What do you want someone to do when they visit your website?
A clear call to action is one of the most important aspects of your website, but it’s hard to get right. Someone stumbles across your site, they find the information compelling, and then … what’s next?
The Internet is filled with zombies. Not the kind you find in movies and comics. Rather they are zombie brands—brands devoid of any personality that limp along mindlessly calling out for customers.
B2B websites come across as shells and templates. You can read the facts: what they do, the products they offer, and maybe a few customer testimonials. But there’s no human quality.
Your content is the foundation of your digital brand. The content your company produces drives social media, influences your search rank and feeds your website. It builds your company’s credibility by demonstrating your firm’s capabilities, personality and values. And it builds relationships by engaging your prospects, clients and centers of influence. Without a steady supply of content your digital brand is dead in the water.
Keeping up with the relentless demands of new content is overwhelming for many firms. Who has the time to blog everyday? Not many. At least not many without dedicated marketing and writing resources. And on top of blogging, who has time for the ongoing content demands for social media, newsletters and video? A well rounded content marketing program that drives sales results is a big endeavor.
Differentiating a business is often misunderstood. It’s not about logos, websites or taglines. And it’s not about unique selling propositions, and the stories you tell. These things are all wrapping paper. They may indicate what makes your business unique, but they’re not the source of your differentiation. Differentiation is created from the inside out.
The foundation of your brand’s differentiation is in your business model and your operations. What do you do better than your competition? What do your customers value the most?
One of the great challenges of the information age is information overload. We have access to too much information and too many options. We’re inundated with content. Information overload creates a unique sales challenge, because before a prospect begins the buying process they have to make a shortlist.
The buying process starts with a pre-qualifying step. Prospects will search the Web and get referrals, and assess the lay of the land before they narrow down their options and select two or three companies to compare.
Brands age and mature, and if they’re not maintained they fall apart.
You can see the aging process every time you redo your website. Typically a corporate website needs to be overhauled every 4 years. It starts looking tired in the third year, and dilapidated in the fourth. But the challenge with a new website project is it’s just the tip of the brand.
Last night we flipped the switch, and launched our new website. Welcome to version 2.0 of www.StickyBranding.com. (Let us know what you think. We’d love your feedback.)
We’ve been working hard on the new site since October, and it feels great to finally have it out in the world. We’ve gone through multiple iterations, re-written all of our copy and sweated the little stuff. It’s been a labor of love, but it isn’t even done yet.
Your customers don’t make rational buying decisions. Actually, nobody does. We do the best we can with the information we have.
Even with critical purchase decisions we still make compromises. It’s because we’re human. Our brains just don’t have the memory capacity or computational ability to evaluate all the relevant information in an industry to make highly logical decisions. Instead we look for cues and signals to identify the product and services that will best fit our needs.
Brands are alive. They grow, adapt and change with their environments. And when they stop evolving, they die.
Markets are moving too fast for a brand to remain static. Social media wasn’t on our radar 10 years ago, but look at it today. LinkedIn just crossed 100 million users! Now most brands are jumping on the bandwagon, and working to implement social media strategies. Look back a little further, say 20 years ago, websites were not an integral part of a brand. Today, they are essential.
Buyers verify everything. Whatever a sales person says will be checked and double-checked online.
This point was clearly driven home for me this week. Sticky Branding is in the process of upgrading our office. We’re negotiating with our landlord, we’re getting new furniture and we’re buying a new phone system. Each purchase is being carefully researched and evaluated. We work with the sales people, we speak with their customers and we look for as much information as we can online.
We all play by the rules; Google’s rules. Scan the web, and you will see website-after-website conforming to the rules.
As search has grown in relevance, companies are doing everything in their power to rank high in Google. According to Marketo, “93% of B2B buyers begin their buying process using Internet search.” No wonder everyone is playing by the rules. We are optimizing our content, our meta tags and our backend code to rank higher. Everything that can be optimized for Google is being optimized.
You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. That would be insane. Could you imagine starting a building project by visiting your local Home Depot, and picking out doors to build your house around? I doubt it. That’s just not the way to tackle a major construction project.
The same goes for branding. I am always amazed by the “busy work” projects companies create that directly impact their brands. For example, I hear sentiments like, “We don’t communicate the right value proposition. We need a new website.” How are these topics even related? Sure the website might be out of date, but that’s likely a symptom of an out-of-date marketing plan. What comes first: the value proposition or the website?
What makes your business unique? What do you do differently? Why should I choose you? These are the questions your customers are wrestling with. They need your help.
Spend a few minutes on Google, and you can find virtually anything. We live in a golden age of choice. The problem is everyone looks the same. Every company has a website. They’re pretty professional, and they seem to say the right things. But what makes one firm better than another? It’s a little like wandering through an evergreen forest. Site-after-site looks the same.