What makes great Web sites sticky and attractive? Good, relevant content that is easy to use. Developing and implementing an effective content strategy takes time and resources, but the payoffs are great. Many more good, target customers will visit your site more often. Your customers will be more satisfied because they feel your business is responsive to their needs. Your sales staff will be happy because they will find their time with customers is more productive, and they can close more sales. By following a few simple rules, you can set your company Web site apart from your competitors’ ordinary online brochure sites.
First, think hard and plan well. Whom does your Web site cater to? Identify your distinct groups of target audiences: Who are these audiences? What are their objectives? What information do they need to meet their objectives? What is their level of understanding of your products and services? How sophisticated are they with Internet technology? If they are potential customers, for example, consider their decision making processes: What are their criteria in deciding whether to do business with you? How about your existing customers? What will make it easier for them to continue to do business with you?
Next, create a content strategy for each target audience. An aircraft manufacturer searching for qualified contractors may need to see evidence that the contractor has been duly certified by the Federal Aviation Agency and has demonstrated relevant capabilities. A homebuyer researching financing options may look for a mortgage broker who is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and familiar with the local market. Consider your web site from their perspectives: What pieces of information and tools will move them forward in the sales process? What can you add to your Web site that will increase its value to them? For example, by putting documentation of its capabilities online, the aircraft contractor helps customers confirm its qualifications quickly and streamlines the sales process. The mortgage broker may provide an online mortgage calculator, a glossary of financing terms, and ways for customers to provide financial data securely and confidentially to their loan officers so they can become pre-qualified for a mortgage. It positions the company as consumer-friendly, credible, and efficient.
Develop your content strategy around your calls for action – what you want your visitors to do in response to your web site. Do you want your visitors to research technical information about your products without needing to call your technical support staff? Do you want them to feel confident enough to place an order online? Do you want them to feel so excited about your products that they can’t wait to visit your stores? Build cues in your Web site to invite your visitors to answer your calls for action.
Your content strategy should be an integral part of your Web site architecture. For each target audience, there should be an easy path beginning in the homepage that takes them to the information they need, and prompts them to take the action you intend them to take. Organize the information in cascading levels from broad and general to in-depth and specific. In this way, your visitors can choose to scan through quickly, or to research deeply in areas they care about. The goal is to give them control over the quantity of information they wish to consume.
Keep in mind also that people process information presented on screen differently from that presented in print. The objectives and messages for each screen should be clear. When preparing content for the Web, the most important points should come first. Short sentences and short paragraphs are preferable. Different people also respond to different cues and presentation methods. Graphical presentations like icons may be important to some, while text may appear more credible to other readers.
The Internet creates a more level playing field for consumers who now have easy access to information they did not have before. Play it to your advantage. Good, relevant content that is easy to use sets apart effective sites that attract, keep, and bring their visitors back time and again. Empower your customers to make the right decisions to do business with you, and you will build long-term profitable relationships.