The information age has led to many changes in the way we work, interact, behave and make decisions. We have gone from looking through the yellow pages, doing research at the library, and asking our direct network of colleagues and friends to googling, facebooking, blogging, twittering and wikipediing the people, places, and information we need.
From religion to medicine, etail shopping to enterprise vending; these drastic data driven changes are affecting the way we work and are putting more emphasis on our websites’ power to sell.
1. People need to make informed decisions based on your content.
The web means we can all be experts in all fields. As soon as we encounter a medical issue as revealed by our doctor, we jump onto Google, read about it, find a focus group, etc. Then, with our new found knowledge we seek a specialist, 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions. We try and reconcile conflicting opinions with data we have read, prioritizing conflicting opinion and adding credence based on our own perception of content. And, ultimately, we choose for ourselves the best course of action or treatment.
If you are a software provider website, for example, your website is the first impression your potential customers’ have of you, your products and your brand. Only then can they inquire through a sales professional and continue on with their web research. Make sure all information customers need to know about your product/services are included in your web content.
2. People need to feel comfortable working with you.
How many times have you looked up a hotel on a website aggregator, seen a cheap price, nice pictures and thought, “this looks great”? You then go on to Trip Advisor and read some reviews that contradict your previous research. One comment mentions the hotel was "good value for money" or "cheap and cheerful," but the pricing you have been quoted seems pretty expensive and the pictures imply a high-end hotel. You then google the hotel’s own website only to find web pages resembling a high school homework assignment. You are now deterred from a hotel that you were otherwise satisfied with as a result of conflicting data.
Understanding how people came to you, what information they were looking for, and serving it to them easily and professionally has a massive impact.
You need to know what messaging on your website is converting customers and what is the main proposition that people are interested in? What blog are they reading before coming to your site and what content are they interested in? Don’t waste space on content that a HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) thinks is right but that your customers’ couldn’t care less about.
3. People need the modern-day salesman (your website) to be clear, concise, and persuasive.
"Solution sales are dead." This was the title of an interesting Harvard Business Review article which, for me, as a sales professional, made for a depressing read. Sad but often true, the article insisted that customers today are no longer interested in hearing from the sales guy. Clients are often more knowledgeable about their problems and the products they need/want. They have read numerous blogs, asked multiple experts globally and have already formulated their own opinions about your company. Even after speaking with you, they will continue the sales process through googling competitor products and looking through forums and blogs.
Therefore, your website content needs to be ready for visitor curiosity and questions they may have that supports your pitch, clearly presents your products and persuades them to buy.
4. People need to spot your service/product value at first sight.
My mother has always complained that today is a generation of people who have so much information but know absolutely nothing. And I always respond that while the information is everywhere and certainly abundant, it is not all valuable. People who know how to rummage through a lot of the “garbage” are a skilled and rare breed.
Therefore, your website content needs to clearly present the value of your service or product right off the bat. If not, impatient, confused and angry visitors are not going to stick around for more. Especially on your landing pages, customers need to be given a clear starting point to initiate their decent down your conversion funnel.
Moving from the Information Age to the Age of Insight
My conclusion is therefore, the following: Your website is now more important than ever and it forms a fundamental part of how people perceive and understand you, your brand and your company. Instead of chucking out information about your services/products on the web because you can and it’s there, invest time analyzing your website and what value your current content actually provides your visitors. If it causes more of a maze than motivation, questions more than answers, you are in need of a redesign.
Working with a variety of analytics and business intelligence tools can help you understand how visitors are using your website and which web page elements could be causing your downfall or where there is room for improvement. Give your visitors the information they actually need in the way that they can consume it. We are shifting from the information age to the age of insight and now is your website’s turn to join in!