Getting Started
 The road to more effective communications ...

High-technology companies are started by smart people. Really smart. So smart that they sometimes have trouble communicating with customers and prospects who don’t know the arcane language, abbreviations, or jargon of the company’s specialty. To communicate effectively with these customers and prospects, you must bridge the knowledge and language gap. First comes understanding, then interest, then the desire to buy.

Communicate your true value to the world

If you want to effectively communicate the true value of your company’s products and services, then you must tell your company’s story in an understandable and interesting way. Only when the prospect understands the potential value can the discussion then move towards a purchase.

In this highly connected world, there are many, many ways to communicate. The Internet and the Web get most of the attention these days - for very good reasons. The Internet offers a very wide range of ways to reach customers and prospects: Company and magazine Web sites, blogs, Webinars and other virtual events, Twitter, chat groups, even the lowly but very effective email system.

Internet-centric communications certainly start with yor company Web site. Corporate Web sites range from the terrific to the tolerable to abysmal. Here are some “do”s and “don’ts” to think about with respect to your company site:

Things to Include on your Web Site

  1. Detailed Product Information (as much as you can) — Your customers and prospects want to see up-to-date, comprehensive product information that’s well organized, filled with detail and technical specs and sparse on fluff and bravado. A technical audience comes to your corporate Web site to discover if and how your products can meet their needs. Make it easy for them to find the answers to their questions by providing detailed product information.
  2. Offers and Landing Pages — Your Web site’s visitors crave information that will help them do their jobs more effectively. Your job is to offer massive amounts of information in the form of White papers, technical articles, application notes, presentations, video, podcasts, and other valuable content. Place offers for information on as many relevant Web pages as you can throughout your Web site. Send prospects to specific landing pages that describe the offer in more detail and capture prospect information so you can create a lead for your sales team. However, don’t be greedy in getting information at this stage. Decide on whether its more important to get every piece of information your department desires in one shot or to get your product info into the prospect’s hands. Every question you ask before delivering the goods places yet another barrier between your prospect and your product info. Many people find overly inquisitive Web pages so off-putting that they’ll leave without getting the information they seek.
  3. Basic Search Engine Optimization — You don’t need to worry about the fancy SEO stuff at first. Every site benefits from basic SEO techniques that help drive more qualified traffic from search engines for specific keyword searches. The more info-heavy a Web page is, the better the search engines like it. Prospects like such pages too. After all, it’s the information that they came to see. Make use of page titles, description meta tags, keywords in page copy, site maps, and simple HTML pages to make your site’s Web pages more search engine friendly.
  4. Consistent and Attractive Page Design — Keep your visitors on track and avoid confusion by adhering to a consistent page design that looks modern and conforms to good graphic design. You’re not writing Wired Magazine here. Navigation menus should consistently appear in the same place on every page unless there’s a darn good reason to change. Whim is not a good reason. Remember, the fancier the navigation in terms of Javascript and such, the more likely the navigation is to cause problems for some visitors using some browsers. (Be sure to check your site with different browsers as well. You’ll be shocked to see the different ways different browsers render Web pages.) Fancy navigation looks cool, but it’s not why technical visitors come to your site in the first place. They want information, not cool graphics and Web tricks. Try to remember that the next time you’re attracted by the latest shiny Web trick.
  5. Contact Information — One of the primary goals of your Web site is to capture lead information so you must make it easy for prospects to contact you by Fone, Fax, Fedex, and the Internet (three “F”s and an I). Make sure there’s a link in the navigation menu pointing to a “Contact Us” page. Landing pages should include phone numbers and e-mail addresses to give users multiple options for contacting you.

Things to Avoid on your Web Site

  1. Flash Intro Pages — Flash video is cool but many people don’t stop to think that a Flash intro page is really at odds with the goals of most technical people visiting your Web site: they want information, not entertainment. Many visitors find Flash video annoying - especially poorly done or “braggy” type videos. Some sites make it impossible to access any information at all except through their intricate Flash intro pages. Big mistake. Even if you have a “skip intro” button, you risk having visitors abandon your site before they ever find out about your products and services. Search engines ignore Flash video so animated intro pages won’t help your SEO situation. When visitors arrive at your home page, they want to find a clear path to useful content. Give it to them straight. Technical visitors have little patience and they won’t find your site’s self indulgence particularly amusing.
  2. JavaScript Navigation — As mentioned above, Javascript navigation is a problem and not just for manually driven browsers. Search engines also have trouble following navigation programmed in JavaScript. Consequently, It’s better to have straight HTML navigation links. If you must have JavaScript navigation and can’t or won’t devote the time and resources to rebuilding it, consider duplicating your site navigation in the form of HTML links in the Web pages’ footers or on the side so search engines can find and index your pages more easily.
  3. Lengthy Registration Forms — Greedy marketers create forms that ask for lots of information, even information that will never be used. This is a cardinal sin. Forms that demand a lot of information from the site visitor present barriers and scare prospects away. After all, they know why you’re asking for all this information. You’re planning to sic a salesperson on them. They’d rather have a root canal or colonoscopy. They’d rather just leave and find one of your competitors who is not so snoopy. Remember, competitors are never more than a click or a Google search away. It’s certainly important to have forms on your landing pages to capture prospect contact information, but long forms with many required fields result in high drop-off rates and you end up with fewer leads. Control yourself and your team. Ask only for information you’ll need to contact a prospect. Begin a sales dialog later and then get more information while building a relationship. Often it’s enough to capture name, company, e-mail and maybe the phone number. You can add to the prospect’s record as you build the relationship. Forms are cheap and they’re good for starting a relationship but they aren’t good at building one.
  4. Out of Date Content — Companies that include old content or have not updated their site content to reflect their latest PR damage their reputation and raise doubts among customers and prospects, who are just not that stupid. They can tell when one part of your company doesn’t know what another part is doing. Make sure your product pages are current and keep the obsolete stuff too. (People who bought that stuff are still using it!) When you introduce a new product, make sure there’s an appropriate Web page on your site the minute the press release goes out. Otherwise, the new product won’t look real to a prospect. Your most recent email newsletter shouldn’t be a year old. You need a constant influx of fresh content and news to show that your company is vibrant and growing. Constant updates to your site will also help your search engine rankings.
  5. Bad Writing — Confusing, dense, error-prone, academic writing can completely turn off customers and prospects. As a company that provides technical information and products, you must convey technical detail but the writing style used should not be stilted or filled with incomprehensible jargon. Your site’s style of writing should be conversational and straightforward and it should completely lack marketing-speak. It should not sound like it’s an infomercial (But wait! There’s more!) and it should not read like it was written by a used-car salesperson or a journeyman copywriter. Use professional, experienced writers or editors who know your market to write or review site copy to ensure that it flows well, is understandable, that it emphasizes aspects that are truly important to the customer or prospect, and that it is free of grammar and usage errors. Thousands of people will see this content. It’s worth getting right.

Although the Internet must play a major role in any company’s communications plan, it probably should not be the only communications medium of choice. There are still very valid reasons for putting ink on paper. We understand those reasons and when to use this valuable approach to communicating your company’s value.

Finally, don’t forget direct mail... many companies have and this creates real marketing opportunities for your company.

Call us now at (408) 910-5992 or email us at steven.leibson@gmail.com to discuss these opportunities.

 

©2009 - Steve Leibson
 (408) 910-5992
FAX (877) 581-4888

steven.leibson@gmail.com