One of the most common problems I encounter when I consult with businesses is the amount of information they feel compelled to include on their marketing material. This is, almost invariably, caused by the fact that the people who run the business are so close to it that they have a very hard time zooming out and identify what is important.
Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles towards a successful brand, and one of the main things I help businesses eliminate. It is very common and can take many forms, but there are some mistakes that you can look out for in your own website, which are likely having a big impact on the effectiveness of your marketing.
Here are a few:
Are you using too much technical language?
Last summer I was in a hardware store near our house looking for a new garden hose. I picked one up that looked rather sturdy, and read the label. It said:
Eagle 150psi Nitrile.
Nitrile Rubber Layflat Large Diameter Hose (LDH)
Below this headache-inducing name, the rest of the box was a big list of technical data and features.
I quickly put it back as if it had Ebola.
Then I picked another, more expensive one. This one said:
NeverKink Heavy Duty.
No kinks. No Tangles. Guaranteed.
I went to the till and paid for it, and I came home to water my lawn. And there were neither kinks, nor tangles!
By the way, on the box they also had a list of technical features, but at that point I was already interested in the product.
Always think of how your product or service can help your customers. Do they need to know about all the features? They probably do at some point, but usually a lot later than you might think.
I came to your website in search of a solution to a problem, and I need you to show me that you can help me first.
If I consider buying from you, then I’ll want to know the specifics, but not until then.
Do you have grandad syndrome?
You’ve probably seen many websites that give you the “company history” on the homepage. They include sentences like these:
Harry’s great grandfather, started the business when he took over a disused mother-of-pearl button factory in New Hartley, near Seaton Delaval.
My great grandfather started the company in 1932 and every generation has added to the success of the business.
That’s great, but how does that solve my problem? I came to your website because I’m a busy sportswear manufacturer and I need to find a company that will be meet my demand for clip-on buttons, deliver them on time, and work with me to develop exactly what I need.
If you really think that your customers need some background or that it adds personality (and please make it brief), make sure you don’t lead with it. Instead, make it “further reading”. Otherwise you’re just confusing them.
Are you featuring awards and certifications?
I’m sure you’ve all seen websites that have an Awards and Certifications section. Some of them show huge pictures of their ISO9001 certificate, and other “seals of approval”.
Through this certification, we are extremely proud to be recognised as one of the Top 100 dealers nationally.
Good for you, but I still don’t see how you’re going to alleviate my pain as a buyer of clip-on buttons. I’m worried you might not be able to meet my needs, and you’re not really doing anything to reassure me.
Don’t get me wrong: awards and certifications can be a good way to establish trust, but a small one-colour logo in the footer is generally enough or, if the award is really important, a little bar just below the fold.
Are you talking too much about you personal interests?
This one is not as ubiquitous as the others but I’ve seen plenty of small businesses (especially family businesses) do it. They sometimes include a page or section about things that are obviously very important to the owner but that are not related to how they solve my problem. My favourite is the one about the local sports team that they sponsor, with a blurred photo of some lads in their sports kit. But there is also the big mountain trek that the owner has participated in last year, or worse, their pets.
Sometimes the intention is to make it more personal, and human, and that is fantastic, but the human component should help you make a connection with your audience, not ask them to listen while you go on about yourself.
Now, let’s say that for some reason I am still reading your website, and haven’t already turned to a competitor’s. All the time I’m spending reading about your grandad, or about some award you won last year, it’s time when I could be reading about how you produce the best clip-on buttons, of how you can help me with logistics, and how you can work with me to find the solution that best fits my needs.
I am still reading (I’m obviously not very busy this morning) about the local basketball team you sponsor when I could be calling Steve from Purchases to place an order for 10.000 buttons.
Remember: it is your job is to help me understand why we’re a good fit. If you think that your grandfather is actually important to me, keep it for later, when I know what you do and how it can help me.
If you’ve done a good job of convincing me to consider your product, or if I’ve already purchased, then you can get a little more personal, and tell me about gramps, and how what he did back in ’69 shaped the way you are helping me now.
Until then, it is just clutter.
Are you making any of this mistakes on your website? Fix them now and you’ll start engaging more people straight away.