Remember the old saying, "What you don't know can hurt you"? It often does. It is especially factual where the subject is strategic website content and user experience.
The Client and their Dilemma
Failing to understand the impact of their company’s strategic website content was the topic of a recent discussion between me and the corporate officers who worked for a high tech defense contractor. The company is owned and managed by engineers of various disciplines- aerospace, mechanical, electrical, and others.
The basis of our meeting was that they were not satisfied with the content of their website and viewed the website as essential to their success. After discussing how I might help them, I realized that I needed to have them clarify the answer to a specific set of questions for themselves. The threshold question was "Who visits your website?"
After I asked that simple question, the immediate answer from the president, an engineer himself, was "Other engineers”. That made perfect sense to me. To probe further, I asked who else? Another company officer, also an engineer by profession, answered "retard' government purchasing agents". After the room broke up in laughter and calmed down again, we all agreed that we understood that very politically incorrect answer.
I could see something plainly in the body language and expressions of the participants. Temporarily hidden in the laughter after that statement was the sudden realization that they had overlooked something. They began to understand that they had forgotten to communicate properly with a significant portion of the people who visited their website. Mind you, they felt – as I do – that the majority of visitors were engineers, but the rest were not an insignificant number.
The president then recounted something he had learned long ago in a communications training class. I am paraphrasing, but he said “You cannot write all communications on a graduate level and expect everyone to understand”.
It was the third question along the same line that caused everyone in the meeting to fall silent. I simply asked who else, again. Everyone in the room began to look at each other for answers. None came. After a few moments of silence, I told them that I would like to present a scenario, which follows.
I addressed the participants with this scenario: “The president of another defense contractor has tasked his staff with finding manufacturer and supplier of the same type of components that you make. It is going to be a significant purchase for them and for you. His staff has now narrowed the choices from four companies in their original internet search down to two, and your company is one of the two remaining. Further, the president of this other firm is part of the final decision-making process and is not an engineer. Instead, he has a brilliant business background and has bought the company because he saw their potential. (Another way of putting this could have been that he was brought in by a Board of Directors to run the company or manage it as an outsourced CEO or CFO, or could even be a department manager within the firm). Here is the critical question: "How often is that non-engineer company president on your website checking you out?"
The president of the company I was meeting with quickly said, "If I were him, I would not only be on the two remaining, but likely all four." When I asked how often that would occur, his answer was “100% of the time.” What are you now thinking about the content of your website?
Far more C-level (CFO, CEO, COO, CIO, etc) people visit websites as part of the decision making process than most people realize.. My meeting showed quite clearly that these company officers had not realized what a significant number of non-technically educated people were very likely to be reading the information on their website and making purchase decisions from it.
Companies like the one illustrated here frequently fail to meet with an independent third party who is capable of telling their story (delivering their brand ideas) to people of multiple educational backgrounds or technical skill sets. When web searchers are out looking for something specific, they are frequently at or very near the point of purchase. They will act positively toward your Website information if and only if they understand why they should pay close attention to your message.
Any ideas, technical in nature or not, must be presented in a simple manner which directs the reader to the motivational and engaging answer of “why” they should pay attention. Give it to them directly and they will stop and pay attention. Do not leave it to their imagination to figure it out. If you do, they will leave quickly in frustration and find another company to work with.
Chandler Turner is President of Accurate Business Communications. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (757) 334-5390.