My clients know I often talk about websites like they’re people. To me, they have a personality, a job, a goal, and a life story. If they were interns or employees, their job descriptions would be very clear. They also embody a sort of living conversation with people who come to visit them. Let me give you an example.
I recently stopped by a new bookstore in my town. I was curious about what they offered (being only the second book retailer here in this small place).
Unusually for me, I wasn’t looking for anything specific at the time. I knew vaguely that I’d like something business-related, because I was in a bit of an “Inspiration Funk” and thought some fresh reading might help shake loose some original thought.
Here’s how the conversation with the proprietors went:
(Me) “Hi guys. Welcome to the neighborhood. We love having a new bookstore within walking distance!” (handshake)
(Owner) “So glad you stopped by. We’ve got some fresh coffee brewing in the corner by those big armchairs. Make yourself at home. Can I help you find what you’re looking for?”
“I’m not looking for anything in particular, but do you have a business book section?”
“Absolutely – come right over here. What do you do? What sort of thing interests you?”
“I’d just like to browse what you’ve got for some new ideas. I have my own business too, and lately I’ve been looking for creative ways to freshen it up.”
“Excellent. I love talking to other self-employed folks. You know what? We just got in this new book about marketing that sounded really different from all the rest of them…let me find it for you.”
I sipped coffee while browsing, and painlessly bought my new book using their handy iPad checkout. At their suggestion, I joined their mailing list, and decided to go home and “Follow” the store on Facebook to stay aware of their sales and community events like readings and workshops.
Pretty standard retail stuff, right?
But let’s tease apart that whole story. Here’s how the conversation flows, from their point of view:
1) Well, hi there. I’m glad you’re here. Make yourself comfortable.
2) What’s your story? Let’s talk about why you’ve come, even if you’re not entirely sure yourself.
3) Ahhh, I see. I think I may have something helpful. Let me show you.
4) Here’s how to get what you’ve decided on; we’ve made it easy.
5) You know, we should keep in touch, if you don’t mind. Here’s how.
A good website—one that’s human and helpful—says and does all of this too:
- With your home page, you set the tone, with words and with imagery, so people feel an immediate sense of having arrived at a comfortable and helpful place.
- That page also makes a connection with the reader right away by beginning a conversation with them: What’s going on with you right now? What did you come here to look for? How can I help? It’s not always clear who they are. Sometimes, since you have a specific audience in mind but don’t know for certain s/he’s the one reading, you have to make assumptions: “So many people are struggling with (X) right now – as many as a million people nationwide…”
- Only then do you describe your main offerings in detail (products, services, help, wisdom). The bookstore dude didn’t meet me at the door waving a copy of Atlas Shrugged, trying to convince me I needed to re-read it right now. He asked questions. Listened. Suggested.
- Provide super-streamlined ways to purchase the thing(s) I’ve now decided I most need. Note the shop owner didn’t walk me around and block my way by trying to sell me an Ironman DVD, a bookmark, and a copy of Where the Wild Things Are (fun fact: I already have two copies). You can have them displayed in your offerings; but pop it up in my face as an impulse buy or a upsell, and you’ve become “that guy.”
- Whether they purchase or not, offer visitors ways to continue the conversation. This can be through the site, through an email signup , or through social media.
What you can do next:
Take a look at your own home page and website.
What’s the conversation that’s taking place, even if it might currently be one-sided? What’s missing?
As usual, you can always contact me for inspiration and help. Have a great week!
Thanks for stopping by!
If you have a heart-based business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:
- I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
- I’m on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
- Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions for your work, or talk about how to better tell your story online.