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Is your website "stranger-friendly"?

Posted by [email protected] on May 29, 2012 at 1:10 AM

It never ceases to amaze me how many companies splash out thousands of pounds on glossy corporate websites and forget to include a section that says what the company actually does. If you’re lucky, your company is already world famous as a brand (Microsoft, Starbucks etc) or its area of business is easy to define in one or two words (eg solicitors, accountants, chip manufacturer). Alternatively, you may have your area of business neatly described in your company name (eg Joe’s Office Supplies). But if, like me, you have to spend a good couple of minutes explaining to new acquaintances what your company actually does, then you need to make sure the copy on your company website is well-written enough to do that job adequately too.


Far too many company websites are full of meaningless phrases like “we’re a full-service provider of high-tech solutions to the broadcasting industry” or “the market-leader in innovative, design-led systems”. You may have a news section on your site that trumpets the awards you’ve won and your impressive client list, but the mistake that’s being made here is the assumption that people visiting your website ALREADY KNOW WHAT YOUR COMPANY DOES. And often they don’t.


I remember getting loads of confused emails a few years ago when I updated my LinkedIn profile after moving to a new job. My connections had clicked on the link to my new company’s website to see what sector I’d moved to. Without fail, every email asked “but what does the company actually DO?” The website didn’t tell them. Major fail!


You may think that your website is only designed to serve your customers and potential customers, and that anyone in your target sector will already have heard of your company and what it does. This is, to be blunt, a really short-sighted approach. It’s true that your target customers may well know what your company does, but they’re not the only people who will visit your site. Loads of other audiences are also likely to use your site and you want to make sure you are serving them too.


Some examples: if you put out a press release about the award you’ve just won, then you’re probably hoping journalists and bloggers will write about that story - that’s really the point of a press release. But those journalists and bloggers may need to explain to their (non-industry) readers exactly what it is you do. Give them a nice neat summary on your site and they won’t have to make one up (and risk getting it badly wrong). Equally, if you advertise for new staff, potential applicants are going to look at your website to see what your company does and decide whether they’re a good fit for the job. If they can’t work out what you do, they may struggle to articulate in their applications why they’re a good fit for your role and you might miss out on a really good candidate. And if you’re looking for funding for a new expansion, potential investors are going to start their due diligence somewhere – if they can’t work out what you do from a glance at your website, why the hell would they consider throwing some of their cash your way?


All it takes is a few simple paragraphs headed “What we do” or “About Us” that are clearly signposted from your homepage and easy to understand (even if you don’t work in the relevant industry). So ask yourself, is your website “stranger-friendly”? Does it have the written equivalent of the elevator pitch you use when you meet someone at a party and they say “what does your company do”? If not, you need to think about rewriting your website copy pretty quickly. Contact me to see how I can help with that. I’d also love to hear what you think are the top mistakes that companies make on their websites.

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