Every week I'm asked to look at business Web sites and tell the owners why they're not getting the results they want.
Some of these sites are straightforward brochures, others are e-commerce catalogs, and some are those direct-mail-style pitches reminiscent of old mail-order magazine subscription schemes. Some have incorporated do-it-yourself audio and video, and some even have such media professionally produced... but, still, the results stink. Why?
'The Close' Is Always Found in 'The Why'
Certainly part of the problem stems from a very narrow definition of what a Web site is: by casting your site in terms of a brochure, catalog, e-commerce-site, blog, or portal, you are falling into the trap of concentrating on "The What" rather than "The Why."
This focus on "The What" is exacerbated by some search engine optimization techniques intended to drive traffic rather than to brand product, sell services, or convert traffic into customers. Traffic is important, but converting that traffic into paying customers is more important. Even the best and brightest search engine optimizers will tell you that their job is to deliver traffic, not orders—closing the deal is your job, and anybody who tells you that closing can be done by means of some automatic never-touched-by-human-hands method is just plain nuts.
What you want to be careful of is search-engine tactics and second-rate media that actually get in the way of effectively delivering your marketing message—of telling your business story, creating a memorable brand image, and above all generating profitable business clients.
Web Video Is a Presentation-Marketing Strategy
If you pay any attention to what's going on, you must be aware of the shift in Web thinking and the acceptance of Web video as a fundamental Web-marketing tool. But like most things, there is a right way and a whole bunch of wrong ways to do it.
Web video is a presentation-marketing strategy, and its strength and power come from its ability to overcome the Web's natural sterile, isolationist environment by incorporating verbal and non-verbal human elements that effectively deliver bold, well-crafted memorable messages.
Can a Web-video campaign cure everything that's wrong with your company, or even your sales department's deficiencies? Of course not. But the right message based on "The Why" using appropriate, cost-effective presentation techniques can position your business, brand your product, and generate sales leads.
Don't fool yourself: You and your sales staff have to close the sale. Do not expect to sit back and count your profits while your Web site runs your business by default. Automatic pilot may work for sites that sell commodity items and nationally branded merchandise backed by millions of dollars of advertising, but unless you fall into that category, it's time to get real.
A New Web Paradigm
Here's a new way of looking at your Web site; and if you "get it," you will be able to refashion your site and reinvent your business in a way that gets you remembered and initiates action by your target market:
Start thinking of your Web site as a stage and all the content on it as players you direct in order to deliver your message and tell your story in a memorable manner to a relevant audience.
So let's break down this Web-presentation model and analyze how it meets your marketing needs.
Your Web site is a stage
Businesses that want to use their Web sites as a marketing vehicle have to get past thinking of them in terms of merely digital print media.
Just as damaging is the overreliance on search optimization or IT technical solutions that have little or no relationship to marketing's primary goal of delivering a memorable message that initiates action on the part of the audience.
Knowing the age, sex, and hat size of the last ten thousand visitors to your site may impress some, but having reams of statistical information on your visitors doesn't necessarily mean you know what that data means or how to use it effectively. In the same vein, tons of traffic generated by the latest SEO manipulation doesn't necessarily translate into business.
Start thinking of your Web site as a stage—a presentation and performance platform that allows your company to present your message to your audience in an entertaining, informative, and memorable manner.
Tell your story in a memorable manner
There are many ways to present what you do and why your audience should care, but the most effective way is to deliver that information in a story format. When people come to your Web site, they are putting you on trial and judging everything that you present, in order to see whether it is relevant and convincing, and whether it resonates with their needs.
In their article "Evidence Evaluation in Complex Decision Making" (in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), Pennington and Hastie explain that when prosecutors tell their version of events to a jury in story format, they are able to achieve a 78% conviction rate, whereas those who do not use a story format have only a 31% conviction rate.
When visitors come to your Web site, they are putting you on trial for your Web-business life.
Memorable communication is all about the performance
Effective communication begins with the campaign concept. If you don't have a well-defined, focused concept that deals with the "why anybody should care factor," your communication will be muddy and irrelevant. Far too many marketing campaigns try to do too much, and in an effort to get your money's worth say everything and anything that comes to mind. Unfortunately, all you're really doing is confusing people—and your core message never gets heard, let alone understood or remembered.
You need professional presenters who know how to use both verbal and non-verbal performance to get your message across, and of course you've got to give the presenters a script that is well written, entertaining, and informative.
Professional actors and voiceover talent bring infinite subtlety, nuance, and meaning to cleverly written scripts. Add sound effects, signature music, and a few post-production enhancements... and you have a memorable presentation.
What you don't need is complicated sets, props, and locations that increase the cost of production. The Web is not television, and there is no need to absorb inflated expenses based on ad agency cost-plus-pricing fees that bear little relation to effectiveness.
Expensive movie-style productions are just not necessary and lose their impact when delivered in relatively small, Web-friendly formats that need to be easily integrated with additional collateral material that can be used to present more details and to answer frequently asked questions.
Last but Not Least
We can learn a lot from children, including from their relentless quest for the answer to "The Why" of things. We often forget that this is the central issue in our lives, and it is only after we've been told by parents, teachers, bosses, and numerous other authority figures to shut up and do what we've told that we sublimate this need and replace it with the far less meaningful and convincing "What."
But if we as marketers can put our faith in delivering "The Why" using the most people-friendly techniques of verbal and non-verbal digital communication, then we will have learned how to achieve a convincing and memorable Web-marketing presentation.