Your Website Is a Conversation, Not a Presentation
This can be a tough distinction to make because, of course, your website is a proxy for you. You’re not actually sitting face-to-face with your prospects. But even without the back-and-forth of an actual conversation, you can get better Web results by striving to create a dialogue by encouraging engagement with your audience.
In Other Words, You Want to Control the Narrative, Not Dominate It
Of course, you can’t control where your site visitors are going to click next. That’s the beauty and the curse of the Web’s non-linear nature. You can’t even control whether they start at “the beginning”. (If your social media, SEO and email marketing are relevant players, your website home page isn’t always going to be their entry point.)
But You Can Encourage Them to Take the Action You Desire
Strong copy, intelligent presentation, and a little bit of coding savvy can work wonders for your site — but for starters, you’ll want to define a solid set of goals. You have to know the action you ultimately want your site visitors to take. And you have to know, as the conversation moves along, what you want your audience to be thinking about. The thoughts your website provokes in consumers will be the best determinant of their course of action.
Recognizing that your audience has more options than “previous” and “next” has the added benefit of forcing you to stay tightly focused on your topic and think in terms of your audience’s interests, not your own agenda.
This is where many marketers go wrong. Staying focused does not necessarily mean diving into the minutiae of a topic. Nor does it mean forcing prospects to move forward with no destination possible other than your conversion point.
Because, of Course, There’s Always Other Options
But not options you want pursued: the browser’s close button, or your competitor’s website. Instead, you must guide them toward the action you ultimately want them to take by offering a range of possible paths. They may feel it’s time to reach out and contact you by phone. Or if their need is less pressing, they might want to subscribe to your newsletter and learn more over time. Or a trip to your “related materials” section might be in order, so they can dive into a topic in more detail.
You have to offer these options because there’s no way of knowing where a prospect is in the buying process when they arrive at your site.
There’s a fine line to be walked here: Just as droning on and on about a topic is likely to turn off prospective clients, so too can offering them every option under the sun.
With the exception of certain pages of your website — the home page, most notably — most of your digital marketing should be focused enough to appeal to just a select segment of your audience. They should be reading your email newsletter because it is likely to be of interest to them. That newsletter should contain links to the pages of your site that will be most relevant to their needs. And the calls to action embedded in that page should lead them to the next piece of content that addresses their needs and creates your case as the best solution for them.
The more audience segments you are trying to appeal to, the more difficult this can be, so it is important to craft your online marketing with specific segments in mind. Next time, we’ll talk a bit more about effective audience segmentation.
Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?
A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.
His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications.
Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")