Martyrs, all of them...
No wonder people are skeptical of brand communications. Much of our industry is evil, with many businesses still committing the same old-school sins that gave us this rep. None more deadly to a brand than these seven.
1. Lust: The eNews-liar
While browsing the web, you read an article on a new blog or website and decide, "Hmmm, that was pretty great! I wouldn't mind seeing more of what this person has to say." So you sign up for their "newsletter" hoping to learn more from this guru.
Tomorrow comes, and your inbox holds a jewel of a headline like: "This info is personal" or "Sorry Joey, we sold out!" You open it. "Almost! This subject line is one I hope you never have to see, but if you don't act now..." What?
Where's the "news" in this letter? I don't want your product. I want to learn. You know, the reason I signed up.
2. Gluttony: The Information Flood
"The more you tell, the more you sell." Wrong.
"The web is a place for information. People come to our site to learn all about our product lines and our company history. Our brochures and our press releases. It needs to all be right there on the home page where everyone can see it!" Wrong again.
I recently gave some feedback on a website that belonged to an investment firm in New York. In doing so, I actually counted over 40 links to downloadable PDFs, an online quiz, rollovers with online videos embedded in each new slide, a second smaller rollover with videos, news articles, and worst of all, "share" buttons for social media, RSS, and email in the main navigation at the top of every page!
"So...before you read our collection of novels (all saying very similar things), please share this assortment of awesomeness with your friends and colleagues!" Keep it simple.
3. Greed: The Online Brochure
Running opposite to the content circus is the online brochure. More than half of company websites I've seen have made this their Achilles Heel of sinful content.
Getting to the point is fine, but not when you get to it over and over and over with impulse-focused "buy now" messaging.
"Buy or goodbye" is a deadly approach to interactive content. Share some of your knowledge with potential customers. And avoid the fear of "telling them too much." Google is an amazing product.
Besides, if the sum of what you know can be explained in this small of a dominion, you don't know as much as you think.
Stand for something other than short-term profit. Tell a story.
4. Sloth: The Static Site
The Stone Age of the "dot come boom" (i.e., the '90s) is over. No longer is simply having a home on the web enough. A static website displays not only a lack of creativity and new offerings, it also clearly displays your lack of concern for the customer. How?
The market changes rapidly, as do search engine results. Customers - satisfied or not - love to give feedback. And brands that care about them adjust with the times, improve their offering, and update the brand's hub of content accordingly.
Having your brand's story and offering outdated is nothing more than words in digital concrete. When you're unwilling to provide dynamic, two-way conversation - people notice. Especially in today's market where everyone has a voice. Innovate or die.
5. Wrath: Barriers to Connect
How much info could you possibly need? Signing up for your e-newsletter, specials, or product updates should be simple. Yet so many websites require much more than just confirmation.
Do you really need my first name, last name, email, city, state, phone, mother's maiden name, and favorite Michael McDonald tune...just to sign up? Or worse, need me to word verify, confirm, re-confirm, and re-verify?
No demographic info is worth the significant loss in numbers for each new step you request in the process. And having customers that are loyal and motivated doesn't compensate for the fact that when it's all over, you'll have less than a handful of those that initially raised their hand.
Captchas are annoying. And many of them are unreadable. But at least they serve a purpose: to confirm you're human and eliminate spam bots (yes, I have one unfortunately). The real problem with them is when they become unreadable, which many of them are. If you're going to use word verification, make sure it has a visible word (or two words, if you really enjoy losing sales).
Would you like it if your local grocery store asked for 3 forms of I.D. at checkout? I hope you're saying "no" at this point. Customers have options. Once you've got a buyer, make it easy for them to checkout.
6. Envy: The Next Big Cha-Ching!
Imagine a stranger following you for blocks, yelling at you to turn around. No matter where you go, he's there - shouting out some story that you don't want to hear. After running a small marathon, you come to a park where your friends are holding a conversation about your favorite topic. No interruptions.
You almost reach your friends. Finally free! Nope. The creep jumps out of the bushes, right in front of you, screaming about a "fantastic new offer!!!!!!" Would you buy from this person?
Just because a brand in AdAge, or perhaps a competitor, succeeded with a new medium, gadget, or message, doesn't mean that it's where you should be. Your presence wreaks of "me-too" - and that's before the decision is even made on the relevance of your cookie-cutter message that they've already heard in every other medium. Be original.
7. Pride: I Bet You Think Your Site is About You
It's your company's website. We get it. But that doesn't mean that it's all about you. In fact, content strategists have a special place in architecture for your self-congratulatory hooplah, known as the "About Us" page. Put it there. Keep it there.
Customers don't care about you, until they know that you understand and care about them. When telling a story, your brand should communicate first what it can do for the people. Once you've grabbed their attention, tell them more about you. Then you've earned a connection.
Know someone guilty of these sins? Please help by spreading the word.