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Don’t Do That Because They’re Doing It. Do It Because It Makes Sense.

Posted on September 16th, 2010 by Jeff

We don’t have that? But they have that. We need to have that because they have that. Our customers need that.

Sound familiar?

It does to me, or if you’ve ever worked in the corporate world. All too often CEOs and other C-level folk are too disconnected (i.e. busy) from the day-to-day of operations and the actual work done by marketing to know what initiatives are being worked on. However, they’re not too busy to notice competitor’s efforts and websites. And more often than not, when they see a shiny new toy on ABC Widgets (a standard fake company name), they bring their hammer down and demand that this be implemented on your site.

This is the easy-to-fall-into trap of being reactive, in terms or marketing outreach / business goals. And this (for the most part) is not how great businesses get to become great. They do so by being proactive instead. Not only does it not help long-term goals come to fruition, it also heavily frays those who have been deeply involved in the planning of other things. Granted, I understand that there is a chain of command, and at times, what the CEO says just gets done, but there are many times when this is just a poor way to work.

Don’t Do Social Media

Sure, everyone and their mom (sorry ma!) is crapping on about social media. And there are some good reasons for it, and it can very, very effective for certain companies that do it well. Don’t do social media if sharing your personality as a business is not right for you*. Don’t be pushy, or all about 1-way communication, that’s definitely not what it’s all about it. But, if you’re open to input, both good and bad, and open to sharing and learning, and failing, then social media might be right for you. Be ready to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to it however, but this doesn’t have to be, nor should it, consecutive. Have conversations with others in your realm, have conversations with others you never would otherwise. *Don’t tell others what you ate for lunch or dinner however, no one really cares.

Don’t Do Email

It seems pretty standard these days to have a newsletter / promotional email sign-up form on your website, and with good reason. Email, although it’s been predicted to be dead or dying, is still one of the greatest ways to communicate with your customers, followers, prospects, etc. But it takes time, patience, and effort to create a successful email program. Don’t send email to people just because you can, don’t be just another spammer. Don’t send an email to your entire list just because you think, eh, we’ll get some ROI regardless — this is poor practice. It’s time to evolve, and realize that putting a bit of effort (segmenting, professional design & templates, testing and retesting) into your email marketing helps create relevance for your recipients, which helps get your email delivered, which helps direct your recipients to do something, which helps drive ROI. Also, please stop using the word ‘blast’ — this relic of 90′s marketing is antiquated and implies little to no respect for the end recipient(s).

Don’t Do Fremium

Do you have a great product or service to offer? Then giving this away for free may be hurting you more than you think. A lot of research has been done on this concept, and why it works for some businesses and not others. So, if you’re just starting out, don’t just assume that you A) need to offer this, and B) it will work out for the best for you. If you offer some sort of service that is good, works well, is reasonably priced, and have excellent customer service, you should have little to no problem doing away with a fremium model. Offering a free trial period is not a bad idea, but try for testing shorter periods than longer — the once believed 30-day period has been proven to be a bit too long for many business’ to maintain.

Flashy Flash, or lots of images

I want it to SHOUT. It’s gotta jump out at prospects. I’ve also heard these sayings all too often in the web world. Just because your competitor has an all-Flash homepage with a loud video that starts playing before you even know what site your on, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Think of it from your point of view, if you didn’t know anything about your site, and you were bombarded with lots of animation and overtly confusing navigation areas (mystery meat), what would you do? You’d probably leave. And that’s supposing that it doesn’t take forever to download. I may come down hard on Flash, not just because it’s more difficult for search engine’s to figure out what’s going on, but mostly because more often than not, it’s used in a poor way. When done right, i.e. an interactive demo, or a movie, it’s a great thing, and a very powerful selling tool, but the user / prospect has to be nurtured to that point rather than hitting them over the head with it to try to get the sale.

Lots of images is never a good thing either. In fact, imagery can be a big fail if not done properly. There is a lot of data showing how the right kind of image can really help conversion rates, just check out any number of the split tests that resulted in higher conversions because of one image versus another. Also, be wary of the creep factor and alienating certain demographics. Rarely is a group of smiling white people the best way to represent your demographic, so spend a few extra dollars and don’t get the $2.75 discount stock photo, unless you don’t really care.

Is That It?

Basically, running a successful website is much like running a successful business. As a CEO, would you just watch what others are doing and then copy them? Or, would you try to innovate and think about the absolute essentials that your customers are going to need, and trim the fat in terms of excess fluff they do not. Ideally we’d all say AND do the latter. However, this is a tough transition to make, and an even tougher selling point, so hopefully these points will help out the next time you see the boss coming your way with a print out of your competition.

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