First Impressions Count: Is Your Corporate Website an Asset or a Liability?

5 seconds to capture your website audience The credibility and purpose of a website is assessed in as little as five seconds time. That’s it. A cursory glance is all it takes for users to decide whether they might consider doing business with your company or not.

Poor navigation, cluttered pages and slow performance can lead to snap judgments about the legitimacy of your offering and the long term viability of your company. After all, the user reasons, if you can’t build a good website, how can you build a worthwhile technology product or company?

And yet so many technology start-ups undervalue the importance of their web presence. I’ve heard start-up CEOs say things like, “Our website isn’t great, but its okay.” Asked to expand upon these thoughts, the CEO might venture to say, “It might be a bit dated and it’s hard to find some of the content, but it gets the job done.”

Let’s face it – people are both task-oriented and lazy. They are willing to scan a web page for a few seconds at best. If they can’t quickly find what they are looking for, they will move on to the next competitor with a more than “okay” website.

The “okay” website mentality is perpetuated by the fact that most young companies don’t have mechanisms in place to measure and quantify the abandonment rate on their websites. As a result, they often underestimate the impact a poorly executed information design or content strategy my have on their business.

For one CEO, the threat of his “okay” website became crystal clear after a productive meeting with a prospective customer who announced in closing that he was really glad he came to the meeting but almost didn’t because he thought the company was on the verge of failure based on the state of its website.

After that meeting you can be sure the website became one of the company’s top priorities. But looking back, the number of opportunities lost by the website was impossible to calculate. It was a sickening realization for this CEO whose number one priority was to grow the business.

Take an honest look at your website – what impression might a first time visitor form of your company in 5 short seconds? As an extension of your brand, the website should reflect the same level of professionalism, quality of services, and leadership position that your company represents. So does it?

While this list is not exhaustive, here are some questions you may want to consider as you take an objective look at your website:

  • Does the home page clearly state the position and purpose of the company?
  • Has the design and functionality of the website kept up with the times? (Multimedia such as videos, podcasts or webinars, social media networks, sharing tools and live chat – or at a minimum contact forms – are prevalent today. Does your site include any of these communication tools?)
  • Are services and products properly prioritized based on user objectives (versus a company view of how services should be presented) so that users are not overwhelmed by information?
  • Is it easy for users to find the information they are looking for regardless of which stage of the sales cycle they are in (research through to post sales support)?
  • Does the overall tone and voice of the site content speaks to current and prospective customers in a way that is relevant to them?

If your website doesn’t measure up to the 5 second test. Get to work on fixing it. The corporate website is often a company’s most tangible and visible face to the world. When properly executed, a website can become a powerful marketing tool that not only serves the needs of existing customers, but also provides an opportunity to capture new customers.

Some Tips and Techniques on the Care and Feeding of Spokespeople

I asked a long time colleague, Jessica Johannes, a communications pro with more than 15 years of progressive experience in communications, public relations and marketing for Fortune 500 technology companies, to share her insights on the importance of media training for executives. Her background includes extensive experience developing hard-hitting, creative global communications programs to promote technology and innovation for Fortune 500 and emerging businesses.

A solid media relations program entails a steady flow of continuous interactions with media and influencers all with a few goals in mind—obtain the coveted media interview and secure the coverage your client or company is seeking. While the journey and path to securing the interview is one facet of the process, after the victory dance for landing the interview is done, there’s prep to do to make sure the conversation your spokesperson has with the reporter is meaningful and produces a positive outcome. Each interview is a critical component of the media relations campaign and holds the promise and potential to forward a company’s thought leadership initiatives by helping to establish a unique point of view and voice. Although there is no one formula or magic bullet for getting it right every time, there are some approaches that in today’s world – where traditional and social media models are colliding – still stand the test of time.

Know Your Spokesperson’s Style
Every spokesperson will bring a varied level of skill, knowledge and expertise. Having an understanding of the mix they bring will help you to assess how to get them ready. We’ve all been trained to do our homework and view past videos on YouTube or find quotes from previous interviews. We all know to provide our spokesperson with clean, concise briefing materials that outline the opportunity and make it easy for the spokesperson to deliver the message. Meeting with the spokesperson and having a short discussion regarding the goals you want to achieve and the story you want to tell is a standard practice for many practitioners. Using the meeting to establish or strengthen rapport with the spokesperson, understand any objectives or concerns they might have about being interviewed and just engaging with them in a conversation can aid in the success of the interview.

Focus on a Few Key Messages
In today’s noisy world, where the volume of information we are bombarded with is growing at an extraordinary rate, netting out a few key messages is critical. The company you work for or client you represent will always want to drive more points across than the media will have time, space or room to cover. Although the battle of what’s essential and what’s nice to have is always a tough conversation to have with an executive, having a few succinct points the spokesperson can bridge back to will help lead the way to the goals and objectives your organization wants to achieve.

Allow the Spokesperson’s Authentic Voice to Emerge
In the age of PowerPoint, ghost writers, tweeters, bloggers and teleprompters, it’s gotten easier to tell when someone knows their content and truly has a passion for their industry. Surrendering control is one of those sage pieces of advice that is even more imperative due to a number of factors such as emerging social media models and the growth in the volumes of information and external influences. Allowing the spokesperson to tell the story in their voice can often lead to new story opportunities and spark new, creative ideas that help to enhance and evolve the programs your leading.

A Few Closing Thoughts
There’s plenty more ground to cover on the care and feeding of spokespeople. Knowing your spokesperson’s style, identifying a few key messages and giving the spokesperson some runway to make the content their own are only a few tips that can aid in success. These methods are just a small sampling of the strategies I’ve tried that have worked over the years. In today’s world of hybrid, traditional, emerging and social media models, there are no hard and fast rules or a magic formula for success—just an abundance of opportunity, fusion of approaches and many great stories to tell.

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The Power of “Why” Messaging

I usually don’t have time to read or watch much that is forwarded to me, even if it comes by way of a highly esteemed colleague. So when I saw the e-mail with a link to an 18 minute video clip, I thought “you’ve got to be kidding” and moved on.  But somehow I ended up watching the clip and was thrilled that I did. It’s one of those rare pieces that truly inspired me – it’s something that reminds all of us marketing professionals exactly why some companies succeed and others don’t.

The premise is this. Just about every person or organization needs to motivate others to act for some reason or another. Some want to motivate a purchase decision. Others are looking for support or a vote. Others try to motivate the people around them to work harder or smarter or just follow the rules. While most use fear, money or other external forces to get people to do what they want, great leaders are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal.

Sinek uses the example of the Wright Brothers. Their passion to fly was so intense that it inspired the enthusiasm and commitment of a dedicated group in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Unlike their competition, there was no funding for their venture. No government grants. No high-level connections. Not a single person on the team had an advanced degree or even a college education. But the team banded together in a humble bicycle shop and made their
vision real. On December 17, 1903, a small group witnessed a man take flight for the first time in history. Well-funded, highly educated competitors motivated by monetary gain never got their plane off the ground. And the reason why? Only the Wright brothers started with Why.

Ultimately, people don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it. Companies that build their messaging platforms around “why” they are doing something (instead of what they are doing or how they are doing it) will be more successful in gaining the loyalty of employers, investors and customers. Those who are able to define their purpose will inspire and create a following of people who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.

So, thanks to my very esteemed colleague and to Simon Sinek for this very enlightening piece. If you have an extra few minutes (an even if you don’t), I encourage you to watch – you’ll be glad you did.