Since putting up my Web site, www.bly.com, in April 1998, Ive received a ton of unsolicited e-mails, faxes, and phone callsfrom casual Internet surfers as well as Web professionalswith all sorts of advice on how to make my Web site better.
Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of their suggestions are almost totally off the mark and would be a complete waste of my time and money.
Why is this the case? Its not that site visitors dont have valid opinions on graphics or content, or that Web professionals dont have good ideas. They do.
The problem is, all the advice is given with no thought to the business objective of my site and whether the enhancement would further this goal.
For example, a Web consultant called and said: You are not getting nearly as much traffic as you should. I can help you get much more. He would advise me, he promised, on how to help my Web site get more hits than the New York Yankees. I politely explained I had absolutely no desire to increase hits to my Web site, and was not interested in what he was selling.
Frankly, he was baffled. Maybe you are too. Who doesnt want more hits on their Web site? you might be thinking. The answer: Plenty of folks.
Before you can meaningfully enhance a Web site, you need to understand the business of the person or company sponsoring that site as well as the business objectives they want the site to achieve.
In the case of www.bly.com, Im a free-lance writer specializing in direct marketing. I serve a higher-end clientelemajor direct marketers, Fortune 500 companies, and substantial technology firmsand charge accordingly.
This makes me different from many entrepreneurs who have Web sitesin two important ways.
First, 99.99 percent of people cruising the Internet are simply not my prospects. Im highly selective, and dont work with small firms, start-ups, mom-and-pop operations, home-based businesses, and wanna-be entrepreneurs precisely the mass market thats cruising the Internet looking for free marketing information and advice.
Second, with more business than we can handle, our office (I have two assistants) cant waste time responding to low-level leads. Handling inquiries from casual Internet surfers takes time and effort and we need to devote those to the needs of our many ongoing clients.
Then why do I have a Web site? Thats the key relevant question, and its one almost no one who seeks to advise me asks.
My Web site exists primarily for instant inquiry fulfillment to qualified prospects.
What does that mean? Before the Internet, when a serious prospect called, wed send him an information package describing my services. That meant a lot of priority mail and overnight courier bills. And even with overnight shipping, the prospect often waited up to 24 hours to get his hands on the material.
Having a Web site eliminates that cost and wait. When a prospect wants a package, we can send it, but we first ask, Do you have access to the Web? If they do, we send them to www.bly.com where they can instantly get all the information they need to make a decision about using my services.
What should that information be? In his book Roger C. Parkers Guide to Web Content and Design (MIS Press), my friend Roger Parker says content should consist of two components:
My web site covers both these areas. The need to know stuff includes:
The stuff that helps convince prospects that Im the person they should hire to write their copy includes:
As you see, my Web site is totally oriented toward the needs of my potential clients, and hardly at all to the casual Web surfer. But does this mean I dont want you to visit www.bly.com.? Not at all.
On the contrary: I invite you to stop by. You may enjoy reading and downloading the free articles Ive posted (click on ARTICLES). And Id be pleased and happy if you clicked on PUBLICATIONS and bought any of my books (though you would not be buying them directly from meour publication page links to amazon.com, from which we get a 15 percent commission on every book they sell through our site).
And what if youre a small entrepreneur and need professional marketing help? Just click on VENDORS. Youll find a list of folks who can help you with everything from Web design to mailing lists. But do me a favor. When you call them, tell them Bob Bly sent you. Theyre busy too, and it helps if they know youre a qualified referral.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter with 20 years experience in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has written direct mail packages for Phillips Publishing, Agora Publishing, KCI Communications, McGraw-Hill, Medical Economics, Reed Reference Publishing, A.F. Lewis, and numerous other publishers.
Copywriter, Consultant and Seminar Leader
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