by Brian J. Dooley
There is a vast difference today among Web sites, depending not only upon the business that they represent, but also in the types of transactions supported, the complexity of presentation, and the degree of interaction provided for the visitor. Sites range from simple "brochures" providing a single page description of the business with its location and a message such as "See You Soon!" to complex platforms for online sales, with constantly updated catalogues, numerous levels of presentation, animation and sound. But one thing remains true of all of them: Content still is king.
People visiting your site are generally looking for information. Filling out an order form or deciding to visit your store come a considerable way further down the line. First, they want to know about the product or service in which they are interested. If they can do that at your site, then they are likely to remain and explore the rest of what you provide—such as your ordering facilities, specific product or service offerings, or even how to reach your bricks and mortar location. If they don't find the content they are looking for at your site, they will certainly go elsewhere. And, even if they are your loyal customer, the chances are good that they will visit and possibly buy from the competing site.
As an example, suppose you are a seller of skiing equipment. Customers visit your site, and you have a simple brochure—name of company, address and phone, business ("We sell skis"), pretty picture of your place of business, picture of you. And a page with a couple of photographs of skis and accessories, linked to an ordering system. Those who know exactly what they are looking for, and have dealt with you before might place an order. But people need to learn about what they want from someplace. So, they go the competitor site that contains pointers on how to buy ski equipment, articles comparing different brands, skiing advice, and local ski conditions. And, of course, already being here and prompted by links which have been cleverly provided, that's where they make their impulse buy.
The same could be said of any other field. Content sells.
There is a wide range of material that you can provide to bring customers to your site. First, of course, your Web pages themselves need to provide adequate description of your products and services, presented in an informative and interesting way, with easy navigation between them. Graphics are a nice start, but you also need information—copy that sells your product. It is important to ensure that your Web designer is not only adept at creating HTML (Internet) pages, but can also provide you with appropriately written copy.
Next, you should consider adding the marketing materials you use for other sales channels, presented in online form. This includes items such as white papers, business cases, product brochures in PDF format, presentations, press releases, magazine features and the like. These materials need to be introduced and nicely linked into your site.
Finally, you might wish to consider adding special items just for the Web. This could range from features ("How to Select Skis" and "Local Skiing Conditions"), to newsletters providing helpful hints.
By providing content that potential customers will come back and read, you can draw them to your site again and again. You need to keep the material up to date, of course, and for maximum effect, you should provide some items which are updated regularly—so visitors will come back to see what has changed. To develop your Web content, first find an individual or agency with experience in creating online documents and in preparing previously written material for the Web. Experience in research and in writing copy are also essential. Whether you hire a full-time copy writer or establish a relationship with an outside agency, remember that this must be an ongoing effort. Content must constantly be developed and updated to ensure that it remains informative, current, and well-presented. Only then will it serve its purpose in making your site a true extension of your sales effort.
You can gain the necessary expertise from companies such as BJ Dooley Technical Information Services—located here in Canterbury, and providing years of experience in all forms of technical writing and documentation. We can assemble project teams of any size to meet your documentation requirements and deadlines. You can reach us at email@example.com or call 03 314-9920. We're just down the road from Christchurch, in Leithfield Beach. We can provide training, contractors, consultation or complete outsourcing. Visit our Web site at www.bjdooley.com for complete information on our services.
Copyright © 2002, Brian J. Dooley
Published in Update, the Official Newsletter of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, June 2002