I have been reading a terrific book by Steve Krug called Don't Make Me Think that explores usability issues that should be considered when creating websites.
One of the chapters is devoted to the home page, which is one of the most challenging things to create because it is used by a majority of people who visit a website but it needs to serve multiple internal and external audiences.
Mr. Krug contends the home page needs to quickly answer four key questions for visitors:
1. What is this?
2. What do they have here?
3. What can I do here?
4. Why should I be here - and not somewhere else?
I bought the book because I have been doing a growing amount of work with companies looking for help with their messaging. An important part of the assignment is helping companies clearly articulate who they are and why people would be interested in what they do or sell.
On the surface, it may seem like a simple exercise but you would be surprised by how many companies struggle with messaging. One of the big problems is that many of them have a vision for what they offer, while potential customers may have a completely different view about what's in it for them. Too often, companies are focused on what they do as opposed to what customers need.
This creates a messaging gap that needs to be closed. On the web, closing that gap is important because a company's website has to quickly tell visitors what they do and why someone would want to stick around to learn more. If this doesn't happen, click-happy web users quickly move on.
Messaging is vital for people starting businesses because they don't have track records or customers who can spread the word about they do. Instead, you have to stand on your feet and tell the world why customers should beat a path to your door. The better the message, the easier it is to deliver.
When I started ME Consulting, I told people that I could do anything related to marketing and communications. I could write blogs, websites and press releases, I could help them with social media, I could do messaging and branding, I could do media training … the list went on.
It was like I was reciting the entire menu at Kelsey's. More often than not, the more I talked about my services, the more people's eyes would glaze over. I had a messaging problem.
It took a while and multiple iterations before I landed on the fact ME Consulting offers "digital marketing and social media strategic consulting."
These seven words provide a quick but concise overview of what I do. They provide enough information without being overwhelming. What often happens is people start to ask more questions, which gives me a better idea of what kind of help they may need. This opens the door to talk about other services in addition to digital marketing and social media strategy.
In many ways, it demonstrates how less can be more when it comes to messaging. There is a balancing act between telling people everything, and not telling them enough. The magic happens when you find the middle ground that provides just enough information to encourage people to get more details.
Rather than offering a multi-page Kelsey's menu, you should provide potential customers with a diner-style menu that features a small number of choices that are well articulated and easy to understand. This makes it easy for potential customers to get a feel for what is available, while giving you the ability to tell them about other "specials" not on the menu.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.