Your Corporate Website Stinks… Now what?

So many times I go to look up a company and take a run through their website to get an idea of who they are and what they do.  More often than not I am thoroughly underwhelmed.  It’s not for lack of effort – many of the worst sites I’ve visited were professionally produced with good design and graphics.  Hey, they look like real companies.  Most of the time what sucks is the content.  The content is well written, in the sense of grammar and editing, but after about 2 minutes I’m practically begging for mercy.    What’s my problem?

First, if I read one more absolutely worthless line like “we leverage our unique capabilities to drive strategic value for our global customers” I’m going to go break something…  Really, WTF does that mean??  Your competitors say the same thing, so why not?  That’s precisely the problem.  They all say the same stupid, meaningless and impossible to prove crap.

Oh, but you put it in a CMS with RSS feeds and lots of flash – doesn’t that make it good?  No – sucky content cannot be improved with technology or sizzle.  It still sucks.

My friend recently took on a new career as a counselor at a well-known outplacement firm.  He has learned more about marketing in 2 months than most marketers learn in a lifetime.  Beyond helping with the transition process and giving his clients confidence to move forward, one of the first transformations he can accomplish is with their resumes.  Recruiters and hiring managers don’t respond to stuff you find on most resumes.  Why should your customers respond to the same level of crap on your site in in your collateral and presentations?

The problem with most resumes is that they focus on responsibilities (features) and not on accomplishments (benefits).  Employers want to hire people with impact value.  What was the result of your 10 years with XYZ corp?  So what, you managed this function.  What improvements did you make?  Or, did you fail to move the business forward while it was under your care?  If so – you’re not getting hired by me…

Instead of writing your site like everybody else – how about writing it like a resume?  I can tell you right now that it’s very hard to do this well – but what things of value aren’t hard work??  It starts with a brief (2 sentences, max) summary of who you are.  Then an exploration of your capabilities as told through your accomplishments.  Let me give you an example.

Sybase Trip

I love to give my ex-employer Sybase a hard time because, well, they’re easy…  Anyway, look at what they put in the image to the left This is what shows up on their home page.  And actually this is better than what you find with most companies.  Now, imagine if the what you saw front and center on their home page was the following:

Sybase’s iAnywhere mobile solutions helped McKesson Corporation save millions of dollars by delivering solutions that reduced calls for delivery errors by 97%, eliminated imaging costs, and reduced delivery claims by 30%.  What can Sybase help you achieve?

As a buyer, CEO, business line manager or even technologist, which approach is more powerful?  Which message might make you more interested?

What if all sites were written like resumes with accomplishments front and center, and perhaps a framework of capabilities to show where the successes fit in your strategy?  Then, everybody could easily see that your old, features-oriented and tripe-laden site just plain sucks.

I’d love to give you examples of sites that do this really well, but I have not seen any recently.  Have you?  If  so – let me know.

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7 thoughts on “Your Corporate Website Stinks… Now what?

  1. John- – this is something that drives me crazy too, but I’m not sure we do much better at our shop. For one thing, the problem I see with your approach is if I read that, I’d still be like “ok, well what the hell is Sybase? Is it a consulting firm? Is it an IT firm? I want to save money, sure, but I’m really looking for a database company. Is this one?”

    I think marketers have really oversold this whole “no one sells drills, they sell holes” concept. Most of these companies seem afraid to be like, “We make databases and database-related stuff.” Because the marketing team says, “hey, everyone makes databases. A database has no intrinsic business value. No one wants a database, they want to increase revenues or cut costs…how can a database do that?” and then eventually editing-by-committee leads to “using information”, which still stinks.

    I think a lot of this though is engineer outlook vs. everyone else outlook. People with an engineering mindset want to go to a company’s website and learn what products they make and what’s special about those products. Everyone else seems to be more interested in learning what the benefits to their job working with the company may bring, which is where you get on the Ladder of Increasing Vagueness, especially as your company’s products and service grow more diverse. Like what does GE do?

  2. This is a major pet-peeve of mine, too.

    Two years ago, my firm re-branded itself and came out with a whole new feel, and a new brand, “Everything Matters”.

    Duh. Really? I had no idea. And when Marketing showed me the new graphical feel for everything, I replied, “It’s fuzzy — do you want to tell our clients that we’re sort of fuzzy about who we are?”

    The marketing person’s mouth dropped and she paled. She’d said the same thing and had wanted the sharp, crisp designs. She was voted down.

    Check it out: http://www.dlapiper.com. We CAN get away with saying some things, as we truly are the largest firm in the world, with an enormous global reach. But still.

  3. Jeb –

    Good comment. You do have to have that umbrella of classification so people know what breed of animal you are. Beyond that, they need to understand how you help them. The main graphic on Sybase’s home page is a cluster-f@#*. It reminds me of their “Adaptive Component Architecture” circa 1998 that founder Bob Epstein pushed out. The result of that was a naming strategy nightmare that included “Adaptive Server Enterprise” (e.g. Sybase 11) and Adaptive Server Anywhere (e.g. SQL Anywhere, now iAnywhere…).

    I’m a business guy – but I do recognize you have to have the goods handy for the engineers. Feeds and speeds are part of the decision process. Hey – even a line like “Sybase’s database solutions store more trades on Wall Street than any other SQL database” would be an accomplishment. Marketers might typically write this as “Sybase’s information management solutions drive strategic value for leading Wall Street firms.”

  4. Everything matters? LOL that’s rich! The simple fact is that very few things really matter. The rest is noise.

    Which would you rather be?

    A. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” or

    B. “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile”

    Is it any wonder Olds is gone?

  5. ““Sybase’s database solutions store more trades on Wall Street than any other SQL database””

    See, I like that. Its very information-dense: these guys make a database, big guys trust it for super-mission critical apps, and the type of app that might be is storing trades. Lots of people can get sold by that app, but at the same time, you don’t waste time/energy trying to lure worthless prospects into the sales process at the expense of really nailing the good prospects.

    Our problem is our product is not a member of a category familiar to most of our target market. The whole ‘creating markets’ role that lots of tech companies try to do makes this exponentially harder. Check out our website: http://www.protosw.com. We’ve done like 3,000 revisions to the front page, etc. but we’ve never been completely satisfied with it.

  6. Jeb – Your last para on the home page should be your first.

    “Proto replaces manual, undocumented spreadsheet processes with automated workflow dashboards that guide users through step-by-step screens to generate reporting and analysis results. Users complete routine tasks in a fraction of the time and organizations capture these processes in transferable, documented dashboards.”

    Then it should be at least 50% shorter. Your case studies should be pages, not pdfs, and only the 2nd page matters. The 2nd one has the goods — “Hedge Fund CFO spends 90% less time on a monthly report since moving to Proto. Want to learn how?…” Your home page lacks contact info – put the phone number in big font at top… Put email address there too. The same content is repeated in several locations. No PDFs anywhere. Bad for SEO and a pain to view. Anyway, if you have a good product the site can be improved to help you sell more.

  7. john– i’m probably going to take a crack at implementing some of your suggestions (plus some other changes) next week– i’ll ping you when i’ve got something together and if you get a chance, let me know what you think

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