I’m writing up a website right now for WhatIf Creative, a marketing firm in my state. Amy Patton, the Creative Director there, always sends me excellent briefs to work from, including her word portrait of the people in the company, including both what they’ve said about the tone they want for their site and her impressions of the image they present to their customers.
With local clients, I go and meet them. Certainly the meeting is for them to tell me what they want for their site, but it’s also for me to get the feeling, the attitude, the character that needs to be conveyed in their web content.
You might think, if you’re doing your own web content or preparing your own brief for your copywriter, that this will be easier for you. You know your company, your staff, and yourself. You know how you want to brand your site — or do you? Often, it’s harder to do this for yourself than for someone else. You, after all, are aware of the multifaceted nature of yourself and your company. Distilling it down into a single impression is hard.
It’s not impossible, though. Here are some ways to approach the task:
- Know your unique selling proposition, or what makes people come to you instead of to your competitors. We’re currently working on a website for Rocky Grove Sun Company, a solar energy outfit that has been around for three decades. They’ve done more than 300 installations, and they know their subject inside and out. They’re deeply committed to what they do, absolutely devoted to quality, and I wouldn’t think of going to one of their competitors if I could have them. But they also want a down-home humility to the site, because that also is who they are. Saying, “We’re the best, most experienced, most knowledgeable company in the state” without bragging is the challenge for the site. If you can identify the thing that makes you the best choice and convey it in your website, you’re way ahead.
- Consider what your competitors are doing. I always look at competitors’ sites, both the companies that the client identifies as competitors and the ones that come up first for the client’s keywords. If all your successful competitors choose a playful, breezy tone, there may be a reason for that. That may be what your customers (and potential customers) want and expect. Following the lead of your competitors can help visitors identify your site quickly as the kind of site they are looking for.
- Do what your competitors aren’t doing. When I started my company, the average SEO firm had a very high-tech look and an air of “If you don’t already know the jargon, you don’t belong here.” That told me exactly what I didn’t want to offer. We respect our clients’ expertise and their knowledge of their field and we don’t want anyone to feel that they’re not tech-savvy enough to talk with us. We make sure our site says that. Standing out and being different from your competitors can be a good business move. I used to write for a software developer specializing in systems for the financial market. He liked his stuff to be fun, a little playful and whimsical — not my first thought when preparing a blog post about rules-based systems for hedge fund managers, but it set him apart from the others.
Deciding whether you want a neutral, professional tone, a brash and friendly air, or a feeling of aloof elegance is as important as deciding on your keywords. It doesn’t matter to the search engines (you have to write for them regardless), but it makes a big difference for your human visitors and therefore for your conversions.