A wake up call for entrepreneurs…

When you talk to business owners like I do, you’ll find that most will say they don’t like their company’s website and they don’t think it’s doing a good enough job. That’s certainly been my experience when running workshops. When I ask a crowd of people if they like their website, maybe two will put their hand up. But when I try to dig deeper and find out why, most can’t get too specific. They’ll complain that it’s not performing, or that it doesn’t accurately reflect their business, or that it’s old or outdated or they simply just don’t like it.

Over the years I’ve worked with many different software companies who build their homepages by listing features or copying the flavour of the week. They think they’re leading with their value proposition but in reality it’s just a list of all about their product.

A website should be an extension of your business strategy. But if you’re struggling with your business strategy – about what to sell, who to sell it to, and how to sell it – then your website is going to be a mess. I know this with certainty because we’ve developed many websites for our own business, Marketing CoPilot, over the years. It has taken some trial and error to understand what we’re selling and who we’re selling to and what our ultimate expectations are for our website. Now, we’ve landed firmly in a place that we feel good about because we know it’s backed up by facts. Our website has to be about thought leadership within the marketing space, because that’s what our customers are looking for from us. But it’s been an evolution.

Building online relationships

It can be easy for a lot of companies to pick the lowest hanging fruit. They go after every customer and immediately try to make a sale, rather than offering the customer the information they need to solve a problem to start building a relationship. Or, they base their strategy entirely on opinion (and an uninformed opinion at that), or worse yet, a feeling about what they think should be on the homepage. Believe it or not, discovering what should go on your website just takes a little digging.

In order to make your website resonate with customers, you need to examine what the customer thinks about you, your product, its value, and why they need it. If you can answer that for them and can continue to test that everything you’re doing is working (and adjust when it’s not) then you’re headed in the right direction. But if you simply base your online strategy on a gut feel, your website is never going to perform the way you want it to.

After all, your opinion doesn’t matter. But your customer’s does.

A strategy based on opinion is not a strategy at all. But the truth is, you have to start somewhere. And for many business leaders, their opinion is the stepping-stone. When an entrepreneur starts a new business, it begins very intuitively based on their individual personality. It’s about what they think the brand should stand for, what they want to call the business, and what’s important to them. In the beginning, this is all coming directly from the entrepreneur. But as they start to grow and evolve, they need to examine things to make sure that what they’re doing reflects their customers’ needs.

We’ve all encountered businesses and brands throughout our lives that give us the distinct feeling that we’re dealing directly with the founder’s personality – and not just their personality, but their opinion. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. They dictate the things they want on the homepage (a drop-down menu with these specific options, a certain layout, the placement of a particular piece of information) simply because that’s what they want, rather than digging in and looking at the data. In this way, they start making decisions and deciding to do things that could be completely counter-intuitive to what their customer really wants, simply because they’re basing all their decisions on what they think has to be there.

We’ll talk more about how to stop guessing and start using the data you have available to you to make better marketing decisions in our next post. But if you are ready to break out of this cycle of “opinion-based” marketing and get to a better evidence-based program, read Chapter Two of You Can’t Be Everywhere.