In the past, we’ve discussed ways to attract new customers, and we all know word-of-mouth is still the best advertising tool. However, it’s not enough. Today, when we’re in the market for a new product or service, most of us ask friends for recommendations – and then we check out those recommendations ourselves. And we most often start that process by visiting the company’s web site. An MSP, especially, is in a part of the industry where your web site counts.
A killer web site isn’t necessarily enough to get you the business, either. Savvy prospective clients know that a great web site may be more a measure of your ability (or luck) in hiring a capable web design team than your ability to provide excellent service at a good price. Before they commit, they’ll probably want to deal with your company is person, or at least over the phone or through email correspondence. They’ll have questions that aren’t answered on your site. They’ll want to evaluate how you respond to them as people and customers. However, your web site might very well determine whether they ever get to that stage.
There was a time when simply have a web presence gave you an advantage over competitors. That time has passed; practically every business now has a web site of some kind. The key is to distinguish yourself from the crowd – but in a good way. There are hundreds of articles out there full of suggestions on what you should do to build a web site that functions as an effective business tool. So I’m going to talk about some common mistakes that, while they probably won’t land you a slot on one of those “world’s worst web sites” pages, will do something even worse: cause prospective clients to pass right by and never notice you at all.
You might have heard the popular quote that says “The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” The last thing you want, in the business world, is to leave would-be customers feeling indifferent. Here are a few ways to do just that:
- Fill the site with meaningless technojargon. Why do so many companies – including some of the biggest companies in the tech industry – do this? I recently visited the web site of a firewall vendor that made me laugh out loud, and then move on to one of its competitors’ sites as quickly as I could. I’m pretty knowledgeable about firewalls; I’ve worked and written in that space for over a decade. But I couldn’t understand a thing this company was trying to tell me about its products, because it was all a bunch of vague, general terms punctuated by “proprietary” phrases used only by that company to describe technologies that have had standardized descriptions for years. When you try to sound smarter than everybody else and end up just sounding incomprehensible, your web site has failed to do its job.
- All video, no text. Yes, I know video presentations, tutorials and such are all the rage. And for some limited uses, they’re even the best choice. But when I hit a web page that’s dominated by one or more videos, with no text or still graphics in sight, I don’t usually stay long. The problem with video is that it’s linear. I don’t want to have to sit through five minutes or even two minutes of video to get to the tidbit of info I’m actually looking for.. And if your video is preceded by a commercial that I have to endure before the “real thing” starts, I’m out of there even faster. There are also times when I’m looking at your site while I’m on the phone or others are working next to me or I otherwise can’t or don’t want to have audio blasting out of my speakers. Here’s a hint: if you must entertain or inform with a video presentation, a) let me decide if/when I want to start it playing – don’t do it automatically and b) give me a text transcript or synopsis underneath in case I’m not in the right situation or just not in the mood to watch.
- Way too much (unbroken, disorganized) text. The opposite problem is the site that’s just one massive paragraph, or group of long paragraphs, that goes on forever. I keep scrolling and scrolling, looking for the information I need about your services, but I get impatient because you’ve done nothing to make it easy for me to find that information. What do I want? Short paragraphs that address one topic. Headers that signal separate sections for broad topics. Bullet points that help me take in information at a glance. What do I hate? Outdated or inaccurate information, complete with broken links. No graphics at all, just words, words and more words.
- No way to search the site. I hate having to click through page after page, manually searching for the information I want about a company. Good navigation bars help, but sometimes what you need is hidden deep inside. A search tool can really make the difference between whether a customer or potential customer leaves your site satisfied or frustrated.
There is probably no such thing as a perfect website, but some of the mistakes listed above are ways to drive traffic away from your business, instead of luring it in.