I expect you would agree that the sales process is different for customers already familiar with your brand, than it is for those who are not. If your website is performing like it should, it is exposing you to lots of visitors previously unfamiliar with your company. For this reason, most businesses need their website to act as an ‘opener’ and a ‘closer.’ So how should this affect your website design?
If you have a recognizable brand name like Sony, then your homepage can be whatever you want. People already know the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of Sony. If you’re not Sony, your homepage needs to be as clear, impactful, and intriguing as a top-notch elevator pitch.
If your homepage cannot describe what you offer without the use of a run-on sentence, the consumer can’t either. With a growing percentage of the Internet world communicating in 140 characters or less, I’m not sure anything longer is effective. Make it easy for people to see your unique value.
So here is where I see most businesses going wrong.
I’ll be meeting with a company to map out their overall web strategy, message, and website architecture. I’ll attempt to get agreement on the core product or service and the conversation goes something like this:
Company rep one: “Well we mostly do ABC, but if someone asks we’ll also do XYZ.”
Company rep two: “Oh, and don’t forget about our commercial division of LMO services.”
Company rep one: “Yes, and once we did DEF for a customer, so we want to talk about that, too.”
In an effort to capture this outlying business, companies are making their pitch clumsy. Don’t clutter your homepage, or even the rest of your website for that matter, by trying to be everything to everyone. This type of ambiguity will typically lead to heavy brand confusion, and we all know that the confused mind says “no.”
If you have multiple divisions that would potentially confuse a client when they’re seen together, then they shouldn’t be seen together. This is why Honda has separate websites for its cars division and its lawn equipment division. “Relevance” is key to keeping a visitor’s attention. Lawn tractors are not relevant to a car shopper, so Honda separates them. Their presence would detract from the car shopping experience. If a topic wouldn’t fit right in an elevator pitch, it doesn’t belong on the homepage. Dump it.
Chose your core business, or related group of core businesses, and focus the message on the expected decision maker. Retail and commercial customers rarely have the same needs, so its rare that the message would be same. If you want to promote multiple unrelated core products, or promote to multiple unrelated buyer profiles, consider multiple websites. Yes, it adds expense, but they each will perform better than one confusing website.