I've been doing some research around the Web presence of the future. In my current capacity, I'm working on a complete rewrite and redesign of a corporate Web site, my fifth major effort for a company. Each project was both exciting and challenging for a variety of reasons.
The content varied depending on the industry - risk management consulting, financial services, Web technology, chemical products, and regulatory. Each time I learned the business cycles, language, and context of an industry to be able to articulate clearly what the conversation was about. My current project is probably the most complex and interesting for a number of reasons - what the organization does spans the gamut of services that are critical to the needs of every business, it is highly technical and lives in a context that changes constantly.
Every one of these projects involved a full user requirements study for the construction of Web architecture and usability that was focused on specific publics, a radical redesign that expanded and in many cases re-posioned the company's brand(s), and a complete rewrite. The tone, the language, the organization of content - everything. This blog is a walk (bare feet) in the park in comparison.
However, I did come to realize that there are many parallels between those Web sites and this blog. The main one, the one I will go into details about in our "how to" session at the Marketing Profs B2B Forum, is that both are organized in thirds:
- 1/3 editorial impact - what the Poetae Novae called labor limae, making the content efficient while still effective; saying enough and not too much, talking about the customer and what they think (or worry) about and offering paths forward to action
- 1/3 community building - what in social media we have come to refer to as conversation, engagement, creating the connection; before it does that, it needs to be a space where someone knows our name (outside of Cheers)
- 1/3 marketing principles - the value-based bread and butter of why we buy and how we sell; I could call this positioning, except for there is a lot more to it than that
Digging a bit deeper into the organization in thirds, we are writing the content as a marketing conversation. It starts with you, the customer, and your need, what you are looking for. The structure of the page(s) is build around three simple questions:
- why - what's in it for you, why do you care? This is based upon what the customer has said she wants and needs
- what - exactly what are the technical specifications and details of the information the customer is looking for
- how - this talks to the service (or product) and how it is delivered, what it feels like to go through the process for the customer
It's taking the benefits and making them work really hard on behalf of your customers. This was not invented here, it has been part of the marketing conversation for ages - it may date back to the bazaars, if you ask me. Same principles, different tools.
Yet, many Web sites are still organized around a company's capabilities. Many presentations and proposals revolve around what a company does and how it does it. It is about what the company does as long as it is in relationship to what your customer wants and needs.
If you have a great product, then the customer wants to play with it, learn about what it does, how it does what it does. In the case of an iMac, your customer may be content to just look at it, at how it's built, for example. If that is the case, if that is the sex appeal, what the customer wants, what works, put it front and center.
The Web site of the future may be organized completely in thirds without needing to separate them in a blog, a forum, a customer idea space, and the corporate brochure-ware. Part editorial, part community, and part marketing weaved throughout the site. This is how we do business - through relationships and connections.
[image of the Seven Churches of Santo Stefano, Bologna, one built inside and as an extension of the other]