Full disclosure: that Crystal Ball I bought on eBay never really performed as promised. Could kick myself for bidding so high.
So I don’t actually know what the next step will be in the evolution of business websites. But I’m willing to take a shot at what it should be, based on three smart current trends that have yet to truly live up to their potential.
For each, join me in exploring the trend’s origins, its current limitations, and its future promise.
Along the way, we just might re-invent today’s websites for tomorrow’s visitors. Ready?
Current Trend One: Identifying Personas
Early websites tried to be all things to all people. Companies simply listed their products or their services, and it was up to you to figure out which might be useful to someone in your situation.
Over time, online marketing got more sophisticated. In Discovery and Strategy sessions, we discussed the various ‘personas’ who might be visiting our website. It became clear that different people in different circumstances would have different needs we could still solve.
Somehow, B2B persona profiles became weirdly granular, fleshing out their backstories to include the gender of their children and the breed of their dogs.
The outcome? Folks would land on a Home page that … pretty much said the same thing to all those carefully-defined customer-types.
Prediction One: Truly Serving Each Persona
This will be clearer with an example: A garage door company realizes it has three types of buyers. First, someone freaking because a non-responsive clicker has suddenly trapped them at home; second, homeowners who are thinking of upgrading to a newer look; and third, homebuilders seeking a garage door sub-contractor.
Three totally different sets of needs, sensibilities, and considerations. Attempting to address them all adequately on the same Home page is impossible. So as a fallback, the page focuses on the company itself, often with the same generic claims and marketing clichés as their competitors.
Now imagine this: their Home page is reduced to a mere portal, mostly filled with 3 large boxes containing these prominent headlines: “Garage Door Not Working?”; “Looking for Upgrade Options?”; and “Are You a Home Builder?”
With no other distractions, each would immediately link to a persona-specific page that digs deep into each group’s perceived needs, underlying needs, obstacles, questions, and concerns. Offerings, solutions and calls-to-action are tailored specifically to what each type of buyer needs to hear.
Current Trend Two: Scannable Home Pages
At one point in the history of the web, lots of Home pages looked like blog pages – a headline plus a dense, intimidating pile of plain text. No big surprise, really, since a lot of early sites were built on CMS platforms, which in turn, were originally built for blogging.
As our pace of life picked up, and our patience and attention spans nose-dived, we wanted to be able to quickly skim a web page, eyes darting around to see what, if anything, was worth a closer look.
Hence, a smartly designed Home page these days is easily scannable as a segmented series of blocks. Core messages jump out as headlines and callouts. Text is broken up into bite-size nuggets. Images and white space help keep the page eye-friendly as we scroll.
So let’s say you click a link to go to an interior page. What do you see? More often than not, a huge chunk of gray text … every bit as unfriendly to the eye as the Home pages of yore.
Prediction Two: Scannable Interior Pages
Now imagine this: What if each interested persona had their own Home page? Every customer type would be treated to a colorful, graphic and easy-to-peruse segmented page targeted specifically to them.
The brand itself is no longer limited to one focus – it becomes whatever that particular buyer needs it to be. If I’m feverishly clicking my remote because I’m late for work, the garage door company is all about their 1-hour response time. For the couple leisurely looking to upgrade, the company is all about their stylish garage door gallery.
This every-page-is-a-home-page approach can apply to product pages, service pages, industry-specific pages, and more. It’s just a richer, friendlier and more engaging experience. With today’s page builders, it’s easy to create one template for the various pages.
If you still have longer pieces of text, that’s fine. Keep the top of the page Home-like to make sure everyone’s exposed to the brief core messages you want them to see. Then put lengthier text at the bottom for those hungry to learn more.
Even better: link to multiple sub-topic pages relevant to that market, in essence creating a mini-website for each type of buyer. Plus, now when searchers do a long-tail search for, say, “Cleaning Services for Medical Offices,” a smartly-optimized mini-website is going to have more topic authority, and therefore better Google rankings, than a competitor’s single text-only page.
Current Trend Three: Helpful Info in Blog Posts
The primary purpose of your business website has always been to attract awareness, leads, and sales.
Your readers, it turns out, are focused on their own mission. Most often, it’s to gather information to help them accomplish something, decide something, or make a smart buying choice.
Business blogging offers companies the chance to be the source of that information, clearly displaying the firm’s real-world knowledge and expertise. Plus, their objectively useful instructions or insights positions them as a valued resource willing to help, not just a company trying to sell-sell-sell.
Problem is, if the fricken fracken garage door won’t open and I’ve already been late to work twice this week … don’t expect me to sit and scroll through your blog for any topics that might happen to be of interest.
Prediction Three: Helpful Info on Web Pages
Now imagine this: you’ve come up with a few brief but genuinely useful tips for each of your customer personas (maybe you’ve cannibalized some excerpts from your blog), and sprinkled them around the appropriate pages.
Here, you’re trying to help each audience reach their goal in a way that perhaps relates to your company’s approach, without specifically mentioning your company’s products.
By sharing these bits of wisdom (identified by distinctive and consistent formatting), your authoritative expertise and generous help will come across on the pages that your visitors are already looking at.
For example, the garage door company could create some good will, while saving themselves an unprofitable drive across town, by posing this simple question:
“Have you tried changing the battery on your garage door remote?”
About the Author: Tom Tortorici is an Atlanta copywriter and web content writer who helps companies make a genuine connection with their audience. His classes and conference presentations have focused on how writing, strategy and design can work together to grab attention and interest even among readers with short attention spans. In addition to working directly with businesses, Tom regularly partners with web designers and marketing agencies.
Tom Tortorici Inc. | Tom@TomTortorici.com | 770-934-7861 | 3101 Rockaway Rd | Atlanta GA 30341