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Are you introducing yourself properly?

I had an interesting conversation last week with the MD of a small company in the process engineering sector, who has been in the business a long time and who convinced himself a long time ago that the chances of any advertising being cost-effective are minimal. He insists that for his company, networking and word-of-mouth has always been the way ahead, and I certainly wouldn’t try to suggest otherwise. To that end, he spends a fair amount of time and money attending conferences and seminars, and is actively involved in trade associations.

So it was a surprise to hear him say: “Our real problem at the moment is our company website”. People who consider the best business to be done over a lunchtime pint are often those who have little time for things like websites. As he genuinely seemed to know what worked best for his company, I was intrigued to learn more. The reason he was concerned about getting his website right was, I suspect, a good one. “Whenever we hand over a business card, or make an impression at a seminar”, he said, “what’s the first thing any potential customers do when they get back to their office? They look at our website. And even if our business is likely to be entirely face to face, they’ll still look at our website. If I get chatting to a prospect, take their details and arrange a meeting at their office for one of our sales guys, what’s the one thing they’ll do in the mean time? Look at our website.”

Fair enough. So what was the problem with the website? “We had it designed a few years ago”, he said, “with the normal criteria in mind – explain what the company does, give technical specifications on our products, etc. It was fine. But it was designed, like most websites, as if the visitor didn’t know us. In our case, that’s not true: the vast majority of any real prospects have already met us in person, and will be looking at the website perhaps for more reassurance about the company. What our website should focus on is just that: our track record, case studies, and anything else which shows what a reliable supplier we might be”.

A great point, and the wider lesson to be learned is that all our websites need to be geared up around the requirements of the visitor who might become a customer (as well as supporting existing customers). If you’re the opposite of our friend above, and the bulk of your prospects are meeting your company for the first time on your website, you need to introduce yourself there. That’s why you’re beginning to see more websites which simply state: “We’re the Blue Widget Company. We make the best Blue Widgets”.

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