VISIBILITY: Part 1 – Web Presence
“What is a website?” We can all agree that very few people are running around asking this today? It has become an essential component to our business plan but not so far back there were discussions as to what the World Wide Web was and if it was even possible to use it as an effective tool for our marketing (sound familiar?). Things seem to need to be validated through time and a process to become mainstream but some know right from the onset that certain medias are powerful and they have that insight into directing a successful strategy. Web presence is critical in your strategy but what that presence should reflect is often a mystery.
In prior SteamFeed posts I have discussed the overall different facets that comprise your marketing strategy [Shaping Your Branded Sphere], and solutions on building it out from the branding foundation, [Brand Strategy and Development: Yes You Have Homework!]. The next step is to consider your visibility within your marketing sphere and how that brand should translate effectively in that environment.
Three main aspects of this visibility encompass: Web Presence (part 1), Engagement (part 2) and Search (part 3). Let’s focus first on Web Presence, since this is really the first step that should be undertaken after you mastered your brand development and strategy.
The Web Presence Helix – 5 Effective Elements:
1. Brand Positioning on Your Site – Implementing a strong branded image, message and storyline to your website is singularly the most key part of the process you should consider. This includes placement, location and consistency of the brand within the site. Plus how all the other images, content and functionality support this development and strategy. How your audience connects and the experience they have when they interact on the site. It needs to promote your target audience’s attitude or influence with the brand. They need to become connected with the story the brand is sharing on the site. The preferred word here is ‘sharing’. If you are creating the site to push it out to your audience you can basically guarantee the same response back. Remember the old story of the battle between the sun and the wind and the man with the overcoat. The wind boasted it could get the man to remove his jacket by force and challenged the sun. The man only closed his jacket tighter with every forceful gust from the wind while the sun emitted its rays to allow the man to remove his jacket on his own. Just remember to apply this same methodology of audience partnership with your brand on your site. After all it is the customer’s experience, not yours.
2. Intuitive Over Design – I know many fantastic designers who in their effort to create phenomenal design work just completely lost the audience. Very often fantastic design choices have to be overruled because the audience would not be able to follow. You want them to follow and better yet to lead. Create the navigation the way they would intuitively use it. Don’t make your audience have to think. Don’t decide to trail blaze by being cleaver here, either. Be cleaver where it counts. Be cleaver in how you deliver the solutions to your audience’s pain by bringing awareness to product(s) or service(s). Structure should be simple and a site needs to reflect simplicity as well. Your audience whether they are saying it out loud or not wants ‘what they want, where they want it’. Please stop trying to make them jump over hurdles to get it. If they expect a tire swing don’t pretend that consistently offering them a tree house makes it better. Give them what they want in simple means. Color supports the brand development and strategy not the other way around. Images support the customer’s needs not the company’s needs. The key element in this category is “direct me” (the customer) simply where I need to go (your call-to-action) and remove the hurdles. I rather see a very simple site than one all dressed up with bells and whistles that just flat out frustrates the customer.
3. Content Where Your Audience Wants It – People don’t read! Yes I said it and I mean it. Oh sure we all say we read but what we really mean is we only read what we are interested in and at the exact moment we have the attention to read it. Keeping that in mind don’t write something ad nauseam and expect your audience has the staying power to get through it. They have to have the time, interest and focus to get through it so make it digestible. Dice it up in mini content pieces based on your target audience’s tolerances. This holds true for all industries, for example, if you are creating a site for NASA astronauts perhaps a more in-depth content scope is called for but even then be considerate of your reader. If they are researching the outer limits of a new galaxy don’t have them read the doctorial input from some other category that has little relevancy to the information they are after. You may offer parallel material as it becomes relevant but offer it as a side navigation or brief call-to-action link without impeding their journey to the material they are after.
4. Location, Location, Location – True in real estate and even the high premium real estate (layout) on your site. Where does the brand logo go? Where should I place the opt-in field (newsletter/email sign-up) and where do those social media network links belong? These all have designated areas and real estate being what it is should feature each one contained within “hotspots” on your site. Can you deviate? Sure you can but why are you? Are you affording your audience a better option based on a marketing strategy? Or do you just want a more pleasing design layout. Location trumps all aspects of the other elements listed above, believe it or not and many studies have been done to prove this. Just by reviewing search engine optimization statistics you can see how much location really does matter. So here are the big ones to consider:
a. Brand mark in the top header portion of the site preferably but not exclusively to the left-hand side.
b. Opt-in field preferably positioned in the top right-hand side of the site. It can also be added just above the header for differentiation.
c. Social media network links close to and if possible under the opt-in field. This would be within the top right-hand side of the site as well.
d. Engagement content (tagline, messaging and transition slides or static support images) below brand mark and reading from left to right. It is not effective forcing the opposite direction (right to left) just to say you made an impact. Giving a negative impact is not supportive impact.
5. Adding “Duende”- This is the part that most sites leave out. They have the technical end structured well and the simplicity of the site with carefully thought out content but they forget the “duende”! What is “duende”? Just as it was mentioned in the title, it is in essence ‘having soul’, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. It is that element that grabs you and yet you really can’t put your finger on it but you know you just experienced something special. This is the creative piece, the one that needs to start on the landing page and be consistently threaded throughout the site. It does not need to hit you over the head. It needs to be somewhat subtle but strongly presented. It can be represented as imagery, messaging or a tagline. It usually stems from your brand strategy and development, so look to that first. This is where those design types can get crazy with their creative on the site. What is the audience looking to emotionally connect with? How do they feel when they experience it? How do they believe it values them? The bigger brands get it when executing in their other marketing channels but not always on their site. They are so focused on functionality they miss adding in that “duende” experience. Functionality is important, simplicity is effective but having soul brings it to a whole other level.
Web Presence is by far the one task item you must have on your list of marketing objectives. Let’s direct our intentions to reflect that human component and keep it part of the equation, our website DNA so to speak. Build upon each element to create a fruitful web presence that builds visibility for your brand. While remembering that soul always captures engagement and with that admission, “duende” soul connects us to each other!
… Which leads us to VISIBILITY: Part 2 – Engagement