Just today I wrote an email to a potential client who wants to improve her organization's web site. I wrote her that some of the best "patterns" for great home pages are the covers of popular magazines. (Actually web site owners would do well to pattern their entire sites after really popular magazines, but I am only talking about the home page here).
You may laugh, but pick up a copy of Cosmo the next time you are going through your grocery store checkout line. The teaser headlines for the articles inside do two things:
- They arouse intense curiosity, and
- The curiosity the headlines arouse hits readers' "What's-In-It-For-Me" buttons.
Most web sites have a variety of different types of visitors with different needs, questions and wants. Your home page, therefore, should provide links that appeal to each of these needs, questions and wants that lead visitors down pathways which ultimately lead them to take action.
The actions are up to you. They can be to subscribe to a newsletter, opt in to an autoresponder list, request free information, contact your company, or buy right now.
Between the home page link and the desired action is a pathway that I refer to as a "trail of breadcrumbs." Each crumb is a reward to the visitor for staying with you this far. Generally these rewards are problem-solving information, case studies or other interesting and informative content.
Pull out all the stops when developing content for your visitors. David Meerman Scott refers to this as "thinking like a publisher." To go back to the magazine article analogy, if you really know who your visitors are, and what their needs, questions and wants are, you can then produce all kinds of content that appeals to these people.
One of the biggest mistakes though is to limit your content to only things related to what you sell.
Begin at the other end of the transaction. Begin with the people who come to your site, instead of what you want to sell to them.
A great example of this is a public speaker named J.P. Maroney, who was interviewed by Ben Settle at How To Super-Charge Your Marketing With Public Speaking.
When Maroney first started public speaking, he owned a publication that targeted retirees. How he went about selling advertising for this publication is very instructive for any of us developing good web content.
He went to local organizations speaking on the topic of doing business with the senior market. He did not talk about advertising to seniors, but gave business people insights and information about seniors and how to sell to them. What their needs were, how they made their buying decisions, how to build up trust, etc.
At the end of almost every presentation, he had people come up to him to advertise in his publication.
This is the kind of content marketers need to produce more of. We've all seen articles by insurance salespeople about how to select the right car insurance. Such content comes off as self-serving and really only appeals to the person who is actively looking to buy car insurance right now.
But what if the same agent wrote about:
- auto safety,
- how to select car seats for small children,
- safety tips for driving in bad weather,
- what to put into an auto emergency kit,
- how women can protect themselves from predators if their car breaks down at night,
- how to check tires for dangerous wear,
- how to safely change a tire,
- a comparison of the best auto clubs,
- frequently asked questions about auto insurance,
- how to make sure your teenage driver is safe,
- AND how to select the right auto insurance
This agent has written about concerns that affect her potential customers, not just thinly disguised sales information.
In addition, this agent's web site will be a RESOURCE that her target audience will come back to because she produced content that was (cliché alert) outside the box.
So go back to your home page and look at it as the beginning of a trail of breadcrumbs. Lead your visitors down these pathways toward actions by providing them with content that appeals to their needs, questions and wants.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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