“Water, water everywhere… and not a drop to drink” spoke Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ancient mariner when he was adrift at sea – and for someone digging around on the ’net, it can feel the same way. They are looking for substance; they want to find something that will inspire, educate, entertain, and engage. Don’t leave them thirsty.
When someone is looking for the product or service you offer, they want to find and connect with people who are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They want to better understand the thing they’re looking for. They want to find the go-to people who “get it” and make it easy. They’re looking for someone who is like the friend that overflows with expertise and excitement and is the person you always tap when you need help.
The problem is that too often, our marketing promises these things and then fails to deliver. I know – you really meant to faithfully blog and Twitter and refresh the content on your homepage all on a regular basis. You did. It was right in there with going to the gym more often, and eating better, and watching less television so you could do something more enriching. Like brush up on your Coleridge. Well, unfortunately, it didn’t happen. So now when prospects dig in to find value, they come up with the equivalent of a couple of old pennies, a gum wrapper and some dryer lint. Ouch. Well, that’s what it feels like when they find your total of four blog posts, with the newest being from 9 months ago. Even worse, the posts that you do have feel like they were dashed off while you were watching that TV you said you were cutting back on. Oh, you know what I mean: the “eat your veggies” posts that you grit your teeth and write because you have to. They’re short, perfunctory, and about as exciting as day-old pasta.
Here’s the thing: when someone encounters your site or other content, it makes a sort of promise. It says “Come inside. Look around. We’re good people to work with, and you’re going to like what you find.” When you put up a blog, you’re telling people “I enjoy what I do, and I like to talk with others about it. Come in and and let me share some of my experience, and I will make it worth your while.” If that’s not the experience they have, you’ve done something significant – you’ve told them you aren’t able to fulfill the expectations you set.
That last bit was crazy important, so I’ll repeat it. If that’s not the experience they have, you’ve done something significant – you’ve told them you aren’t able to fulfill the expectations you set.
“But wait!”, as they say, “There’s more!” The overall feel is also that you’ve successfully called them over to come see your offices, and there’s only a foyer with a couple of chairs and a few sun-faded brochures. The impression is that there’s not much life here. It feels a bit deserted. The technical term for that is “major buzz-kill”. You see, it really doesn’t feel like such a resource. You don’t seem nearly as engaging and helpful as they had hoped. Now, we’re not talking about the reality of who your company really is… you guys may be sharp and great to work with. But that’s not what people are seeing. What a prospect sees is mostly packaging – it doesn’t go very far past the initial promise. It’s not a place to go in and explore, it’s a facade.
So what can you do? Make it clear that you guys are for real, and it’s not just for show. This happens at a few levels.
First, don’t bite off more than you can chew. I know that all the cool kids are getting themselves out there on every medium known to man. They have themselves direct-wired in and are constantly updating everything… You feel left out, so you decide you want to do that too. The problem is that you’re not thinking it terms of TCO: Total Cost of Ownership. It’s not just enough to set something up, you need to allot resources to keeping it fueled. Maybe this means you need to task someone internally. Maybe you need to staff up. Maybe you want to work with the people (like, err, us perhaps?) who are getting your communications efforts put in place. Someone needs to help you create this stuff that is going to connect with your prospects. You’ve created an engine, and now you need to keep it running.
Second, if you don’t like it, they won’t either. People want to find experts who really know their stuff. That means showing your expertise, not just telling them what an expert you are. How can you do this? Show them you are knowledgeable, and that you understand what is meaningful to them by filtering and digesting things so that what you present connects with their needs spot-on. Also, why is it that you do what you do? Find your enthusiasm for your area of work, and let that shine through. You’re far more attractive to buy from/work with when you are clearly enthusiastic about what it is you do. I plan to expand this point into its own post in the future, but for now, suffice it to say that if it comes across that you’re jazzed about what you do, people are attracted to it.
Third, responses from your audience are what you’re looking for, and you need to take time to engage those who have engaged you. When someone comments in response to something you’ve put out there, you have to jump on it. Connection with your audience is valuable. The first bit of value is that their responses reflect back to you what is on people’s minds (so you can better address those subjects in the future). Next is the fact that someone has taken the trouble to respond, and that shows a level of interest. Next in line is the fact that you now have an opportunity to expand the knowledge you put forth in your original posting. Additionally, you now have the opportunity to show yourself to be available and approachable – willing to help. And last but not least, the exchange you have with that contact will be there for others to see and benefit from, and their perception of your business will be enhanced as well.
Now for those of you who have been following along closely, there’s something implicit in what I’m saying here, and it might be kind of surprising. There are times where I might advise you to do less, so that the quality of what you do goes up. Being spread too thin is a common occurrence today. But strategically counteracting that and realizing that less can be more can be a powerful thing.
It’s better to put your resources behind a few key efforts than to spread yourself across a bunch of promises you can’t keep. Setting up a facade and not really building out the full thing (complete with the bustle of real activity) sends a terrible message. And when you do get it built out and populated, be sure to make it worth everyone’s while (yours included) by making full use of the opportunity. Do these things, and you can build yourself a nice little meeting place, and leave behind the false-front of the Hollywood backlot.