While many customers look at your website for key information (location, hours, how to contact you), there are other people who would like to know a little more about WHO you are and WHAT you stand for. If you can engage them in one of the following ways, you might stand a better chance of making a sale.
A little can go a long way – and it is best to underuse this than overuse it. Lean towards the light humor, especially if it reveals something about your approach to life or your personality. A good example of that can be found on the home page of Higinbotham’s Bed and Breakfast http://www.higinbothams.com/. The first page begins by describing owner Mary Jo Higinbotham in the first paragraph and then moves to her husband and their property.
It reads, “Jim, her willing but kitchen-averse husband, has renovated the house over a 3-year period with the help from a variety of experts.” The sentence is designed to give many married couples a chuckle of recognition of the sorts of divisions of duties that are shared in a marriage. She loves the kitchen, he hates it. He handled the renovations but recognized his limitations and relied on the experts.
In your contact information, it is important to give as much information as possible. Directions to your location are wonderful – as is a link to a mapping site like Google maps. If you can take phone calls on either a landline or a cell phone, and are willing to give both numbers, just seeing them both on the website can let a customer know that you really care about hearing from them. If you are often with clients or otherwise unavailable, a promise to return phone calls within 24 hours can place you head and shoulders above the rest. Just BE CAREFUL to only make that pledge if you can meet it. A broken promise is worse than no promise.
These can do so much. Once a customer sees the landscapes at Beech Springs Farm http://www.beechspringsfarm.com, they want to jump in the car and go visit. But the note that the farm is only open to public by appointment tells the customer that yes, they would love to see you, but yes they do have too much work to stop and visit with drive-by visitors.
Images can also subtly convey messages. On the McIlhenny Banner website, for instance, http://www.mcilhennybanners.com, the first image shows President Obama standing in front of a banner at Arizona State University. It shows that the work done by the Gettysburg company gets to be associated with some important people and important places.
One of the best ways to harness Twitter is by participating in chats, scheduled hashtag discussions that focus on specific topics. Small businesses can utilize chats to develop a social media plan, discuss brand strategy, and take advantage of free legal advice.
Here is a list of chats for small businesses. To join the conversation, search the hashtag at Twitter during the chat’s scheduled time. You can also use a Twitter-client such as TweetChat orTweetDeck.
So you think you are not an artist? Not surprising, according to one of the top designers at Hallmark Cards. Gordon McKenzie tells a story about visiting schools and getting the same answer, over and over, when he asked students to raise their hands if they were artists. In kindergarten and first grade classes, EVERY hand went up. By second grade, only about three-fourths raised their hands. By third grade, only a few held their hands high and by sixth grade, NO ONE had a hand in the air.
This does not omen well in a world where designers are key to the transmission of messages.
Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind”, says design is a combination of utility and significance. He says, “A graphic designer must whip up a brochure that is easy to read. That’s utility. But at its most effective, her brochure must also transmit ideas or emotions that words themselves cannot convey. That’s significance. A furniture designer must craft a table that stands up properly and supports its weight (utility). But the table must also possess an aesthetic appeal that transcends functionality (significance)."
Two graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design took this awareness of significance to a whole new level when they founded www.airbnb.com In five years, their startup has grown to a company reporting $500 million in transactions. It allows homeowners to rent their spare rooms and has been called the world’s hottest hotel chain.
They did many thinks “backwards”:
So if you are NOT a designer like Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia and Paul Graham, make sure that the designer you hire is someone who “gets” your vision and your product.
It’s no surprise that Twitter headed the pack in Fast Company’s list of Top 10 Media for 2012. And it is a no-brainer that “The New York Times” is in the top three. But Red Bull as number two? How can an energy drink be on the same court as those other two giants?
Easy – creativity and a company founder who “knew that success would be in how you market the product as much as the product itself,” according to Red Bull Media House managing director Werner Brell.
Yes, it is important to have a good product, but having the right materials and media can provide the energy to catapault a company into the big time. One of the things that Red Bull Media does religiously is capture images of every event and project they sponsor or support. Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? In today’s world of social media and visual representations, it is not enough to have a good logo or an interesting website. Companies that document their successes (and maybe even their failures!) along the way can SHOW potential customers what they have to offer.
A good website is more than a laundry list of facts about your business. At its best, your website also tells the story of who you are and why someone should choose YOU instead of a competitor.
Telling that story effectively takes two different kinds of writing: fiction and non-fiction. Each type of storytelling has its own “rules.” Let’s start with the non-fiction rules.
As every beginning journalist learns there are five key components to a news story: who, what, when, where, and why. On your website, these components provide the same sturdy strength as your bones do for your body.
WHO: This tells customers your name, your expertise, and your qualifications. It can also identify you as a small OR large business, a Mom & Pop shop OR an enterprise with many employees, as an exciting newcomer to the marketplace OR as a trusted longtime company.
WHAT: This tells customers the details of what you do, any certifications or specialty trainings or abilities you have, and basically provides a taste of the work you are uniquely qualified to do. (See http://www.dbsroofing.com/green-roofing.html to see how a traditional company has embraced a new technology.)
WHEN: This shows your regular hours of operations, when to reach you, if you provide any sort of after-hours options for service.
WHERE: This includes your business location, base of operations, geographic area served, community connections (such as Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc.)
WHY: This tells potential customers why they should choose you. It can include testimonials from satified customers. (See http://www.higinbothams.com/tea-room.html for examples of testimonials.)
Effectively telling the story of your business relies on a blend of writing styles. Now let’s look at “the rules” of fiction.
PLEASE NOTE: Fiction does NOT mean fantasy. By using the elements of fiction, the story that is told on your website relies on descriptive words to emphasize the personal values that are the foundation of your company or business. Those descriptive words help build a relationship between you and your potential customer. They appeal to the “right brain”, the part of human beings that is more creative and connected.
Every good story includes the following elements:
Characters: Names and facts are just the beginning. By themselves, though, they are not enough. Every good story gives you a reason to like the hero or heroine. On the website for Christina’s Desserts, http://www.christinasdesserts.com/about-us.html, in the “About Us” section, the owner tells how she and her husband were led to start their business. Some websites tell the stories of a whole cast of characters by providing names, faces, and brief biographies of the entire staff. Dr. Joan Werleman’s website http://www.hanoverdentistry.com/meet-our-staff.html does just that. New patients can get to see the faces of the people they will meet when they visit the office.
Plot or story line: This is the place to share how your business started and how it has grown. Sometimes it does not begin with YOU but with the story about your customer. The opening page of Codori Memorials http://www.codorimemorials.com does just that. It emphasizes that every memorial that is designed tells a story about the person, about the family, that their company cares about more than just getting the names and dates onto a piece of granite. The opening page also gives all the essential information: location, hours, how to contact them. It is a beautiful marriage of fact and fiction that tells THEIR story as it invites you to become part of theirs.
Theme: This can be your mission statement, your promise to deliver, the articulation of what you have to offer your clients. A well-known men’s clothier promises, “You’re going to like the way you look.” Simme Valley Estates http://www.simmevalleyestates.com promises “Country living with in-town convenience.” It then goes on to SHOW the ways that is so with maps, model homes, interior and exterior features. With just a few clicks, it shows potential buyers all the reasons why it is a desirable community.
These are just some of the ways that good design helps you tell your story. Good design recognizes that an effective website does more than just give the facts.
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