Is the corporate website dead?

We are no longer going online. We are living online. Today, every company must think of itself as being digital to some degree. To that end, many old-line businesses are actively engaged in digital transformation. They are re-imagining every facet of their operations. They are leveraging the latest technologies to build new processes, cultures, and experiences to compete in this new digital marketplace. They are creating entire digital ecosystems that encompass websites, social networking, digital media, communications and transaction processing in a way that transcends the traditional functions of sales, marketing and customer service.

For a staggering 71 percent of B2B buyers, the customer decision journey (CDJ) starts with a generic search. Google is the road most traveled. Without it, your website would be a billboard in the wilderness. Once people land on your site, 76 percent want it to be easy to find what they want. From there, 67 percent of the CDJ will remain digital and 57 percent of the journey will be done before ever engaging your sales department.

Nine out of ten B2B buyers said that online content influenced their purchasing decisions. No longer are they willing to start by listening to a sales pitch. They want to do their own homework, reach their own conclusions, and (perhaps) call you when they're all but ready to pull the trigger.

In order for you to control the journey, the customer must cross into the digital ecosystem through a single portal. Many established firms have all but abandoned other marcom entryways such as direct mail and toll-free numbers in favor of their websites. Even corporate apps now connect to the home page with a thumb click.

The post-sale phase is as important, if not more, than pre-sale. The website must serve as a one-stop shop for everything connected to your brand. By leveraging the latest technologies, such as chatbots, interactive FAQs, self-serve tools, experience-based eCommerce and AI, your site becomes all things to all people. One-site-for-all helps keep the messaging consistent and the decision journey on track.

The Center of the Digital Universe

Your website is the sun at the center of your company's digital solar system. This is where your customers, potential employees, investors and other important stakeholders are most likely to go to learn more about your brand and company, and it should be based on the same design and navigation system.

However, digital transformation shouldn't be seen as a destination, but as a path. It's about the digitized customer decision journey. Data, insights and a methodology are key components for building a successful corporate website that allows for the user to reach and consume the desired information as quickly as possible.

No longer is it advisable or tolerable to send prospects to one site and existing customers to another. Acquisition and retention are not separate siloes in the digital world. A powerful sales technique is to make the prospect feel like they've already purchased from you. Show them what their experience will be like after they've joined your happy family. Customers want to be wooed to the next level as though they're still sought-after leads. The same goes for your employees, both pre- and post-hire.

Optimize and adjust the user experience dynamically throughout these different phases. Post-acquisition is critical. It's where companies obtain their greatest Share of Life, yet it's often deprioritized within the digital ecosystem. On top of all the available technological tools, there are other critical elements for retaining customers while increasing their satisfaction, such as digital product performance information, industry benchmark assessments and individualized thought leadership content.

Relevancy and Interpreting Intent

Most platforms today are centered around the company's internal structure and existing market strategy, which most likely is not aligned with the CDJ. For instance, many companies are using naming conventions in their site navigation based on their lines of business (LOBs) rather than on how their customers think.

Today's user has gotten used to searching for what they want rather than using large drop-down menu structures. Since more and more engagements come from mobile devices, clicking on hamburger menus and thumbing through pages has become less and less desirable. Users want to type keywords and find information instantly. Otherwise, they move on to the next site. However, gone are the days when search was facilitated solely by keywords.

Obtaining Simplicity with Sophisticated Technology

That's why the best sites today combine artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to enhance findability and create a better user experience. These sites understand intent. They present findings using storytelling to guide and empower users. They help them make better-informed critical decisions faster and faster.

In order to attain a successful value-adding online experience, we start by attaining zero degrees of separation between the customer and your brand. We analyze data and formulate insights on what customers and other stakeholders need to hear from the brand and company. This informs the content demand and content strategy for the site. Using that approach, we've created three paradigm shifts in website design:

  • Simplicity: Build a humanistic and intuitive UX/UI around your brand's content, accommodating the customer decision journey and ensuring that the user constantly progresses through that journey.

  • Findability: Implement an onsite search function that helps the user find information as quickly as possible using their own terminology. By not limiting them to a keyword list, we are able to glean data about how they think and what they need, helping draw them in to zero degrees of separation from the brand.

  • Usability: Create a content architecture that accommodates a circular user flow where the user never hits a dead end but is always presented with relevant content and information that advances them to the next phase of their journey. UX / UI simplicity is essential in designing an interface in which it's obvious where the user should begin their journey. Our patience has simply gone down over time. Prominently placing a search prompt on the home page, which allows the user to start their journey on the website just like they would on Google, is just one example. A key to success is that the search functionality has higher intelligence built in, demonstrating a deeper understanding of intent that can interpret needs or pains better than Google. This type of search further helps achieve individualization while delivering a unique content experience to a market segment of one, rather than personalized content to many.

