapons in unison. The first several ranks all lower their spears and interlock their shields perfectly at the same time. The spears land on the top of the Spartans’ awaiting shields with a grand thwack. All in totally perfect unison. When the Spartans did this, members on the opposing army fled without a fight. The Spartans’ excellence and proficiency is displayed so clearly that members of the opposition don’t even want to fight anymore. We want our excellence to be displayed on our website in the same way. It has to be crystal clear that we are serious about our business and our customers experience with it. Obviously, without the menace that the Spartans conveyed.

The part of our website that features our product or services is just as important as the others. Ninety-five percent of our language and focus should be on the benefit that using your product or service will provide the customer. A Benefit would be, for example, that anti-lock brakes keep you safe. Only about three percent should focus on the advantages that your product possesses. Advantages like, for instance, how it will give you better control over the car if you have anti-lock brakes. And finally one to two percent should be about your product’s features. For example: how it is better than our competitors’ product, or how it leads the field in this way or that.

Take the example of anti-lock brakes again. It will be more effective if you talk about the benefit of that your product provides rather than talking about features or advantages it possesses. The benefit of anti-lock breaks is you don’t crash, and you stay safe. Starting there will be far more effective. It will communicate the value of your products and services to your customers more effectively. Most advertisements focus completely on the wrong things. They focus on the the flashy and superficial aspects of their products. And they miss the big picture of how crucial it is to build a long term relationship.

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” Ralph Marston

Our customers must not think that we see them as walking stacks of money. They have to know that we see them as people with needs and standards. They have to know that we will treat them with honor, and our website must convey that. An effective way to show them this is by focusing first and foremost on how much we care about our customers and their experience with us.

With this as the primary focus of our website, the part of our website that shows prices, goods, and services will be presented at the right time to make sales easy and quick. You have to present the business offer at the right time which is …AFTER we’ve established the value of  our customers and their experience with our company. If this is done properly and we couple it with the 95% 3% and 1-2% distribution rule, our customers should think: “oh my gosh, what a steal.”

It is time to change how we view our websites at a core level. Let it be our goal to have our customers stunned as to how a website could so clearly communicate its message and values. We want to comprehensively floor our prospects. Visiting our website should be a thrilling experience. Currently websites are like your front porch: they give the first, most vital impression. If you have a messy front porch, then people will probably think that that reflects the inside of your home.

The same is true of your website. People will believe that the quality of your website reflects the quality of your company. Our website should be the ultimate positive first impression generator. It should be designed to showcase your businesses excellence and professionalism. We want prospects to feel excited to be our customers.

To sum all of this up, our website should communicate to our customers how much we value them and communicate the quality of our products and services. It should look professional and be easily navigable. It should primarily focus on how valued the customers’ experience at our facility is, and how much we care. With products and prices taking a back stage. This will, likely, actually result in an increase in business. Most businesses focus on the wrong specifics with regards to their product.

It should go, in order of how much attention content receives from most to least, benefit, advantage, and then features. With benefit being focused upon ninety-five of the time, advantage being focused upon three percent of the time, and finally feature getting only one to two percent of the attention on your website. All of this should, if done right, bring the customer to wow by the time they finish reading through our website.

Our challenge for you is: if you are not thrilled with your website, turn it around. You have four weeks to completely revamp your website. That should be more than enough time. Need inspiration? Find a website you are envious of, and model your updated website off of it (without plagiarizing or copycatting, obviously).