In the first installment of this series, I explored the visual credibility of a website and how that affects whether a visitor wants to explore further: “Viewers have more choices then ever, and that is largely paralyzing to them. With so much digital white noise and content clutter, it’s no wonder that web users make quick decisions about what’s worthy of their time to click-through and what is not.”
Then, in the second installment, I explored the relevance of a website and how that affects a visitor’s perception of your brand’s usefulness: “The real (or perceived) needs of your target audience matter a great deal when it comes to what you choose to include or exclude on your website. Given the vast and ever-growing volume of available content on the web, it is crucial that you give careful and intentional consideration to this second filter, relevant content.”
The third and final vital consideration in this series centers on the question, “Does my web presence pass the differentiation test?” In other words, does your website help visitors reach the conclusion that what you offering is worth their time in contacting you?
This is essentially the realm of your brand’s value proposition (aka brand promise): Why should people work with you and why do you add more value and create solutions better than others?
It’s this one seemingly simple question, and a brand’s answer to it that largely sets memorable brands apart from forgettable ones. And distilling down your answer is one of the most challenging parts in positioning your brand and subsequently determining what to include in differentiating your website.
Stating the “givens” is a waste of valuable engagement time
The first reaction that most folks have in talking about their brand is to rattle off things like quality, customer service, or the common features and benefits of their product or service (the things that your competitors also communicate). While these things need to be included in your overall communication to your target audience, they aren’t the reasons that someone is going to choose you or remember your brand when the time comes. They are “givens,” meaning that they are merely the baseline expectations that your target audience has for everyone in your industry. To state those things, as if they differentiate your brand, is to subtly convey to your target audience, “The best that we have to offer is meeting your minimum expectations.”
As the venerable Ferris Bueller once stated, “Life moves pretty fast.” Your audience is making quick assessments, and your brand’s time in front of them may be quite limited. Therefore, it is vitally important to capitalize on what could be a brief engagement by telling them a story that is interesting, useful, and memorable.
The reward goes to those who are willing to be memorable
The safe path is to communicate the same story in the same way as everyone else (communicating the “givens”). The unsafe path involves the risk of being memorable, of communicating your difference or perhaps communicating your sameness in a way that is completely different.
This is tough to accomplish through just your website, more specifically just your homepage, where visitors choose to dive deeper or bounce. So, rather than trying to comprehensively tell everything about your brand story, focus instead on just the most memorable parts being front and center.
Practically speaking, this means that your website needs to communicate your value proposition clearly and succinctly on your homepage (particularly in the hero image area of your homepage), and that story needs to be expanded and expounded throughout the rest of the homepage and on subsequent main menu landing pages.
If your brand is uncommonly good at making life better or exceptionally experienced in meeting others’ needs or extraordinarily mission-minded, then lead with that value proposition. Capture the imagination of your visitor with what it could be like if they were to choose your brand. Give them compelling reasons to set you apart in their memory of who could potentially meet their needs.
It’s as simple as remembering
While this can seem daunting as you consider what story to tell and what content is necessary to tell that story, the single most important tool to employ is your memory of what has stuck with you. As you have visited websites outside of your industry, websites that you return to, and websites that have made a positive impression with you, think about why that was the case.
Your needs were met in some way. Remember that as you seek to meet the needs of others. No one wants to be sold something. No one remembers a list of “givens.” No one cares about content that doesn’t matter.
Remember what matters to you as an interested human, and then you will be able to communicate what matters to other interested humans.