In their book, "Million Dollar Web Presence," authors Chad Barr and Alan Weiss lay out tactical strategies for building a brand and business by leveraging the Internet. In the following excerpt, the authors describe tried-and-true methods to develop provocative, engaging content, as well as the essential elements of a successful website.
Content may be king, but provocative content is the ace.
Your website has only seconds to capture interest. Think about articles you’ve read, speeches you’ve heard, books you’ve begun. The initial exposure helps people determine whether they want to spend more time reading, listening or viewing. There is simply too much competition for time to expect that people will invest too much of theirs in trying to overcome a tepid introduction.
Provocative content for an accounting firm may include six reasons you’re paying too much in tax; why the top line is more important than the bottom line; and how to get your clients to offer to pay you more than you ask.
You have to be edgy, but not poke someone in the eye. You have to be willing to challenge and amuse, while not bragging or boasting. Your site, and particularly your homepage, should be provocative enough to be memorable and cause others to tell colleagues, “You ought to visit this site."
Let's explore some of the best ways to get the provocative ideas you need:
- Read books and relevant publications and summarize your reading and document your ideas.
- Brainstorm with others. Engage a team of trusted advisors. Being a part of a powerful mastermind group and trusted advisors is a great way to improve your ideas and creativity.
- Invest in self-development. A Japanese proverb says: "I will master something, then the creativity will come."
- Question basic assumptions. This applies not just to your own assumptions, but also to those of your advisers and clients. You gain new insights to arrive at the proper solution.
- Take a contrarian view. Discuss a concept's pros and cons. Clients hire us not necessarily to agree with them, but to question their views and basic premises in order to improve their business.
- Create a story. Using a story to convey a particular concept forces us to develop ideas to make it more effective.
- Interview others. This is a terrific way to learn, gain new ideas and leverage effective marketing while developing new audio and video content for your website and that of the person you are interviewing.
- Social networking. When joining effective and smart online communities, you may quickly gain knowledge of what is being asked and discussed, and how you may be of help to others.
Among our own content "musts" for your website are a homepage that includes typical client results, at least one video testimonial plus revolving text testimonials (at about seven-second intervals) and a dramatic and attractive value. Menus should include case studies, client list, position papers, biography, contact information, product and service offerings and video explanations of various offerings. Give every page a different look.
Upon review of probably thousands of websites over the years, we have come to the conclusion that in order for your organization to be successful on the Internet, three key elements must be accomplished:
- Design. Your site should be professionally designed, attractive and engaging, and be easy to navigate in order to quickly gain the visitors’ attention and interest. Good use of images is important as well as the use of action shots of you with your clients.
- Content. Your site must focus on your visitors’ interests and address the question of what’s in it for them and how to improve their businesses and lives. To accomplish this, strong content must be developed in the form of products, services and intellectual property, while constantly evolving.
- Strategy and tactics. Determine what the business should look like, how it should position itself online and what Internet components are critical to making the business a success. Decide how you should reach and communicate with customers: will they purchase products, read articles, subscribe to newsletters, communicate through blogs and online communities?
Without all three, your site’s effectiveness is greatly diminished. For example, a site that is well-designed with great content but has no defined strategy and tactics is like driving a great car without a GPS system or an effective map. You’ll be wondering why you are not reaching your destination. If you’ve got great content and effective strategies and tactics, yet poor design and navigation, visitors will either close their browsers or press the back button to go to their previous site.
Don't attempt to tag, label, and identify every single item. Focus on those things that are most important for your credibility. If leadership is your strong suit, don’t worry about highlighting blog entries on your movie reviews. Use a device such as Google Alerts to let you know how you’re being perceived and detected. If your positioning is for issues that are only peripheral to your real value, then change what you’re emphasizing.
Chad Barr and Alan Weiss are authors of Million Dollar Web Presence (Entrepreneur Press, 2012). Barr is president of The Chad Barr Group, an Internet-consulting firm based in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Weiss is president of Summit Consulting Group Inc., a management and organizational-development consulting firm based in East Greenwich, R.I.