In a Complex World, it Should Be Easier

The content architecture should be transformed from a linear experience into a circular one that keeps relevant content in front of the user throughout the decision journey. Amazon is the main driver behind this experience, setting expectations across B2C and B2B sites, where users are reaching their destinations in fewer and fewer clicks.

Aligning the content architecture and the implementation of functionalities has proven to significantly reduce bounce rates and increase conversion. Without this ability to find value-adding content through an intuitive UX, bounce rates will only increase, driving customers to other outlets for information, products and services.

In a complex world, the digital ecosystem should make it easier to do business with any company. Rethinking the website strategy is mission critical in an entirely new post-digital environment. If done correctly, it has the potential to shorten sales cycles, increase conversion and improve overall customer satisfaction at each stage of the decision journey.

Written by Sebastian Jespersen

Are you a content marketer or provider of free information?

Let's start with the definition of content marketing:

Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

This is an excellent definition of which people have learned to follow well right up until the last statement... "ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."  I can think of a dozen sites I visit to get information.  HTML code, new Google updates, content tips, reviews of new business apps and the list goes on.  But, that is how I see these sites; as a source for great content.  I hardly even know what these business' are selling.  I certainly have never explored it.

Note: The below information is based on content marketing for consultants and service type businesses, not retail or transactional products.

The problem is providing great content without a clear and compelling call to action. Even when you collect information when prospects download a white paper; without a deliberate step to convert these efforts are wasted.  Putting them into your email rotation with better context and assessment of what they need is not providing value to your marketing efforts.

There are three keys to creating great content marketing - "That ultimately drives profitable customer action."

1) Provide content to establish expertise

2) Don't provide the "how-to" unless you just like to give away your valuable knowledge

3) Always get something of real value, so you are not giving it away, you are sharing it for a price

4) Create a path to conversion on all of your valuable content.

Now, don't be overt, disrespectful or pushy in your approach.  It is the subtle and artful way you establish expertise, deliver information and ask for something in return that is the difference between moderate and exceptional conversion rates.  

We would love the opportunity to review your site for free to provide examples of missed opportunities to capture more value from your content marketing, email us or call 336-383-2205

Fail Fast

At a recent leadership program in Lucern Switzerland, we were doing a common team building exercise.  One, in fact, that has been studied very in depth.  I'm sure you've seen it or done it yourself.  You're given a number of straws and tape and told to build a structure as high as you can that supports an egg.  You, of course, have one goal in mind. Outperform the other teams for bragging rights.  At this same time you make two huge mistakes.  You assume the other teams' structure will be higher than yours so you reach for the stars in your efforts.  Second, you believe you've worked with enough teams over the years to be an effective contributor, both leading and compromising where needed.

We learned two very important lessons that day. First, you often overestimate your competition.  I know.  It sounds counter-intuitive. Never underestimate your competition. This causes you to over engineer and complicates your approach to be un-executable. Second, as you over engineer, you become over-invested and are afraid to call it quits and let a bad idea go. Or, tell others to let their idea go.  Instead you try to modify a poor idea and avoid conflict.

What we also learned that day, is in a study on this particular exercise which has been tested with executives at every level, line level workers, executive assistants, and even students of all ages, the group that consistently achieved the best results, were elementary school kids.  What the students did to be successful is to "Fail Fast."  They did not get attached to ideas and assumptions.  They built fast, failed fast, learned and built again in a new way.

So why do we become so invested in our initiatives?  Especially the bad ones?  The answer is not complex. It's ego.  We don't need a dissertation on the problems ego causes.  Just ask the question to the stakeholders of a floundering  project.  Why is the project failing and why are we holding on to it? Then ask "why" again to whatever they say.  And, ask one final "why" to that answer.  I bet they can't answer why three times.  If they can't provide answers that gets to a substantiated reason that is both solving a problem, providing real value and achieving organizational goals, let it go. 

 

Social Media for your business. WHY?

If it seems I'm down on Social Media for most businesses, it's because I am.  

It takes a plan, dedication and most importantly saying something people care about.  If you have all of those then go get em tiger. However, I am going to bet you don't.  

Even if you do have a plan, dedication and something worth saying, is it the best use of time or the money you are paying someone to do it? Do you get a return on your investment? Now, I'll double down on the "bet you don't".

The rarity of these stars aligning for most businesses occur as often as Halley's Comet. Which is about every 75 years.

So, what am I saying that you need to hear?

It's simple. Look at the results vs effort you get from social media content creation and posting.  If you have not done it yet, set a plan for one month and set measurable goals.  And no, Likes don't count.  But, sharing does! That means you had something to say people really cared about. What's even better is to measure new or repeat business if you can.

Last, after you have done this for a month or so, give it an honest look and determine if you are getting a good return on your efforts. And, what did you potentially stop doing that could have produced better business results?

I'm just saying don't hop on the social media train because everyone else is. Do it with good reason.

Please reply to this post.  I want to know how you measured your success and what your results were.