We all have our favorite websites. But what actually makes a website great? Here are my criteria – I’d love to hear your ideas as well:
Visual appeal. The web can act as the great equalizer. Small companies can look big and legitimate with a quality website. Conversely, large companies that have lousy websites can appear distracted and amateur. There’s no substitute for giving a good first impression.
Powerful messages that speak to your customer’s needs. Nobody likes a long-winded talker. Unless you have an information-based website (like Amazon, which provides full reviews of products, etc.), resist the temptation of generating massive amounts of information, especially on the home page. Keep it short, sharp, and targeted, with a predefined objective (see “Lily pad” marketing for more information on objective-based marketing strategies).
Success stories. Providing case studies of your accomplishments have several benefits. You can demonstrate how effectively your company works with customers, provide concrete examples of success using metrics, share experiences with prominent customers to gain legitimacy and credibility, and strengthen the persuasion process through the use of similar customers in similar industries.
Social Networking. Whether it’s a blog (like this WordPress blog), Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or social bookmarking, you cannot deny the impact of social networking on today’s marketing strategies. Customers now have an expectation of two-way communication, and social networking facilitates symbiotic connections between a company and its audience.
Logical lead generation paths. It’s frustrating when you have to bounce all over a website to find what you want. A well-designed site understands its target audience and develops well-defined, clearly stated communication paths with the proper Calls To Action (CTA). Typical CTAs are filling out a form, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar, contacting a salesperson, and purchasing a product through your ecommerce function.
Just the right amount of “wow” for your audience. Know they audience. If your products and services cater to accountants, don’t use bells and whistles that you’d use for, say, a teenage gamer audience. It’ll just turn them off and make them think you don’t understand them. I bet those accountants would love a virtual Dilbert experience, or a flash-based GAAP search tool.
Web 2.0 look and feel. This means many things to many people. To me, Web 2.0 means dimensional or reflective graphics, modest use of Flash, “push button” navigation (like the simplicity of Redbox’s navigation), and the use of negative (white) space to add airiness.
What do you think? Are there other characteristics that are important for creating a great website?
Sure, you’ve heard a lot about social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and, yes, even WordPress (I’m being ironic). But there haven’t been a lot of success stories attached to those ‘new marketing’ tools, mostly because a lot of marketers aren’t clear how to measure success. Simply put, success is defined as the achievement of pre-determined goals based on actual, real-life business needs and objectives.
Here’s a great social media success story from my company, Aximum Marketing. One of our clients was trying to elevate his company above the competition during a downtime, while his rivals were scaling back on marketing and overall customer communication. The goals were focused on lead generation, website visits, ecommerce revenue, and industry leadership. By developing a number of different social media programs, we were able to get some amazing results for them. And the real kicker: the initial execution on these initiatives cost only about $5K, and had a ROI of 350:1 after 4 months. Read all the details, as well as my other success stories, and contact me if you’d like to incorporate social media into your company.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about social networking and viral marketing… heck, even William Shatner is Twittering. What you’ve probably noticed is that the hardest part about viral marketing is the “viral” part. Just because you create a WordPress blog or Facebook page or Twitter profile doesn’t mean you’re going to get 50,000 followers overnight. It takes a lot of work, but the effort is well worth it. Like any good marketing campaign, the secret is quality, consistent, relevant content, along with a good communication plan for sharing your content. If you’re having trouble creating good content, gain inspiration by visiting websites that interest you. Read the news. Scan the newsletters that are sitting in your Inbox for topics that companies are writing about. Watch the television commercials (rather than fast-forward through them) to see what companies are trying to communicate. Your content is there, waiting for you… you just have to go and find it.
The communication vehicles may be different, but the overall strategy is still the same: understand what type of information your audience is interested in, and provide that information to them. Oh, and follow your instincts when it comes to style. Just because Johnny Knucklehead is doing it a certain way, and he’s got 25,000 Twitter followers, doesn’t mean that’s the right formula for you. Develop your own game plan, stick with the game plan, and be sure to test/measure/adapt/test again.
If you follow this strategy, you’re gonna find that your interest level goes up, your results will improve, and you might just become the next social marketing guru!